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Volume 52 Issue 10
November 2020
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Citation: Junnan LAI. Governance of Deed Tax at the Local Level of Qing’s Sichuan: with Particular Attention to Deed Tax Litigations in Nanbu County[J]. Academic Monthly, 2020, 52(10): 100-115. shu

Governance of Deed Tax at the Local Level of Qing’s Sichuan: with Particular Attention to Deed Tax Litigations in Nanbu County

  • In Nanbu county of Sichuan province during the Qing dynasty, the governance of deed tax had long been a judicial form in which magistrates accepted civil cases mixed with allegations of tax evasion and investigated such evasion at the same time. Deed tax was one of the core revenues to maintain the operation of the county level government in Qing’s Sichuan. Due to limited administrative resources, Nanbu magistrates chose a passive approach to manage deed tax, i.e., handling such deed tax litigations. To achieve widespread deterrence through individual cases, magistrates resorted to an extreme interpretation of the article of “conditional sale and permanent sale of real estate” in the Great Qing Code to punish suspects of tax evasion, i.e., confiscating the property in question. Judicial governance, however, also led to the difficulty of comprehensive investigation of tax evasion in local communities, the lack of ability to investigate tax issues in judicial cases, judicial partiality by the sway of tax considerations, and other shortcomings. At the end of the dynasty, through the nationalization of deed tax and the establishment of the Taxation Bureau (jingzhengju), Zhao Ersun, the governor-general of Sichuan, achieved the purpose of transferring all the revenue of deed tax to the provincial government, but did not fundamentally change the pattern of judicial governance of Nanbu county’s deed tax. Zhao’s reform also brought new problems such as the division and coordination of authorities between the magistrate and the taxation commissioner, and the weakening of the incentive for the magistrate to investigate tax evasion. Observing practice of deed tax governance in the Qing dynasty from county level archives would help scholars better understand the significance of deed tax in Qing’s public finance and state-building.
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        Governance of Deed Tax at the Local Level of Qing’s Sichuan: with Particular Attention to Deed Tax Litigations in Nanbu County

        Abstract: In Nanbu county of Sichuan province during the Qing dynasty, the governance of deed tax had long been a judicial form in which magistrates accepted civil cases mixed with allegations of tax evasion and investigated such evasion at the same time. Deed tax was one of the core revenues to maintain the operation of the county level government in Qing’s Sichuan. Due to limited administrative resources, Nanbu magistrates chose a passive approach to manage deed tax, i.e., handling such deed tax litigations. To achieve widespread deterrence through individual cases, magistrates resorted to an extreme interpretation of the article of “conditional sale and permanent sale of real estate” in the Great Qing Code to punish suspects of tax evasion, i.e., confiscating the property in question. Judicial governance, however, also led to the difficulty of comprehensive investigation of tax evasion in local communities, the lack of ability to investigate tax issues in judicial cases, judicial partiality by the sway of tax considerations, and other shortcomings. At the end of the dynasty, through the nationalization of deed tax and the establishment of the Taxation Bureau (jingzhengju), Zhao Ersun, the governor-general of Sichuan, achieved the purpose of transferring all the revenue of deed tax to the provincial government, but did not fundamentally change the pattern of judicial governance of Nanbu county’s deed tax. Zhao’s reform also brought new problems such as the division and coordination of authorities between the magistrate and the taxation commissioner, and the weakening of the incentive for the magistrate to investigate tax evasion. Observing practice of deed tax governance in the Qing dynasty from county level archives would help scholars better understand the significance of deed tax in Qing’s public finance and state-building.

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