DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - FINANCE BILL, 1924.

I move:—

To insert immediately before section 28 a new section as follows:—

"On and after the 1st day of July, 1924, section one of the Finance (New Duties) Act, 1916, as amended by section 3 of the Finance Act, 1917, section 11 of the Finance Act, 1918, and section 7 of the Finance Act, 1919, shall have effect as if for the words in section 7 of the Finance Act, 1919—

“exceeds 4d. and does not exceed 4½d.

1½d.

exceeds 4½d. and does not exceed 7d.

2d.”

there were substituted the words—

“exceed 4d. and does not exceed 7d.

1d.”

and as if for the words in section 3 of the Finance Act, 1917

“exceeds 2d. and does not exceed 4d.

1d.”

there were substituted the words—

“exceeds 2d. and does not exceed 4d.

½d.”

The object of this amendment is to reduce the ratio of the entertainment tax on the cheap seats in places of amusement. I did on a previous occasion endeavour to draw the attention of the Minister to the unfairness of the manner in which this particular tax is assessed. At the present time a man who is able to afford a 6d. seat and who desires to take advantage of a place of amusement has to pay 2d. as a tax in addition to the 6d.. or 33 ?rd per cent. on the entrance charge, while the man who is able to afford a 2/- seat is only charged 4d. entertainment tax or 16 ?rds per cent. That means that the poorer man is charged entertainment tax at double the rate charged to the better off man. This entertainment tax was originally imposed by the British Government, but I find it very difficult to get an explanation as to why it has been assessed in that way.

I think it was Deputy Bryan Cooper and Deputy Figgis who yesterday, on a discussion on another amendment, pleaded with the Minister for some consideration in regard to a deduction of the duties on pianos. They seemed to be under the very wrong impression that the playing of the piano was a popular form of amusement for the poorer classes.

I think that it is easier and cheaper for the poorer classes who wish to enjoy themselves and get away from the slums in which they live in cities and towns to go to the picture houses for the amusement that they can provide rather than buy pianos from England or somewhere else. I have not been able to get any of the figures which would enable me to make a rough estimate of the effect of such a reduction if the Minister was agreeable to accept the amendment. The Snowden Budget, I understand, makes provision for having no entertainment tax on seats under one shilling. I think that some consideration should be given by the Minister to the conditions prevailing here at the present time; and some explanation, at any rate, should be given as to why it is that the wealthier classes of people have to pay a lower rate of entertainment tax than the poorer classes. The Minister may argue that he could not undertake to accept the amendment because of the amount of money that would be involved. I believe that whatever amount of money would be involved as the effect of accepting this amendment would be met, to some extent at any rate, by the increased number of people who would be likely to patronise places of amusement as the result of the reduction. Some explanation is due to the Dáil for the tax as it stands at present; and I trust the Minister will see his way to make it more equitable to all classes in the future. The tax, whatever it may be, is, in all cases, passed on to the people who patronise the picture houses; and nothing is gained by the people who provide the amusements in picture houses or theatres or anywhere else from the tax which is at present charged.

