Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter xxix: Taxes paid by the Producer - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 1 Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
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chapter xxix: Taxes paid by the Producer - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 1 Principles of Political Economy and Taxation 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 1 Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
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First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
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Taxes paid by the Producer
Mons. Say1 greatly magnifies the inconveniences which result if a tax on a manufactured commodity is levied at an early, rather than at a late period of its manufacture. The manufacturers, he observes,2 through whose hands the commodity may successively pass, must employ greater funds in consequence of having to advance the tax, which is often attended with considerable difficulty to a manufacturer of very limited capital and credit. To this observation no objection can be made.
Another inconvenience on which he dwells3 is, that in consequence of the advance of the tax, the profits on the advance also must be charged to the consumer, and that this additional tax is one from which the treasury derives no advantage.
In this latter objection I cannot agree with M. Say. The State, we will suppose, wants to raise immediately 1000l. and levies it on a manufacturer, who will not, for a twelvemonth, be able to charge it to the consumer on his finished commodity. In consequence of such delay, he is obliged to charge for his commodity an additional price, not only of 1000l., the amount of the tax, but probably of 1100l., 100l. being for interest on the 1000l. advanced. But in return for this additional 100l. paid by the consumer, he has a real benefit, inasmuch as his payment of the tax which Government required immediately, and which he must finally pay, has been postponed for a year; an opportunity, therefore, has been afforded to him of lending to the manufacturer, who had occasion for it, the 1000l. at 10 per cent., or at any other rate of interest which might be agreed upon. Eleven hundred pounds payable at the end of one year, when money is at 10 per cent. interest, is of no more value than 1000l. to be paid immediately. If Government delayed receiving the tax for one year till the manufacture of the commodity was completed, it would, perhaps, be obliged to issue an Exchequer bill bearing interest, and it would pay as much for interest as the consumer would save in price, excepting, indeed, that portion of the price which the manufacturer might be enabled in consequence of the tax, to add to his own real gains. If for the interest of the Exchequer bill, Government would have paid 5 per cent., a tax of 50l. is saved by not issuing it. If the manufacturer borrowed the additional capital at 5 per cent., and charged the consumer 10 per cent., he also will have gained 5 per cent. on his advance over and above his usual profits, so that the manufacturer and Government together gain, or save, precisely the sum which the consumer pays.
M. Simonde, in his excellent work, De la Richesse Commerciale, following the same line of argument as M. Say, has calculated1 that a tax of 4000 francs, paid originally by a manufacturer, whose profits were at the moderate rate of 10 per cent., would, if the commodity manufactured, only passed through the hands of five different persons, be raised to the consumer to the sum of 6734 francs. This calculation proceeds on the supposition, that he who first advanced the tax, would receive from the next manufacturer 4400 francs, and he again from the next, 4840 francs; so that at each step 10 per cent. on its value would be added to it. This is to suppose that the value of the tax would be accumulating at compound interest; not at the rate of 10 percent. per annum, but at an absolute rate of 10 per cent. at every step of its progress. This opinion of M. de Simonde would be correct, if five years elapsed between the first advance of the tax, and the sale of the taxed commodity to the consumer; but if one year only elapsed, a remuneration of 400 francs, instead of 2734, would give a profit at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum, to all who had contributed to the advance of the tax, whether the commodity had passed through the hands of five manufacturers or fifty.
[1 ]Eds. 1–2 ‘M. Say’.
[2 ]Traité d’Économie politique, 2nd ed., 1814, vol. ii, p. 342.
[3 ]ib. vol. ii, pp. 342–3.
[1 ]J. C. L. Simonde, De la Richesse commerciale, ou Principes d’Économie politique, appliqués àla leégislation du commerce, Genève, Paschoud, 1803, vol. ii, pp. 43–6. When this work was published, the author had not yet adopted the name Sismondi.