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TAXATION AND ENTERPRISE IPaul Streeten Taxation-like economicsdeals with two dangerous subjects which, combined, give an explosive mixture: a man's pockets and his ideals. Fuel has been added recently by the publication in England of the three important reports of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income.' These lucidly written documents, and especially the final one, will keep the fires of controversy burning for a long time to come, not only inside Great Britain but outside her shores. Although the Commissioners have not reached revolutionary conclusions, many imaginative reform proposals were considered, discussed, and, occasionally rather regretfully, rejected. The general tenor is that the British tax system, although complex and defective in many respects, is, if not the best of all possible systems, at least among the least bad ones-and that most of its evils are necessary. The Commission was appointed in 1951 and issued its Report in 1955. Its chairman was Lord Radcliffe, a distinguished lawyer, and among its fourteen members were four university teachers, four business men, three trade unionists, and one accountant. The Report contained a substantial "Memorandum of Dissent" signed by Mr. Kaldor and two trade unionists. This minority report is more daring and imaginative than the majority report and much of what I shall say will be drawn from or inspired by it. The most controversial issue that divided the minority from the majority was the question of whether we should impose a capital gains tax. This has been much discussed in the press and the learned journals and I shall not say much on the subject. The most fascinating aspect to me, with which I shall deal later, is the discrepancy between our wide-spread belief in the rough fairness of our tax system and the wide scope for tax avoidance which the minority report has brought to light? I shall divide this essay into two parts. In the second part I shall reiterate the hackneyed question of whether free enterprise can survive taxation, but in the first part I shall turn the 137 138 PAUL STREETEN question round and ask whether taxation can survive free enterprise. It is to be hoped that not both answers will be negative, or else we should get a situation like that depicted in a cartoon in which two snakes eat each other until nothing is left over. When I announced a talk to an Oxford undergraduate society under the title "Can Taxation Survive Free Enterprise?" various inquirers asked whether there had not been a misprint. Should it not be the other way round? I was reminded of Colonel T. E. Lawrence's reply to his proof-reader. The latter wrote into the margin of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: " 'Meleager, the immoral poet.' I have put 'immortal' poet, but the author may mean immoral after all." To this Lawrence replied: "Immorality I know. Immortality I cannot judge. As you please: Meleager will not sue us for libel." Similarly, I should say: "Of the attack of enterprise on the tax system I know. Of the effects of taxes on enterprise it is difficult to judge. As you please: the surtax payers will not sue us." We all know the traditional complaint that free enterprise-indeed sometimes a free society~annot survive our present penal rates of taxation. We are, it is often said, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. The lament is as old as taxation. Indeed, David Hume wrote: "'tis to be feared that taxes all over Europe are multiplying to such a degree as will entirely crush all art and industry." Professor Lionel Robbins in a recent article argued that the tax machine more than any other thing is driving us towards collectivism. (Professor Robbins also expressed fears lest our Iuland Revenue Commissioners who assess jointly those whom God has joined together in holy matrimony should encourage thereby "more casual associations"; having killed free enterprise and a free society, only free love would flourish.) I shall have to say a little about the traditional complaint in the second part, but should like to tum the tables and ask to what extent enterprise has undermined our tax system. We are...


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