4. Every tax ought to be so contrived, as 
both to take out and to keep out of the pockets 
of the people as little as possible, over and 
above what it brings into the public treasury 
of the state. A tax may either take out or 
keep out of the pockets of the people a great 
deal more than it brings into the public 
treasury, in the four following ways. First, 
the levying of it may require a great number 
of officers, whose salaries may eat up the 
greater part of the produce of the tax, and 
whose perquisites may impose another additional 
tax upon the people. Secondly, it may 
obstruct the industry of the people, and discourage 
them from applying to certain branches 
of business which might give maintenance 
and employment to great multitudes. While 
it obliges the people to pay, it may thus diminish
or perhaps destroy, some of the funds 
which might enable them more easily to do so. 
Thirdly, by the forfeitures and other penalties 
which those unfortunate individuals incur
who attempt unsuccessfully to evade the tax
it may frequently ruin them, and thereby put 
an end to the benefit which the community 
might have received from the employment of 
their capitals. An injudicious tax offers a 
great temptation to smuggling. But the 
penalties of smuggling must arise in proportion 
to the temptation. The law, contrary to 
all the ordinary principles of justice, first 
creates the temptation, and then punishes those 
who yield to it; and it commonly enhances 
the punishment, too, in proportion to the very 
circumstance which ought certainly to alleviate 
it, the temptation to commit the crime.[52] 
Fourthly, by subjecting the people to the 
frequent visits and the odious examination of 
the tax-gatherers, it may expose them to much 
unnecessary trouble, vexation, and oppression
and though vexation is not, strictly speaking
expense, it is certainly equivalent to the expense 
at which every man would be willing 
to redeem himself from it. It is in some one 
or other of these four different ways, that 
taxes are frequently so much more burdensome 
to the people than they are beneficial to the 
The evident justice and utility of the foregoing 
maxims have recommended them, more 
or less, to the attention of all nations. All 
nations have endeavoured, to the best of their 
judgment, to render their taxes as equal as 
they could contrive; as certain, as convenient 
to the contributor, both the time and the mode 
of payment, and in proportion to the revenue 
which they brought to the prince, as little 
burdensome to the people. The following 
short review of some of the principal taxes 
which have taken place in different ages and 
countries, will show, that the endeavours of 
all nations have not in this respect been equally 
ART. I.—Taxes upon Rent—Taxes upon the 
Rent of Land
A tax upon the rent of land may either be 
imposed according to a certain canon, every 
district being valued at a certain rent, which 
valuation is not afterwards to be altered; or 
it may be imposed in such a manner, as to 
vary with every variation in the real rent of 
the land, and to rise or fall with the improvement 
or declaration of its cultivation
A land tax which, like that of Great Britain
is assessed upon each district according 
to a certain invariable canon, though 
it should be equal at the time of its first establishment, 
necessarily becomes unequal in 
process of time, according to the unequal degrees 
of improvement or neglect in the cultivation 
of the different parts of the country. 
In England, the valuation, according 
to which the different counties and parishes 
were assessed to the land tax by the 4th of 
William and Mary, was very unequal even at 
its first establishment. This tax, therefore, 
so far offends against the first of the four 
maxims above mentioned. It is perfectly 
agreeable to the other three. It is perfectly 
certain. The time of payment for the tax
being the same as that for the rent, is as convenient 
as it can be to the contributor. Though 
the landlord is, in all cases, the real contributor
the tax is commonly advanced by the 
tenant, to whom the landlord is obliged to allow 
it in the payment of the rent. This tax 
is levied by a much smaller number of officers 
than any other which affords nearly the same 
revenue. As the tax upon each district does 
not rise with the rise of the rent, the sovereign 
does not share in the profits of the landlord's 
improvements. Those improvements sometimes 
contribute, indeed, to the discharge of 
the other landlords of the district. But the 
aggravation of the tax, which this may sometimes 
occasion upon a particular estate, is always 
so very small, that it never can discourage 
those improvements, nor keep down the produce 
of the land below what it would otherwise 
rise to. As it has no tendency to diminish 
the quantity, it can have none to raise the 
price of that produce. It does not obstruct 
the industry of the people; it subjects the 
landlord to no other inconveniency besides the 
unavoidable one of paying the tax
The advantage, however, which the landlord 
has derived from the invariable constancy 
of the valuation, by which all the lands of 
Great Britain are rated to the land-tax, has 
been principally owing to some circumstances 
altogether extraneous to the nature of the