Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: Principal Sources of Revenue. - Taxation and Work: A Series of Treatises on the Tariff and the Currency
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CHAPTER IV.: Principal Sources of Revenue. - Edward Atkinson, Taxation and Work: A Series of Treatises on the Tariff and the Currency 
Taxation and Work: A Series of Treatises on the Tariff and the Currency (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1892).
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Principal Sources of Revenue.
The startling fact which appears upon the first analysis of the sources of the national revenue is that what are known as the miscellaneous permanent receipts of the government which are derived from other sources than the ordinary internal and customs taxes, averaging twenty-five million dollars a year, when combined with the revenue from domestic and imported liquors and tobacco, sufficed to cover, within a small fraction, all the expenditures of the government of every name and nature except the disbursements for pensions in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891, and will more than suffice for the same purposes in the present fiscal year which will terminate June 30, 1892.
In other words the revenue now derived from miscellaneous permanent receipts is now in excess of the interest on the public debt and the revenue from liquors and tobacco is now in excess of the disbursements for the civil service,—the judiciary, the army, the navy, public buildings, fortifications, the construction of naval vessels, rivers, harbors, the support of Indians and even the probably unconstitutional and wholly unlawful misappropriation of the revenue to bounties to sugar planters and maple-tree tappers.
In dealing with the figures of this account we may first put down what are called the miscellaneous permanent receipts. They consist of the sales of public lands, consular fees, interest in part recovered, and contributions to the sinking fund of the Pacific Railways, incomes from trust funds for soldiers’ homes, sales of government property, taxes on property in the District of Columbia, profits on coinage, and some other small matters; to which may be added bank taxes, taxes on oleomargarine, and other internal revenue receipts distinct from liquors and tobacco; all of which amounted in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891,
The revenue attributable to liquors and tobacco in the same fiscal year was as follows:
By reference to the previous statement of expenditures in Chapter III., it will be observed that the normal expenditures of the government in the same year were
The miscellaneous permanent receipts have not varied greatly for many years. The average revenue from liquor and tobacco—
It comes to between $2.60 and $2.70 per head.
On the other hand, the interest account has been reduced about $5,000,000, so that if the present Congress shall not exceed the appropriations of the last, these sources of revenue, liquors, tobacco, and miscellaneous permanent revenues, will yield at least $15,000,000 in excess of all charges except pensions. This sum will more than cover bounties on sugar, if the Supreme Court permits such bounties to be paid.
The revenue from customs after deducting that derived from liquors and tobacco may therefore be dealt with as the source from which pensions are to be paid.
On the other hand, the customs revenue may be computed for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1892, upon the supposition that the increased revenue now accruing from the advance in rates on tin-plates, wool and machinery, of which the imports are increasing, will more than offset the reduction of revenue due to the advance in rates upon other goods. The revenue from customs on other articles than liquors and tobacco for the present fiscal year may therefore be estimated at $160,000,000, which would correspond to the estimate of the Secretary of the Treasury.
This excess may be applied to additions to the free lists, as we are far in advance of the requirements of the sinking fund for reduction of debt.
In dealing with the government account, the simplest way is to pay no regard to what are called the requirements of the sinking-fund act. It provides for nothing but a sort of hocus-pocus or juggle in bookkeeping, or in the method of keeping the national accounts. As a matter of fact the framers of the act never dreamed of the rapid payment of our debt; the liquidation is already far in advance of what they wished to secure.
In dealing with this excess, consideration may be given to the classification of dutiable imports with reference to their use, and for this purpose we may reverse the customary order, placing the articles which may be rightly subject to revenue duties at the head.
The following table gives the revenue from customs in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891, omitting sugar, sisal, and other vegetable fibres, now on the free list; also omitting liquors and tobacco:
and yet the excess would not be exhausted.
I am aware that this estimate of surplus differs in slight measure from the computations submitted by the Secretary of the Treasury. It may be remarked, however, that the conservative estimates of prospective revenue submitted by the executive officers of the Treasury for very many years have almost invariably been exceeded and that it is now apparent that even the estimates which I have taken in the present computations are already certain to be exceeded, even in the present fiscal year.