The Burden of Taxation – A Menace to Commercial Development

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

On this Week in 1929

The Burden of Taxation – A Menace to Commercial Development

The Dreaded Taxman

From the formation of Sligo Chamber in 1923 through the 1920s, the matter of taxation in its various forms greatly exercised the minds of the Chamber members.  Having incurred significant debt as a result of seceding from the United Kingdom, the finances of the fledgling Free State were poor.  The collection of taxes and the imposition of higher taxes and new taxes were key pillars underpinning the finances of the new State.  Sligo Chamber considered many of the Government’s tax proposals penal and detrimental to the business community.  Taxation is frequently discussed at meetings and the Chamber seeks to use its position to influence Government to change its taxation proposals.

Outside of discussions related to the formation of Sligo Chamber of Commerce, the subject of taxation is the very first topic addressed in Chamber Minutes.  At the Chamber Meeting of the 11th of May 1923, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair, the Government proposal to make employers responsible for collecting income tax arrears from employees is met with considerable concern.  Following a discussion, the Chamber decides to write to the Revenue Commissioners enclosing the following resolution.  It is clear from the language of the resolution the depth of feeling this invokes.

“Moved by:-       Mr. James J. Nelson

Seconded by:-    Mr. H.C. Lyons and Resolved:-

That this General meeting of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce views with alarm the proposal of the Government to devolve on Employers the collection of arrears of Income-Tax due by their staff, regarding it as a dangerous abrogation of a prime duty of Government and a confession of weakness, and this meeting express its hope that such a departure from sound principle in public policy will receive careful reconsideration and be followed by the adoption of methods less certain to produce unpleasant relations between Employer and Employed.

Passed unanimously”.

The Revenue Commissioners office responds promptly by letter dated the 31st of May 1923 acknowledging receipt of the Chamber Resolution.  However, this is the last we read on the subject of the collection by Employers of arrears of Income Tax due by their Employees, so there is no clarity as to the outcome of the Chamber lobbying and how this matter was resolved.

Henry C. Lyons

In addition to the collection of Employee’s Income Tax, the concerns of the Chamber extends to the negative impact the levels of general taxation are having on the expansion of business.   In speaking out on this matter at the Chamber Meeting on the 22nd of January 1924, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, the Chamber members do not shy away from expressing strong opinions on the public sector as we read in the following Resolution, in which once again, H.C. Lyons is to the fore.

“The following Resolution was:

Proposed by:      H.C. Lyons

Seconded by:     J. Gilbride and Resolved:-

That we the members of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce being of opinion that the present excessive taxation – both direct and indirect is crippling trade and industry in the Irish Free State, and that no expansion of business can take place until relief is granted, hereby call on the Government to institute immediate enquiry into all its departments, with a view to curtailing unnecessary and unproductive expenditure, and reducing where possible the excessive salaries paid to higher paid Officials.

Passed unanimously”.

Major Brian Cooper T.D.

The Secretary, J.A. McLoghry, was directed to forward copies of the Resolution to the Associated Chambers of Commerce, (now Chambers Ireland), to the Minister for Finance, to Major Bryan Cooper T.D., and to the local T.Ds.  The Resolution is discussed at the next meeting of the Associated Chambers on the 11th of February.  A slight modification was made to the Resolution and the Minister of Finance was requested to receive a deputation consisting of the Presidents of the different Chambers in connection with the matter.

It would certainly appear that the collective voice of the Chamber Presidents was effective at the subsequent meeting with the Minister.  H. Campbell Perry, President, advises the Chamber meeting of the 9th of November 1925 that he accompanied a deputation to the Minister of Finance, Ernest Blythe, and subsequent to that meeting an “Inter-Departmental Economy and Efficiency Committee of Expert and experienced Civil Servants has been set up.  The remit of the Committee is to go into the administration of every Department and to examine the class and volume of work done therein and to make suggestions where possible for the better management of Departments”.  The President goes on to express his hope that the work of the Committee will result in curtailing unnecessary and unproductive expenditure, and thereby reduce taxation for the benefit of development of trade and commerce in the Irish Free State.

Frank Nally

Unfortunately, despite the lobbying campaign of the Chamber, it appears that no meaningful progress is made by the Economy and Efficiency Committee in reducing the high levels of taxation.  At the first Chamber meeting of the following year, on the 25th of February 1926, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, members come back to the general question of taxation, once again calling out the public sector, and it was:

“Proposed by:    F. Nally, Vice-President

Seconded by      Senator A.P Jackson and Resolved:-

That the General Meeting of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce respectfully press on the Government that the outstanding need of the Country at the present juncture is a reduction in Taxation – whether direct, indirect or incidental.

The burden of taxation is still on a very high plain and its continuance is a menace to commercial development in every direction, while the administrative cost on the Country per capita of population is far beyond what it can continue to support and calls for the most urgent economy in every department of the State.

Passed unanimously”.

Copies of the Resolution are again forwarded to the Minister of Finance, to Major Bryan Cooper T.D., and to the local T.Ds.

And so it continues through to 1928 when a letter is received from the Associated Chambers of Commerce requesting that the question of Rates and Taxes be discussed by Sligo Chamber as a preliminary to a campaign by the Associated Chambers for economy in Government.   The matter is discussed at the Chamber meeting of the 16th of January, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair.  The burden of rates and taxes being considered to be of such importance to the business community, the Council members decide to call a Special General Meeting so as to give the wider membership the opportunity of expressing their opinion on the subject.

Harper Campbell Perry

The Special General Meeting is held at 4pm on the following Monday the 23rd of January 1928, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair, apologies having been received from the President, H. Campbell Perry.  Although there is only one item of Special Business on the Agenda, “To discuss the question of Rates & Taxes as a preliminary to a campaign for economy”, the wider membership assembled is unable to agree on an approach.   It is decided to defer further consideration of the matter until the Returns of Local Taxation in the Free State for the four years ended the 31st of December 1926, which happens to coincide with the first four years of Sligo Chamber, are published by the Local Government Department.

The 1920s closes out with taxation still a live issue for Sligo Chamber.  An Extraordinary General Meeting is called for the 8th of April 1929, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair.  The main item of Business on the agenda is once again taxation.  A letter is read from the Associated Chambers intimating that Mr. Ernest Blythe, Minister for Finance, has agreed to receive a deputation “On tomorrow Tuesday the 9th inst. at 4.30pm to discuss matters relating to taxation and his forthcoming Budget”   The Association of Chambers request that Representatives from Sligo Chamber be appointed to act on the deputation.  It is the consensus of the meeting that Sligo Chamber be represented and it was decided that Mr. G. F. Coulter, Mr. J. Gilbride and the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry be appointed to the deputation and meet with Minister Blythe in Dublin the following afternoon.

Ernest Blythe T.D.

And so it can be seen that all throughout the 1920s from the formation of Sligo Chamber in 1923, the matter of taxation weighs heavily on the minds of the members of Sligo Chamber.   It is considered to be crippling trade and industry and have a negative impact on the expansion of business.   It is not helped by the perception of inefficient Government Departments, unproductive expenditure and excessive salaries at the higher echelons of the public sector.

G.F. Coulter, J. Gilbride and the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry, represented Sligo Chamber at the meeting on taxation matters with the Minister for Finance, Mr. Ernest Blythe on Tuesday, the 9th of April, on this week in 1929.

Researched and written by Conor McCarthy

Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:

  • Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
  • Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
  • Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication

The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled

Tourism and Connectivity – Comfort and Discomfort on the Train” will be released on the 24th of April 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary