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September 08, 2008


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Did the Filipino tax system have any points in common with that of Vietnam (French Indochina)?

To be frank, I don't know that much about it. Lakshmi Iyer and I had to move data mountains just to construct the above table.

My only detailed revenue data for Indochina (Cochinchina, actually) comes from 1898, when trade taxes produced 31% of all revenue and opium profits another 32%. That isn't fair, though, because French tax policy changed over time.

But here's what I can say about Indochinese taxes circa 1920. First, revenue from trade taxes had fallen to Philippine levels as a percentage of total revenues. The difference is the U.S. and P.I. were in a genuine full customs union by 1913, whereas French Indochina imposed export taxes, even on goods going to the metropole. (In 1928 the French backtracked on that, and Indochina imposed import tariffs on French goods. Yes, this is different from the standard and apparently incorrect story.)

Second, the French continued to generate a lot of revenue through salt, alcohol, and opium monopolies, which had no Philippine equivalent. (Well, not entirely. The P.I. had a small opium monopoly, which AFAICT the Americans eventually converted into an excise tax and then a ban.) The French appear to have abolished the alcohol monopoly in 1932.

Wish I could tell you more. I encourage you to start a Ph.D.

"Wish I could tell you more."

I'd thought that it might have had something to do with the nature of indirect rule in French Indochina and Vietnam but if those figures are from Cochin China, that doesn't work.

"I encourage you to start a Ph.D."

Maybe indeed--good timing, actually.

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