CUSTOMS DUTIES, the name given to taxes on the import and export of commodities. They rank among the most ancient, as they continue to prevail as one of the most common modes, in all countries, of levying revenue for public purposes. In an insular country like the United Kingdom customs duties came in process of time to be levied only or chiefly in the seaports, and thus applied only to the foreign commerce, where they may be brought under the control of fair and reasonable principles of taxation. But this simplification of customs duties was only reached by degrees; and during a long period special customs were levied on goods passing between England and Scotland; and the trade of Ireland with Great Britain and with foreign countries was subjected to fiscal regulations which could not now stand in the light of public reason. The taxes levied, on warrant of some ancient grant or privilege, upon cattle or goods at a bridge or a ferry or other point of passage from one county or province to another, of which there are some lingering remains even in the United Kingdom, and those levied at the gates of cities on the produce of the immediate country a not uncommon form of municipal taxation on the European continent are all of the nature of customs dues. It is from the universality of this practice that the English term " customs " appears to have been derived.
See TAXATION; PROTECTION; TARIFF.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)