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We refer to the stamp on what are, in technical language, called the Progressive, i. e. the second, third, and following, skins of a deed which has paid the ad valorem or stamp, according to the value on its first skin of parchment. It does unfortunately happen that a property of small value will often have wound around it and bound up with it circumstances of as much intricacy, requiring as accurate explanation, and occupying therewith as great a quantity of sheepskin, as a property of bulk better calculated to bear the necessary load of words. Yet are they all compelled to pay exactly the same amount of tax for the additional length of deed. The consequence is that in order to avoid the extra stamp duty, deeds relating to property of small value are often improperly shortened, whereby the revenue certainly loses, and the owner may eventually suffer. Without asking for all those gradations which prevail in the stamps on value, we think that the division of these progressive stamps into some three or four different amounts, according to value, would be just to the public, without being injurious to the revenue.
There is another suggestion which we could wish to see adopted in any general amendment of the Stamp Laws. In the different scales of stamps on different instruments, it will be observed, that they do not advance upwards at any regular pace; one strides over 100/. at a time, and another hops from 201. to 50/.; no two of them appear to travel with equally measured steps. Thus the mortgage being at 501., thence rises to 100/., thence to 200/., thence to 300/. &c.: it passes regularly through the thousands up to 5000/., arid then jumps all at once up to 10,000/., while the conveyance begins at 20/., rises to 50/., thence to 150/., thence to 300/. &c., and takes ten regular steps through the thousands from 1000/. up to 10,000/. There is another difference in the mode of arranging the different scales. In one it is written " where the value shall amount to 100/., and not amount to 200/." In another "exceeding 100/. and not exceeding 200/.; and upon the notice of this trifling variance in the mode of expression may depend the validity or invalidity of an important instrument. This want of system increases the confusion and leads to mistakes. It would seem to us more simple and quite as convenient, the memory would be assisted, and the trouble both of the makers and followers of the law would be lessened, if, in the scales applicable to every instrument, the value advanced by precisely the same steps through all the hundreds and thousands, and similarly inclusive or exclusive in all. The several parts of the schedule would then present an uniform rate of travelling—from 100/. to 200/., from 1000/. to 2000/., or whatever other stages for convenient stoppage might be agreed upon.
If the rule of equal proportion were adopted, there could of course be no more simple and intelligible mode of applying it than by expressly levying a certain sum per cent, on the value, as now on legacies; but practical difficulties opposing themselves to this arrangement, from the multiplicity of stamps or the expensive machinery that would be required to accomplish it, the per-centage on the mean average between the two limits of value in each advance of the scale should be the duty denoted.
The subject of the Stamp Laws cannot properly be closed without a few words respecting the relative proportion in which real and personal property are subjected to this branch of taxation. On the one side it is remarked that all personalty pays the legacy and probate duties, the former varying from 1 to 10 per cent, on the value, from which freehold property is altogether exempt. On the other hand (besides the total exemption of effects under 20/.) personal property pays no duty on transfer, while a duty is paid on all transfers of landed property, whether freehold or leasehold. Whatever may be the situation of the rest, leasehold property is certainly in no very enviable predicament, groaning under the weight of all the three duties, probate, legacy and conveyance. But as between other descriptions of personalty and freeholds, there would be a fair balance of taxation if the duty on the transfer of landed property were of the same amount as on the bequest of personalty. How far this is from the fact a few instances will serve to show :—
Landed property of the value of £750 and not reaching £1000 is liable to a stamp on transfer of £9.
Again: landed property of the value of £8000 and not reaching £10,000 is liable to a stamp on transfer of £85.
Personal property of the value of £800 and not reaching £1000 is liable to a probate duty of £22 and also to the legacy duty.
Personal property within the same limits of value is liable to a probate duty of £240 ami also to the legacy duty.
—with a similar disproportion in all other amounts. We will not pretend to decide how far the peculiar circumstances of landed property and of its owners may establish the claim to be visited with a more lenient infliction of stamps and duties. But that freehold is not so heavily mulcted as personal property, on passing or descending from one owner to another, we wish to be clearly understood, in order that when the relative merits of both are weighed, this fact may form one item in the calculation.
No one who at all considers this matter can, we believe, deny that some amendment is required. The promise of Mr. Spring Rice leads us to expect that a remedial measure will soon be introduced by ministers. When this is before us, we shall be prepared to resume the topic; and if in the meanwhile our remarks shall furnish any useful suggestion, or serve to direct attention to the subject, our purpose will be answered.
ART. V.-LIABILITY OF A RETIRED PARTNER.
