Spanish tax reform of 1845

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The Spanish tax reform of 1845 (approved in 1844) made major changes to the tax system of Spain, and established the basis for a system that continues to this day.


In the summer of 1843, a military coup led by the Moderate generals Francisco Serrano, Ramón María Narváez and Juan Prim removed the Progressive leader Baldomero Espartero from his position as regent, ending a three-year Progressive ascendancy. Queen Isabella II, who had just reached the age of 13, was declared to have reached the age of majority, ending the regency. Within a year, this led to the beginning of the década moderada, ten years of rule by the Moderates.

The reform[edit]

Ramón de Santillán was one of the key figures who drove the tax reform of 1845.

The executive council that came to power in 1844, presided over by Narváez, undertook a tax reform. The reform was proposed by a commission whose key figure was the brilliant, but logical and orderly, Ramón de Santillán, and was carried into effect by Finance Minister Alejandro Mon. This reform broke the tax system of Antiguo Régimen and established a basis for taxation in Spain that remained intact to the end of the 19th century, and most of which continued well past that date, some into the 21st century.

The prior system had separate tax regimes in the former Kingdom of Aragón, in Navarre, in the Basque Country and in the rest of Spain. It involved a great variety of taxes, most of them dating from the Middle Ages.

The reform was largely along the lines of economic liberalism: legality, sufficiency, and generality, with a single unified fiscal system throughout the country, with an intention to eliminate barriers to economic growth. Internal customs barriers were eliminated along with such longstanding taxes as the diezmos, alcabala and millones. In general, there was a movement from indirect taxation to direct taxation. The new system involved five key taxes:

The reform also constituted changes in customs fees (tariffs).


The industrial and commercial subsidy was widely protested and resulted in a high level of fraud. The administrative apparatus of the Spanish government was poorly prepared for the new system, so tax collection was farmed to municipal governments and guilds. The consumption taxes were also widely protested: they were seen as falling disproportionately on the poor.

The tax reform provided the basis for the recovery of Spain's finances during the reign of Isabella II, and made possible a program of public works. The system remained essentially intact until 1900, when the effect of the loss of Spain's colonies in the Spanish–American War led to a further tax reform by Raimundo Fernández Villaverde.



  • Comellas, José Luis. Historia de España, Moderna y contemporánea (in Spanish). Rialp. ISBN 84-321-0251-2. 
  • Tamames, Ramón; Rueda, Ramón. Estructura económica de España (in Spanish). Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4259-2.