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the country. At one time it assumed as low a proportion of one-fortieth, at another time it rose as high as fifteen per cent. of the produce.
Concerning this tax there is much complaint made, but we believe that the complaint is largely unwarranted, for the other assessments, such as are levied on property, are generally light. One good feature, which aids in doing away with corruption, is the fact that officers of the State are never allowed to bid for tithes. One of the evils arises from the fact that the poor farmer bears the heaviest burden. Again, it is often the case that the produce, after having been harvested, is held by the farmer who is often compelled to wait some time for the assessor, and whose stock is thus liable to spoil.
Taking all these things into consideration, we need not wonder that the average producer is inclined to cheat when such a thing is possible. If it were practical, it would better the condition of things much were the government to collect this tax directly. She herself would be the gainer and the agriculturist would surely be encouraged.
Corresponding somewhat to the ashr, or tithe, on arable land is what is termed the sayme, a tax on sheep, goats, and sometimes cattle. Before 1858, this was collected in kind, but since that time a money valuation has been placed and one-tenth assessed by the government.
Similar to the property tax in this country is the Verghi, which to-day assumes two forms, a tax on income and a tax on property. This is systematic, and based upon a fixed principle. The assessing of the income tax is conducted in a very fair manner, being levied in public meetings, at which all concerned are permitted to be present. The assessment differs with the professions and trades, and depends also on the reputed wealth of the individual. In general, however, it is three per cent. on all gross profit accumulations of invested capital or from any other source. There are a few who are exempt, such as parish doctors, religious orders and school-masters.
The tax on real property mentioned above is estimated at 4 per 1000 a year on the estimated or simple value of all lands and houses, whether subject to tithes or not. The value of such property is calculated at five times its produce or twenty times its assumed rent, and even with the tithe this should not be considered oppressive. It may be said that in addition, those who receive rent from tenants are required to hand over four per cent. per annum, tithe-paying land alone excepted.
Although in the year 1856 a decree was issued which admitted Christians into the Ottoman army, the law has never been fully enforced, owing to several important obstacles. Above a couple of regiments of mixed Cossacks, there are hardly any non-Mussulmen engaged in the service. The exemptions from military duty, however, is not to be obtained for nothing, and a tax commonly termed the Bedel, is laid upon all non-Mohammedans not in the army. Although much complaint is raised by Christians against this tax, it cannot be said to be very unfair, considering that a Mohammedan has to pay more for the exemption than does the Christian. This tax is also levied in different forms, according to the province and the attendant circumstances. As with the others, the greatest evil of this assessment is that it seems to fall almost wholly upon the poor, who, unlike other subjects, bear the burden without striving to elude it.
This chapter being written for the general reader only, there is no need of going into minute details regarding the customs duties of the Turkish empire. Tables concerning the annual imports and exports are to be found in a number of available volumes.
Some reforms have been instituted of late years, which have greatly enhanced the prosperity of the nation. For instance, the eight per cent. tax, formerly imposed upon goods passing from one Turkish port to another, has happily been abolished and an excise of one per cent. placed in its stead.
The policy that places an eight per cent. tariff on all imports, indiscriminately, is not one that can receive the sanction of political economy. It is one that is open to no little abuse, the tariff being so manipulated that favoritism is frequently shown certain parties. The tax on exports is placed in the same uniform manner, at one per cent.
Various attempts have been made to develop the rich natural resources of the empire and establish manufactories, especially in the country, labor being so abundant and cheap. At one time a new era seemed to dawn, and thousands of natives were employed in factories. English and French influence, however, inaugurated the policy of free trade. Their goods were imported at a tariff of six or eight per cent. ad valorem. As a natural consequence, the Turkish factories were closed. Workingmen and their families were reduced to abject poverty.
The famous Bruse towels were imitated and sold much cheaper, driving out the native goods, which, though costing more, would last five times as long. Combs, cutlery and silks came from Sheffield, Manchester and Lyons. The fine silky fleece of the Angora goat is sold cheaper to the English manufacturer than to the native artisan, and comes back enhanced in value from fifty to one hundred fold. It is safe to say that of the wealth produced by a native goat, forty-nine dollars out of every fifty goes into the pockets of foreigners. America may well learn a lesson from the Angora goat, and keep on bucking and kicking against the free-trade system that has closed the factories, destroyed the revenues and produced beggary in the Ottoman empire.
The Turkish government has, in the last half century, run somewhat in debt, and its direct borrowings form no little portion of the general budget. The revenue was, in 1889, $90,000,000, while the expenditures were about $125,000,000. The national debt of the Turkish government is more than $500,000,000. It cannot be disputed that Turkey's system of taxation has its good as well as its more unfavorable side, and yet reform would do wonders in some quarters.
We have no doubt that in time these reforms will come. Agriculture of different kinds would receive a valuable stimulus were more money expended for roads and other facilities for transportation, and the government would receive much more from taxes on such produce were she to conform to the sentiment of many of the nation's best citizens and collect her revenue herself directly.