The almost unlimited liability which, by some previous decisions of the Court of King's Bench, had been cast upon retired partners, in spite of circumstances which seemed clearly to demonstrate that the parties themselves who sought to charge them had never dreamt of the continuance of their liability, until it became convenient to make the experiment whether it survived or not, by instituting legal proceedings against a solvent rather than an insolvent defendant,—has been modified, by a recent determination of the same Court, to an extent which places the mutual rights of parties in such circumstances, as it seems to us, on a much more intelligible and reasonable foundation. We avail ourselves of the opportunity to offer a brief exposition of what appears to be the present state of the law upon this subject, so important as it is to the mercantile community.
The nisi prius decisions of Lord Kenyon and Lord Ellenborough had apparently established the simple and equitable principle, that if the creditor of a partnership firm chose to deal with any particular members of it on such a footing as manifested his intention and agreement to adopt them, and them alone, for his debtors, the effect of such dealing was to discharge the other members of the partnership from their legal liability to satisfy his claim: the question, whether such was or was not the understanding of the parties, being a question of fact to be submitted to the decision of the jury. Thus, in the case of Evans v. Drummond (4 Esp. N. P. C. 89), an action of assumpsit to recover the price of hops supplied to a brewery, it appeared that in 1787 the defendant and two other persons, Combrune and Bell, had entered into partnership as brewers, the defendant being a dormant partner. In 1792 Bell quitted the partnership, and in 1796 the defendant Drummond ceased also to be a member of the firm. The hops were supplied by the plaintiff in the years 1799 and 1800, Combrune then carrying on the business alone under the nominal firm of Combrune and Co. It was proved also that in April 1800, the plaintiff was apprised that Drummond had ceased to be a partner; and that he subsequently accepted from Combrune and Drummond their joint bill for the price of the hops supplied previously to that date, in lieu of which he afterwards took the renewed acceptance of Combrune alone. Lord Kenyon asked, " Is it to be endured, that when partners have given their acceptance, and where, perhaps, one of two partners has made provision for the bill, that the holder shall take the sole bill of the other partner, and yet hold both liable? I am of opinion," he continued, "that when the holder chooses to do so, he discharges the other partner. Here the plaintiff has taken the bill of Combrune, after he admits he was informed that Drummond had nothing to do with the concern. It is a reliance on the sole security of Combrune, and discharges the defendant." Again, in Reed v. White and others (5 Esp. 122), an action against owners of a vessel for the price of cordage supplied to the ship, it appeared that the plaintiff took the sole bill of the defendant White, who was the managing owner, for the amount; which was dishonoured, renewed by him, and again dishonoured. Lord Ellenborough expressed his opinion that the other owners were discharged from liability. "If the plaintiff," he
i said, "dealing with White separately, has adopted him, he has discharged the others:" and he left it to the jury (a very respectable special jury of merchants, as the report informs us), to say whether it was intended as a settlement with White alone, adopting him as single debtor. The j ury thought it was, and found for the defendants. In this latter case it will be observed, that there was not even any dissolution or change of the partnership, so that it was a case stronger than that of a retired partner, whose liability, if it continues at all, must have survived after his right to be benefited by the profits of the partnership is gone.
So the law appeared to stand until the occurrence of the case of Lodge v. Dicas and Rondeau, in the King's Bench, in 1820, (3 Barn. & Aid. 611.) It was an action against the defendants as attorneys, for the work and labour of their London agent. The defendants were in partnership when the debt was contracted, but subsequently agreed to dissolve, and arranged that Rondeau should receive the partnership debts, and discharge the plaintiff's demand. The latter, however, had no other knowledge of this arrangement than was conveyed in a letter from Rondeau, in June 1818, which stated as follows:—" We have been arranging our accounts, and Mr. Dicas and myself have agreed that I should take the amount of your account on myself, which I will be responsible for;" not communicating, it will be observed, the fact that Rondeau was to receive the partnership debts. On receiving this letter, however, the plaintiff expressly agreed to exonerate Dicas from all liability as to the partnership account, and stated that he should charge it to the private account of Rondeau, who continued to employ the plaintiff as his agent. Rondeau not long afterwards fell into embarrassments, and in 1819 the plaintiff sued both the partners for the balance of the partnership account. And the Court held that he was entitled to recover against both: saying, that even if it had been distinctly shown that the plaintiff was apprised in full of the arrangement between the partners, it would have been very questionable whether he had discharged Dicas; but that in the absence of that proof there was clearly no defence to the action: that there was no consideration for an agreement to discharge him; for though there might be a