Octroi taxes have a respectable antiquity, being known in Roman times as vectigalia. These vectigalia were either the portorium, a tax on the entry from or departure to the provinces (those cities which were allowed to levy the portorium shared the profits with the public treasury); the ansarium or foricarium, a duty levied at the entrance to towns; or the edulia, sales imposts levied in markets. Vectigalia were levied on wine and certain articles of food, but it was seldom that the cities were allowed to use the whole of the profits of the taxes. Vectigalia were introduced into Gaul by the Romans, and remained after the invasion by the Franks, under the name of tonlieux and coutumes. They were usually levied by the owners of seigniories.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, when the towns succeeded in asserting their independence, they at the same time obtained the recognition of their right to establish local taxation, and to have control of it. The royal power, however, gradually asserted itself, and it became the rule that permission to levy local taxes should be obtained from the king. From the 14th century onwards, there are numerous charters granting (octroyer) to French towns the right to tax themselves. The taxes did not remain strictly municipal, for an ordinance of Cardinal Mazarin (in 1647) ordered the proceeds of the octroi to be paid into the public treasury, and at other times the government claimed a certain percentage of the product, but this practice was finally abandoned in 1852.
From an early time the octroi was farmed out to associations or private individuals, and so great were the abuses which arose from the system that the octroi was abolished during the French Revolution. But such a drastic measure meant the stoppage of all municipal activities, and in 1798 Paris was allowed to re-establish its octroi. Other cities were allowed gradually to follow suit, and in 1809 a law was passed laying down the basis on which octrois might be established. Other laws were passed from time to time in France dealing with the octroi, especially those of 1816, 1842, 1867, 1871, 1884 and 1897. By the law of 1809 octroi duties were allowed on beverages and liquids, eatables, fuel, forage and building materials. A scale of rates was fixed, graduated according to the population, and farming out was strictly regulated. A law of 1816 enacted that an octroi could only be established at the wish of a municipal council, and that only articles destined for local consumption could be taxed. The law of 1852 abolished the 10% of the gross receipts paid to the treasury. Certain indispensable commodities were allowed to enter free, such as grain, flour, fruit, vegetables and fish.
French octroi duties were collected by:
- The regie simple, i.e. by special officers under the direction of the mayor — by the first decade in the 20th century more than half the octrois were collected this way, and the numbers tended to increase
- The bail à ferme, i.e. farming, the contractor paying yearly a certain agreed upon sum calculated on the estimated amount — this method steadily decreased
- The regie interesse, a variation of the preceding method, the contractor sharing the profits with the municipality when they reached a given sum — this method had been practically abandoned by the first decade in the 20th century
- The abonnement avec la regie des contributions indirectes, under which a department of the treasury undertook to collect the duties — this method was tending to increase by the first decade in the 20th century
- New duties on alcohol;
- A municipal license duty on retailers of beverages;
- A special tax on wine in bottle;
- Direct taxes on horses and carriages, clubs, billiard tables and dogs;
- additional centimes to direct taxes.
From time to time there was agitation in France for the abolition of octroi duties, but it was never pushed very earnestly. In 1869 a commission was appointed to consider the matter, and reported in favour of their retention. Octrois were finally abolished in 1948.
Under the name "Alcabala" a similar tax was collected in Spain and the Spanish colonies. This tax was in force in Mexico until a few years before the revolution of 1910. In 1910 Octroi duties still existed in Italy, Spain, Portugal and in some of the towns of Austria.
Octroi was still in use in the 1990s by local authorities in Pakistan for domestic goods movements. Although abolished for general trade in 1997, octroi was still being charged on certain commodities such as electricity as late as 2006. As of 2013, octroi is levied in Ethiopia and in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
On 18 March 2013, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told the Legislative Assembly that octroi would be scrapped from Mumbai and other municipal corporations in 2013. Instead, the Local Body Tax (LBT) would be introduced.
- Business Standard staff (18 March 2013), "Maha to scrap octroi this year, expand ambit of LBT: Chavan", Business Standard
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Ingram, Thomas Allan (1911). "Octroi". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 994 Endnotes:
- A. Guignard, De la suppression des octrois (Paris);
- Saint Julien and Bienaim, Histoire des droits d'octroi à Paris;
- M. Tardit and A. Ripert, Traite des octrois municipaux (Paris, 1904);
- L. Hourcade, Mcmuel encyclopedique des contributions indirectes et des octrois (Paris, 1905);
- Report on the French Octroi System, by Consul-general Hearn (British Diplomatic and Consular Reports, 1906);
- Abolition des octrois communaux en Belgique: documents et discussions parlementaires (a Belgan official report)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Octroi". Encyclopedia Americana.
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