Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter X: THE REVENUE 1 - Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (LF ed.)
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Chapter X: THE REVENUE 1 - Albert Venn Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (LF ed.) 
Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, ed. Roger E. Michener (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1982).
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RevenueAs in treating of the army my aim was simply to point out what were the principles determining the relation of the armed forces of the country to the law on the land, so in treating forces of the revenue my aim is not to give even a sketch of the matters connected with the raising, the collection, and the expenditure of the national income, but simply to show that the collection and expenditure of the revenue, and all things appertaining thereto, are governed by strict rules of law. Attention should be fixed upon three points,— the source of the public revenue—the authority for expending the public revenue—and the securities provided by law for the due appropriation of the public revenue, that is, for its being expended in the exact manner which the law directs.
SOURCE OF PUBLIC REVENUE
Source It is laid down by Blackstone and other authorities that the revenue consists of the hereditary or “ordinary” revenue of the Crown and of the “extraordinary” revenue depending upon taxes imposed by Parliament. Historically this distinction is of interest. But for our purpose we need hardly trouble ourselves at all with the hereditary revenue of the Crown, arising from Crown lands, droits of admiralty, and the like. It forms an insignificant portion of the national resources, amounting to not much more than £500,000 a year. It does not, moreover, at the present moment belong specially to the Crown, for it was commuted at the beginning of the reign of the present King,2 as it was at the beginning of the reign of William iv. and of the reign of Queen Victoria, for a fixed “civil list,”3 or sum payable yearly for the support of the dignity of the Crown. The whole then of the hereditary revenue is now paid into the national exchequer and forms part of the income of the nation. We may, therefore, putting the hereditary revenue out of our minds, direct our whole attention to what is oddly enough called the “extraordinary,” but is in reality the ordinary, or Parliamentary, revenue of the nation.
The whole of the national revenue had come to amount in a normal year to somewhere about £144,000,000.4 It is (if we put out of sight the small hereditary revenue of the Crown) raised wholly by taxes imposed by law. The national revenue, therefore, depends wholly upon law and upon statute-law; it is the creation of Acts of Parliament.
While no one can nowadays fancy that taxes can be raised otherwise than in virtue of an Act of Parliament, there prevails, it may be suspected, with many of us a good deal of confusion of mind as to the exact relation between the raising of the revenue and the sitting of Parliament. People often talk as though, if Parliament did not meet, no taxes would be legally payable, and the assembling of Parliament were therefore secured by the necessity of filling the national exchequer. This idea is encouraged by the study of periods, such as the reign of Charles I., during which the Crown could not legally obtain necessary supplies without the constant intervention of Parliament. But the notion that at the present day no money could legally be levied if Parliament ceased to meet is unfounded. Millions of money would come into the Exchequer even though Parliament did not sit at all. For though all taxation depends upon Act of Parliament, it is far from being the case that all taxation now depends upon annual or temporary Acts.
Taxes are made payable in two different ways, i.e. either by permanent or by yearly Acts.
Taxes, the proceeds of which amounted in the year 1906–7 to at least three-fourths of the whole yearly revenue, are imposed by permanent Acts; such taxes are the land tax,5 the excise,6 the stamp duties,7 and by far the greater number of existing taxes. These taxes would continue to be payable even though Parliament should not be convened for years. We should all, to take an example which comes home to every one, be legally compellable to buy the stamps for our letters even though Parliament did not meet again till (say) a. d. 1910.
Other taxes—and notably the income tax—the proceeds of which make up the remainder of the national income, are imposed by yearly Acts.8 If by any chance Parliament should not be convened for a year, no one would be under any legal obligation to pay income tax.
This distinction between revenue depending upon permanent Acts and revenue depending upon temporary Acts is worth attention, but the main point, of course, to be borne in mind is that all taxes are imposed by statute, and that no one can be forced to pay a single shilling by way of taxation which cannot be shown to the satisfaction of the judges to be due from him under Act of Parliament.
AUTHORITY FOR EXPENDING REVENUE
Authority for expenditure. At one time revenue once raised by taxation was in truth and in reality a grant or gift by the Houses of Parliament to the Crown. Such grants as were made to Charles the First or James the First were moneys truly given to the King. He was, as a matter of moral duty, bound, out of the grants made to him, as out of the hereditary revenue, to defray the expenses of government;, and the gifts made to the King by Parliament were never intended to be “money to put into his own pocket,” as the expression goes. Still it was in truth money of which the King or his Ministers could and did regulate the distribution. One of the singularities which mark the English constitution is the survival of mediæval notions, which more or less identified the Kings's property with the national revenue, after the passing away of the state of society to which such ideas naturally belonged; in the time of George the Third many public expenses, as, for example, the salaries of the judges, were charged upon the civil list, and thus were mixed up with the King's private expenditure. At the present day, however, the whole public revenue is treated, not as the King's property, but as public income; and as to this two matters deserve special observation.
First, the whole revenue of the nation is paid into the Bank of England9 to the “account of his Majesty's Exchequer,”10 mainly through the Inland Revenue Office. That office is a mere place for the receipt of taxes; it is a huge money-box into which day by day moneys paid as taxes are dropped, and whence such moneys are taken daily to the Bank. What, I am told, takes place is this. Each day large amounts are received at the Inland Revenue Office; two gentlemen come there each afternoon in a cab from the Bank; they go through the accounts for the day with the proper officials; they do not leave till every item is made perfectly dear; they then take all the money received, and drive off with it and pay it into the Bank of England.
Secondly, not a penny of revenue can be legally expended except under the authority of some Act of Parliament.
This authority may be given by a permanent Act, as, for example, by the Civil List Act, 1 & 2 Vict. c. 2, or by the National Debt and Local Loans Act, 1887; or it may be given by the Appropriation Act, that is, the annual Act by which Parliament “appropriates” or fixes the sums payable to objects (the chief of which is the support of the army and navy) which are not provided for, as is the payment of the National Debt, by permanent Acts of Parliament.
The whole thing, to express it in general terms, stands thus.
There is paid into the Bank of England in a normal year11 a national income raised by different taxes amounting to nearly £144,000,000 per annum. This £144,000,000 constitutes the revenue or “consolidated fund.”
Every penny of it is, unless the law is broken, paid away in accordance with Act of Parliament. The authority to make payments from it is given in many cases by permanent Acts; thus the whole of the interest on the National Debt is payable out of the Consolidated Fund under the National Debt and Local Loans Act, 1887. The order or authority to make payments out of it is in other cases given by a yearly Act, namely, the Appropriation Act, which determines the mode in which the supplies granted by Parliament (and not otherwise appropriated by permanent Acts) are to be spent. In either case, and this is the point to bear in mind, payments made out of the national revenue are made by and under the authority of the law, namely, under the directions of some special Act of Parliament.
The details of the method according to which supplies are annually voted and appropriated by Parliament are amply treated of in works which deal with Parliamentary practice.12 The matter which requires our attention is the fact that each item of expenditure (such, for example, as the wages paid to the army and navy) which is not directed and authorised by some permanent Act is ultimately authorised by the Appropriation Act for the year, or by special Acts which for convenience are passed prior to the Appropriation Act and are enumerated therein. The expenditure, therefore, no less than the raising of taxation, depends wholly and solely upon Parliamentary enactment.
SECURITY FOR THE PROPER