This entertainments duty provides us with a revenue of about £175,000 per annum. In the year before we took up it was about £118,000, and it went up considerably last year, and it is anticipated that it will bring £175,000 at least this year. That is partly due to a restoration of more normal conditions and to the better enforcement of the tax. The estimate that is given is that the loss involved in the change suggested by Deputy Davin would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £20,000 per annum. I do not believe that the public attending places of amusement would get the benefit of all that by any means. For instance, at present, if we take the case of an inclusive charge of 6d., I do not think that would be altered by a ½d. If Deputy Davin's amendment were accepted. Yet the revenue would then only be 1d. as against 1½d. at the present time. I believe in that particular case, for instance, the public would simply pay as usual, and the owner of the picture house would benefit to the extent of ½d. That would happen to some extent in other prices. Deputy Davin's amendment would bring in another anomaly. At present there is a very popular price of 9d. That would be done away with altogether. As a matter of fact, under Deputy Davin's scheme we would have a price of 8d. That would include 7d. admission fee and 1d. tax. Following that there would be an admission price of 8d. and a tax of 3d. I do not think it probable that there would be an 11d. charge at all, and the result would be we would have a gap in the scale of admission charges between 8d. and 9d. I am speaking of the inclusive charges, so that Deputy Davin's amendment would introduce new anomalies which would in a number of cases, I think, not be carried on to the public at all. I do not believe that the extra tax does deter many people from going in. I do not believe it would make any appreciable difference in the number of people attending. If I know anything of the picture house owners, from the various interviews I had with them, they would not rush to give the public the benefit if the public could be induced to pay. As a matter of fact, if there are difficulties in that, I think they are difficulties due to the erection of picture houses in various places where there were too many already. In that case I am not entirely convinced by the arguments of the impending ruin of the picture houses.

Quite recently we detected a picture house in a series of frauds on the Revenue in the matter of the entertainments tax. They were brought before a very good District Justice. I think there were twenty counts, and he fined them £100 on each count. We had a tremendous furore created. We were told, of course, that the picture house would be closed, and that the people would be left desolate, but we hardened our hearts. Two thousand pounds were paid on the nail, and the picture house is going. I am not convinced by all the statements I heard about the terrible bad state of the picture houses. They may not be as flourishing as they were, but I think they will be able to carry on, and I do suggest that only a proportion of this remission would reach the public. It certainly would not reach them in the whole. For instance, where you now find a charge of 7d., if you drop the tax of 1d., you most probably will find that they will continue to charge 7d. Certainly, a great deal of that would go on, and unless there was a more drastic reduction possible, so that it would be plain to the public that the drop in the prices of admission should follow, I would not advise the Dáil to agree to it. I also think that a tax on amusements in a certain sense is a less objectionable tax than one on necessities, and I am not inclined to accept the amendment.

I want the Minister to understand quite distinctly that I am not moving this amendment in the name of any people associated with the running of picture houses. Certain documents did come into my possession some time ago. I read some of them in connection with the motion that was dealt with in this Dáil, and for the first time I discovered in them information which led me to put down this amendment. Of course, until we get hold of this Profiteering Bill that has been so long promised, and that people are so anxiously looking forward to, we cannot insist that any reduction of taxes will be passed on to the consumer—in this case, the patrons of picture houses. The Minister did not explain why the Government or himself could stand over the tax at present in force, of 16? per cent. on the higher priced seats and 33? on the lower priced seats. That is a thing which I think requires some explanation, apart from the anomalies which appear to exist in the amendment standing in my name. I think some undertaking might be given by the Minister that between now and next year he would consider it from that point of view. We are surely entitled to expect that a Profiteering Bill will be in operation when the next Finance Bill is being discussed.

You are an optimist.

I am not an optimist. In view of the promise made by the President of the Executive Council, I am inclined to assume that a Profiteering Bill will be the law of the land by this time twelve months.

I think the Deputy need not go any further into that question.

I assume that the Minister is inclined to be fair. I think that he has a considerable amount of sympathy with the bottom dog, and I hope he will take into consideration the question of the tax on the lower-priced seats.

This amendment, as put down by Deputy Davin, and as explained by him, means that he wants to get a reduction in the tax for those who cannot afford to pay. When one analyses who can afford to pay, I think perhaps there may be some difference of opinion. Of course, Deputy Davin is representing the labour side always, or the labouring man, as the poor man. I, as an employer, contrasting the conditions that apply to labour to-day with what they were, call labour the new rich. At all events, in this particular matter the Government gets most of its revenue from the cheaper seats, which are patronised by a very large number of people who, I think, without any disrespect to Deputy Davin's opinion, can afford to pay a small charge.

The Minister pointed out that it was £20,000 out of £170,000.

A reduction of £20,000.

