Taxation and parish meetings, 1840

From Sarnia, or the Holy Land, a new guide to the privileged island of Guernsey, &c. by a Twenty Years' resident: Payn, Jersey, 1840, pp. 83-4.

From a clever little work, written by Mr James Barbet, on Taxation and Education, we extract the following:

'With the exception of a duty of one shilling per gallon on all spirituous liquors consumed in the island, and which with the produce of the harbour dues and innkeepers' licenses, forms the revenue disposable by the States for general purposes, the whole system of taxation is direct, and regulated on the fairest and most equitable principles. Every person contributes according to his means, and is assessed not only for the value of whatever he may possess in the island; but also for the amount he may hold in the British or foreign funds, the only exception being that of real property in England, on which it is presumed a rate is already paid. It is essentially a tax on realised property, and not upon industry, unproductive capital, as for instance household furniture, being assessed; whilst pensions, salaries, professional income, and half-pay are exempted. The standard by which it is measured is termed a 'quarter', for wheat having originally been here the standard of value. A 'quarter' is now valued at £20, and, taking one year with another, the annual tax for parochial purposes may be computed at sixpence per quarter. Thus a person possessing capital, no matter of what description, worth £400, would be rated at 20 quarters, and pay ten shillings annually. This covers every demand, and no-one is annoyed for poor rate, lighting, watching, window or house tax.

Once a year, generally in the month of January, the parish officers call a parochial meeting, where they present an estimate of the probable wants of the parish during the year, for the support of the hospital or work-house, the out-door poor, and distressed strangers, together with the mainenance of public lamps and pumps, salary of surgeons for the poor, and other contingent expenses. They are then authorised by a vote of the parishioners to levy the sum required; and after that vote has been cpnfirmed by the Royal Court, the constables proceed to assess and levy the tax. Money in the funds they rate at the price at which the funds may chance to be at that time. No inquisitorial investigation takes place in order to ascertain the nature or amount of any individual's property. The constables and douzeniers rate each one at what they think he is worth; and if any person considers himself over-rated, he appears before the assessors to demand that his assessment be reduced; and if they cannot agree, it is left to him to declare upon oath before the court what he conceives he is worth, which puts and end to the controversy. The rate of contribution varies of course in the different parishes in the same ratio as their respective wants and means. It is generally much lower in the country parishes than in town.'