Taxes and Tolls

Taxes and Tolls
   The financial independence of Brussels was laid in 1229 with creation of a city account divided into sections — taxes, fines, royalties — within which to collect revenues and from which to draw funds for expenses. The city achieved financial autonomy through taxes paid on a variety of goods and services. Until the end of the 13th century, the sovereign held the preponderance of taxing authority, which was gradually conceded to the city in succeeding years. In 1292, Duke John I granted the city the right to collect the tax levied for use of the crane to load and unload goods on the quay on the Senne River (located at the end of the current rue du Marché aux Poulets) and the weighing scales. He also transferred to Brussels the rentes levied at city gates. In 1334, the organization of city finances began with the establishment of two treasurers (receveurs, rentemeesters) who carried out the financial decisions of the municipal authorities and oversaw the city's accounts, which were regularly kept beginning in 1359.
   Taxes were levied on a variety of products. Beer was the most productive early source of revenue. Production of local beer and import of foreign brews were taxed. Duties were charged on the sale, export, and import of wine, fish, meat, honey, vinegar, wool, skins, cloth, leather work, metalware, and imported bread.
   Traditional taxes were abolished during the French regime, sparking chronic city deficits. Collection of tolls at city gates was reinsti-tuted in the 19th century but became increasingly unpopular. Following vigorous debates that began in 1841, they were abolished under the ministry of Walthère Frère-Orban on 21 July 1860. Residents celebrated although the loss of revenues produced shortfalls in city finances that necessitated a seemingly never-ending search for alternative sources. The system was replaced by a division of receipts carried out largely at the discretion of national and provincial authorities. Insufficient subsidies from these higher levels of government proved to be a cause of recurrent complaints in the 19th and 20th centuries.
   At present, local taxes are set by the communal council of Brussels and those of the other communes, which also vote the annual budget. Brussels Capital Region authorities may levy taxes, but only on goods or services not already taxed. Taxes collected on gaming operations, tavern licenses, death duties, some property taxes, and a vehicle excise tax, among others, constitute the major revenue sources for the region. Non-tax revenues are collected from forestry fees and tolls on waterways. The financial revenues for the communities derive from radio and television licensing fees, a share of the income tax, and a portion of the value-added tax revenues.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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