Tax collection in Spain in the 18th century: the case of the “décima”
If we compare the Castilian fiscal system with English, French or Dutch, two basic differences are apparent: in one hand, in England, France and Holland the fiscal system was a mixture of indirect taxes and direct taxes and in the other hand, the financial revolution had been carried out in the 16th century in Castilia (central Spain), when for different reasons national short-term debt was turned into juros - or long-term debt. But the Dutch Republic in the 16th century and England by the end of 17th century and the beginning of 18th century were able to finance wars thanks to an efficient financial revolution. Traditionally, wars have been the excuse to impose new taxes or to reorganize public funds in order to obtain greater economic resources for financing the deficit originated by the war. Since most of the monarchies’ tax expenses stemmed from war, it is no surprise that the conflict known as the Jenkins´ Ear (1739) contributed to increase the deficit and fuelled a debate regarding a tax reform that would augment income and would be collected in a more egalitarian way. The Castilian tax system was based almost exclusively on indirect taxes. The taxation (alcabalas, millones, cientos, tobacco monopolies, customs…) of consumables ensured that whilst some taxes affected primarily rich consumers (for example tobacco), most taxes targeted the masses. Increasing the fiscal charge via indirect taxes seemed like an unfeasible and damaging option for trade and craftwork. This is the reason why there was an attempt to create a direct tax, similar to the Catalan cadastre. One of these attempts prior to the Marquis of the Ensenada’s cadastre was la décima. It was devised as a direct tax but its manner of collection ultimately depended on the willingness of the local cabildos.
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