The Minister, in reading this amendment, read into it, I think, something that I cannot see on the face of it. I think he made it a peg on which to hang accusations against the cinema proprietors. I think this is not the first occasion on which he did the same thing. The cinema proprietors, I take it, are human. There are good, bad and indifferent amongst them. I think it was hardly necessary, if I may say so, for the Minister to cast a slur on the trade, as to whether they would make use of this for profiteering purposes or otherwise—if they get the concession. I think that is not quite right. I am quite sure that amongst the cinema owners there are good and honourable men. At least, I hope there are, for the sake of commercial morality. At all events, as a body of men, I might claim for them that they are no worse than their neighbours. Even amongst the different sections in this Dáil we find perhaps the same variable conditions as regards the principles of ordinary commercial honesty. It seems to me that the mover of this amendment has not made out a very strong case for its acceptance by the Dáil.

On the assumption that the Profiteering Bill will be law this time twelve months, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 28 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Section 29 put and agreed to.
SECTION 30.

I move Amendment 17:—

To insert immediately before Section 30 a new section as follows:—

"Where in the case of persons dying on or after the 1st day of April, 1924, property situate out of Saorstát Eireann is bequeathed to or settled on different persons in succession, and legacy duty or succession duty has, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, been paid thereon, such duty shall, for the purposes of sub-section (2) of Section 2 of the Finance Act, 1894 (which provides that property situate out of Saorstát Eireann shall be deemed to be included in property passing on the death of the deceased only if legacy or succession duty is payable in respect thereof, or would be so payable but for the relationship of the person to whom it passes) be deemed to be payable in respect of the property on the death of each of those persons in succession notwithstanding that the whole amount of the duty was paid on one death only, as in the case of a legacy to one person."

Amendment agreed to.
Question: "That Section 30, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
SECTION 31 (SUB-SECTION (5)).
Where a company is dissatisfied with the decision of the Revenue Commissioners on any claims for relief under this section, or where an objection to any such claim is made by the inspector of taxes, the claim shall be referred to and heard and determined by the commissioners for the special purposes of the Income Tax Acts, who shall for that purpose have power, if they think fit, to summon witnesses and examine them upon oath, and also power to determine the rate at which relief is to be given, the amount of such relief, and all other matters incidental to the claim.

I move Amendment 18:—

In sub-section (5), line 49, to delete the word "claims" and to insert in lieu thereof the word "claim."

This is merely a correction of a clerical error.

Amendment agreed to.
Question: "That Section 31, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put, and agreed to.
Sections 32 to 40, inclusive, put, and agreed to.

I move Amendment 19:—

To insert immediately before the First Schedule a new Schedule as follows:—

FIRST SCHEDULE.

Rules to be added to the Rules applicable to Schedule C.

Rules as to interest, etc., payable out of the public Revenue of Saorstát Eireann through the National Land Bank.

1. The National Land Bank, as respects any interest, annuities, dividends, or shares of annuities payable out of the public Revenue of Saorstát Eireann and intrusted to it for payment or distribution, shall, when any payment becomes due, deliver to the special commissioners true accounts in books provided for the purpose of—

(a)all interest, annuities, dividends, or shares of annuities intrusted to it for payment to the persons entitled thereto:

(b)the amount of tax chargeable thereon at the rate in force at the time of payment without any other deduction than is allowed by the Income Tax Acts.

2. The aforesaid accounts shall distinguish the separate account of each person.

3. The special commissioners shall have all necessary powers in relation to the examining, auditing, checking and clearing the books and accounts aforesaid, and shall assess and charge the interest, annuities, dividends or shares of annuities at the rate of tax in force at the time of payment but reduced by the amount of the exemptions (if any) allowed by them, and shall give notice of the amount so assessed and charged to the National Land Bank.

4. The National Land Bank shall, before any payment is made by it, retain the amount of the tax for the purpose of the Income Tax Acts.

