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Law Dictionary Home Dictionary Definition customs

Customs, duties charged upon commodities on their importation into, or exportation out of, a country. They seem to have existed in England before the Conquest, but the king's claim to them was first established by grant of Parliament in the reign of Edward I. These duties were at first, principally laid on wool, woolfels (sheep-skins) and leather when exported. There were also extraordinary duties paid by aliens both on export and import, which were denominated parva custuma, to distinguish them from the former, or magna custuma. The duties of tonnage and pound-age, of which mention is so frequently made in English history, were customs duties; the first being made onwine by the tun, and the latter being ad valorem duty of so much a pound on other merchandise. When these duties were granted to the Crown they were denominated subsidies, and as the duty of poundage had continued for a lengthened period at the rateof 1s. a pound, or five percent., a subsidy came, in the language of the customs, to denote an ad valorem duty of five per cent. The new subsidy granted in the five per cent. to the duties on most imported commodities. The various customs duties were collected for the first time in a book of rates published in the reign of Charles II., a new book of rates being against published in the reign of George I. But exclusive of the duties entered in these two books, many more had been imposed at different times; so that the accumulation of the duties,and the complicated regulations to which they gave rise, were productive of the greatest embarrassment. The Customs Consolidation Act (27 Geo. 3, c. 13), introduced by Mr. Pitt in 1787, did much to remedy these among other inconvenien-ces. The method adopted was to abolish the existing duties on all articles, and to substitute in their stead one single duty on each article, equivalent to the aggregate of the various duties by which it had previously been loaded. The resolutions onwhich the Act was founded amounted to about 3000. A more simple and uniform system was at the same time introduced into the business of the custom-house. These alterations were productive of the very best effects, and several similar consolidations have sine been effected, particularly in 1853, by 16 & 17 Vict. c. 107; and lastly, in 1876, by the (English) Customs Consolidation Act, 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c. 36), the Customs Tariff Act, 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c. 35), consolidating the duties in the same year. The 'Customs and Inland Revenue Acts' and 'Finance Acts' of subsequent years will be found to contain divers small amendments. The (English) Import Duties Act, 1932 (22 & 23 Geo. 5, c. 8), gives effect to the changed fiscal policy; it imposed a 10 per cent. ad valorem duty on imports; constituted an Advisory Committee to make recommendations as to additional duties; and the Treasury may, under Finane Act, 1932 (22 & 23 Geo. 5, c. 25), s. 7, give effect to such recommendations. See as to imports from the Dominions, the (English) Ottawa Agreements Act, 1932 (22 & 23 Geo. 5, c. 537), and the Irish Free State (Special Duties) Act, 1932 (22 & 23 Geo. 5, c. 30). See Chitty's Statutes, tit. 'Customs

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