"A taxation anomaly"

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Sir,

Together, no doubt, with many more of your readers, I rise to the bait thrown out at the end of your article on the “Taxation Anomaly.”

The anomaly arose as a result of a concession made by the government (Conservative) during the passage of the Finance Bill of 1952. The concession arose for purely mathematical reasons.

As introduced into the Commons, the Finance Bill of 1952 provided for a single flat rate tax of £12 10s. 0d. for all private cars, whenever manufactured. This represented an increase of £2 10s. 0d., i.e. 25%, on the tax paid by owners of post-1946 cars, who had previously paid £10. The effect on the owners of pre-1947 cars depended, however, entirely on the R.A.C. h.p. of their cars since they had previously paid at 25s. per h.p. The new rate of tax was attacked by the Opposition (Labour) in relation to those owners of pre-1947 cars who had been paying less than £12 10s. 0d. under the old system, i.e. those with cars under 10 h.p. The general tenor of the debate may be judged from the contemporary Hansard (Vol. 500). Mr. Jay (now President of the Board of Trade) moved an opposition amendment to exclude from the new tax owners of cars under to h.p. first registered before 1st January, 1947. He described the new tax as “exploitation” and Mr. Lipton shared this view. Mr. Fletcher (now Sir Eric Fletcher, Minister without portfolio) described the position under the Bill as a “glaring injustice”; it was a concession to owners of pre-1947 Rolls-Royces, Daimlers, Bentleys “and all the expensive fashionable cars”; the proposals in the Bill were “an indication of the reckless disregard by the Tory government of the rights and interests of the small man “—Hansard, col. 573.

In reply to these reasoned criticisms, Mr. Boyd Carpenter (then Financial Secretary to the Treasury) stated that (1) the owner of a 10 h.p. car was already paying £12 10s. 0d.; (2) the owner of a 9 h.p. car was paying £11 5s. 0d., so his increase was to be only 25s.; (3) the owner of an 8 h.p. car was paying £10, the same as the owner of a post-1946 car, and his increase would therefore be the same. Only the owners of 7 h.p. and 6 h.p. cars were being asked to pay a bigger increase. He gives some interesting figures—at col. 576 of Hansard—there were then under 10,000 pre-1947 cars on the 7 h.p. registration and under 100 (yes, hundred) on 6 h.p.

On behalf of the government Mr. Boyd Carpenter conceded that the owners of the 7 h.p. and 6 h.p. pre-1947 cars ought not to pay a bigger increase than anyone else. Therefore, he promised a government amendment at the report stage to limit their increases to 25%. Owners of Vintage (very) light cars might be interested in one of Mr. Boyd Carpenter’s remarks: in reply to a question about the small pre-1947 cars, he said “this category of cars will gradually die out, if that is the appropriate expression.” In fact the government amendment provided that the tax on the 6 h.p. car should go up from £7 10s. 0d. to £9 (7s. 6d. less than 25%), and on the 7 h.p. car it should go up from £8 15s. 0d. to 10s. 0d. (8s. 9d. less than 25%)

From 1952 until the present Finance Bill no one apparently dared (or cared) to give the owners of pre-1947 cars of 7 h.p. or less a bigger tax increase than anyone else. However, in the current Finance Bill the government (Labour) has made this dastardly attack on the 6 h.p. men—the minority among the minorities—so that they are now lumped in with the 7 h.p. men. So far as I can gather from Hansard, however, no member of the opposition (Conservative) rose to the defence of the 6 h.p. men. Perhaps, in Mr. Boyd Carpenter’s words, they have died out: even you, Sir, think they may be extinct!

I trust, however, that you will now see that what you were so bold as to call an anomaly represents, in fact, a triumph for democracy. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine that you would wish to publish a letter of this length, but it you do, perhaps you will allow me, for professional reasons, to sign myself—

“Cross-Bracer (1929 21 h.p.) ”
(Name and address supplied.)
[This really is most interesting and proves that if you publish an obscure historical query in MOTOR SPORT you often get an answer. I am delighted to think this tax concession for low h.p. cars is likely to continue, for we have a Socialist Government and Mr. Wilson would hardly go in the face of democracy, even if his government so increases the cost of living that motoring, even in 6 h.p. cars, will become impossible!

I understand that owners of flat-twin Jowetts up to 1933 come under this tax concession and pre-war Fiat 500 owners certainly do. As Michael Sedgwick, in an article in the Fiat Register Magazine, points out that these Topolinos can now be bought for £10-£20 and asks for them to be saved, it may well be that in them we have the ideal, if not the only, possible vehicle for motoring survival in a Socialist State!—ED.]

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