5. The retaining of the amount shall be deemed a payment of the tax by the persons entitled to the interest, annuities, dividends, or shares of annuities, and shall be allowed by them on receipt of the residue thereof, and the National Land Bank shall be acquitted and discharged of a sum equal to the amount retained as though that sum had been actually paid.

6. Money so set apart and retained shall be paid to the Accountant-General of Revenue—

This is consequential to amendment number 4. It provides for the Schedule which is referred to in that amendment, the effect of which, I think, was already fully explained, when amendment number 4 was being moved.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That the new Schedule stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Schedule 2 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.

I wonder would it be possible for the Minister to answer what the meaning of all these repeals is?

As a matter of fact, there is a matter on the 3rd Schedule that I should mention to the Dáil. The first repeal—the repeal of certain sections of the Finance Act of 1909-10— deals with the duties on various articles, including chloroform—which it was decided should be abolished— chloral hydrate, acetic ether, sulphuric compounds, and so forth; and the other one deals with the Safeguarding of Industries Act. Now, the remaining repeals, except the first and the fifth, are Customs repeals. One deals with chloroform duties and the other deals with the Safeguarding of Industries. The remaining repeals are repeals dealing with the quarterly assessments of income tax on weekly wage earners. That was an arrangement introduced in 1916 when war wages were very high, when wages were rising rapidly, and when it was impossible to recover income tax due by weekly wage earners by the ordinary method. Now however, the number of weekly wage earners who are in a position to pay income tax has decreased very considerably, and the quarterly assessment of income tax has become something in the nature of a nightmare, administratively. We find it would be assessed on workers who, perhaps, would be liable for tax on their earnings in the first three-quarters of the year, and tax would be collected. Then something would happen in the last quarter, so much of a deduction had to be made, and the tax collected in excess had to be refunded. In consequence, an enormous amount of work is involved; so much so that the cost of carrying out the quarterly assessments exceeds the amount recovered. As a matter of fact. I believe there will have to be a certain wiping of the slate with regard to a number of assessments that have been made in this way. That, however, is another matter.

The whole business of the quarterly assessment was suitable enough when you had rising wages, and when you had quite a number of weekly wage-earners due to pay a large amount of income tax. Now, if a weekly wage-earner is liable for income tax, it will be assessed in the ordinary way, according to these proposals. Each one of the various sections mentioned in the repeal deals with some particular aspect of the matter. The clauses repealed, except those I have mentioned, deal with some aspect of the quarterly assessment. For instance, Section 2 of the Act of 1918 sets out that weekly wage earners are to be assessed and charged quarterly. Section 22 provides that the fact of assessments being made quarterly shall not affect the granting of allowances or deductions. Section 105 provides that returns shall, in the case of weekly wage earners, be made at such intervals as may be fixed by regulations made by the Revenue Commissioners. Section 131 provides that the Revenue Commissioners may make regulations with respect to the assessments charged, and the collection of the tax in the case of weekly wage earners assessed quarterly. Various references are found in those Acts to quarterly assessments of weekly wage earners.

It seems to me this is a capital way for the Minister to get over his difficulties. Here, in a sort of side-issue, he is wiping away practically all provision for extending income tax to workers' salaries. We all know that in the past the provisions for charging income tax on a worker were a farce. At the same time I do object to it all being wiped away, without any attention being drawn to what is being done, by slipping it into a section of this Bill, and referring to sections so-and-so of a previous Act. I should not have understood what was meant by it, were it not for Deputy Johnson's inquiry. I am afraid that my curiosity does not extend to these minutiae in the same way as a Deputy who attends to his business properly, as Deputy Johnson does, and who immediately requires an explanation of them. Let us be quite frank about this thing of a workman's income tax. I never knew a workman, no matter what his salary was, who paid income tax. There may be some workman in receipt of a large income who has, as a matter of fact, paid income tax to the revenue, but in such a case as that I really do think he ought to be put in a glass-case. I have known workmen making very good wages, but I never heard of one of them paying income tax yet. I think the Minister might face the position in a better way. He should have told us that he was going to cease charging income tax in the case of weekly wage earners, or cease going through the farce of charging workmen income tax altogether.

