The triumph and denouement of the British fiscal state: taxation for the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, 1793-1815
O'Brien, Patrick (2007) The triumph and denouement of the British fiscal state: taxation for the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, 1793-1815. Economic History Working Papers (99/07). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
At the start of the long wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, the taxes available to the British state fell mainly on outlays made by its citizens on domestically produced commodities and services. Smaller proportions came from import duties and direct taxes on their incomes and wealth. Since total tax revenues depended on rates of tax levied on the volume of goods and services assessed to tax, economic forces which effected private expenditures in general, or the demand and supply for taxed goods in particular, influenced the level of exchequer receipts. Most tax revenue came from commodities consumed either by the mass of the population or from goods and services preferred by more affluent groups in society. Really productive taxes fell on commodities with inelastic demands regarded as necessities by the poor or as essential for their lifestyles by the rich and where the elevation of tax rates did not lead to any permanent loss of revenues. However, specific tax rates (which at that time were the norm) implied that the state’s real income would fall in periods of inflation