I am rather surprised at the statement made by Deputy Hewat. I would have imagined that he would welcome the wiping out of these three-monthly assessments of income tax. Not alone will it do away with a good deal of work in the Department of the Revenue Commissioners, but it will relieve employers, for whom Deputy Hewat speaks in the Dáil, from employing men to make out returns for the Revenue Commissioners. Deputy Hewat speaks as if no workers ever paid income tax. I believe the Revenue Commissioners have the power to compel employers to render returns of the amount of wages paid their employees. I have spent many hours, night and day, making out returns. I agree with the Minister that those returns cannot have the effect originally intended. I know returns have to be made out by railway companies for thirty or forty thousand workers, and in most cases, at particular periods, no income tax is due. Still, all the necessary particulars have to be furnished to enable the authorities to see whether the workers are liable for income tax or not. I know of many cases where employees received notices, threatening and otherwise, from the Revenue Commissioners, ordering them to pay income tax which they did not owe at all.

Deputy Hewat knows that quite well. If those for whom he speaks have failed to render the returns, then he is not the able champion of the law which I always believed he was. As an employer, he should welcome the proposition from the Minister, because it will relieve him of certain responsibilities in the making of necessary returns. From an administrative point of view the Minister is quite justified in wiping out these three-monthly assessments, under which people were obliged to render returns which did not bring in any revenue at all.

Again, in cases where income tax has been deducted, and where the amount has exceeded what is actually due, there is considerable delay in getting a refund. I hope the Minister will pay some attention to that. I know many people who have been overcharged income tax, and they had to wait a very long time for a refund. It is immaterial whether they patronise picture houses with the amount refunded. What is really material is that they are entitled to get back their money.

I rise to quarrel with Deputy Davin and Deputy Hewat in stating that the worker does not pay income tax.

I did not say that.

Deputy Davin associated himself with Deputy Hewat.

I said I was surprised at him.

Perhaps I had better put it this way: I quarrel with them for using the term worker in a narrow and particular sense. There are a great many workers who pay income tax, and there are even workers who pay supertax. The sooner the practice of using the term worker and workman as regards men who work with their hands in comparison with those who work with their brains, is put an end to, the better. On the definition adopted by Deputy Hewat it might be possible to say that Deputy Johnson is not a worker, which we know is quite absurd.

I would support one claim of Deputy Hewat's, and that is as to the incomprehensibleness, under existing circumstances, of these schedules. Three months ago and more we were promised a set of the Statutes would be provided for Deputies' use in the library of the Dáil, and that set has never been provided. We were told that there was a set somewhere in Dublin Castle, which would be available and brought here, but that has not been done. Whether the Minister for Finance has objected or whether the judges have laid violent hands on the books, I do not know. It is not only unfair to the Deputies, but there is a consideration which should appeal with more force to the Minister for Finance, and that is that it wastes time if all these references have to be explained to Deputies. If the Statutes were there, and if we could look up the Income Tax Act of 1918 and the Finance Act of 1921, we could work these things out for ourselves. I do not say that we would, but we could, and in some cases of spasmodic energy we might. I do hope the Minister will bring his influence to bear on the responsible authorities and have those promised books supplied. His legislation, more than the legislation of most Ministers, is legislation by reference. His legislation is continually referring to old British Acts, and yet a complete set of the British Statutes, which he is altering, revising and repealing, has not been provided for the use of Deputies.

Perhaps Deputy Cooper will not think it amiss of me to tell him that these Statutes are available in this building and use of them can be obtained by application to the Clerk.

I am very grateful to Deputy Johnson, but I think these Statutes ought to be available without having to get a permit.

Third Schedule put and agreed to.

Title put and agreed to.