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have had special instructions to scrutinise the accounts and securities in view of this section, and to report all bad debts to the Comptroller. We have, therefore, since March, 1876, very full information as to the losses of these banks, and the amounts charged off half-yearly since that time are given below :
The following table gives the geographical divisions in which these losses occurred. To economise space I have selected the first and the last of the years quoted, and also given the proportions of the whole of the losses :
It will be observed that in 1839, although the amounts had considerably decreased, they were borne by a much larger number of banks.
The following shows the losses in some of the principal cities :
£ New York.... 1,374,752 819,583 1,029,462 627,111 410,876 Boston
319,744 | 438,411 498,100 531,800 202,166
These losses fall upon the undivided profits, and only when ther exceed the amount of that fund can any portion of them be charged to the surplus fund. Unless, after charging the bad debts, there remain sufficient undivided profits no dividend can be declared, and the number of banks that have had to pass dividends during these
named years is not inconsiderable. I have arranged them below,
In the following table I have selected the same two periods referred to in the geographical table of losses :
It will be observed that at those perioris at least, the regions where the largest amount of capital was without dividend were not those where the largest amount of losses had occurred.
The next point for us to notice is that relating to the pecuniary burdens imposed on these banks. They are required to pay every (R.S. 5214.) half-year one-half per cent. upon the average amount of their note circulation; one-quarter per cent. upon the averago amount of deposits; and a quarter per cent. on the average amount of capital, after deducting the amount they have invested in United States bonds. These taxes do not relieve them from liability to whatever duties may be imposed on their capital by the State in (R.S. 5219.) which they are situated ; but it should be added that these burdens are borne in common with all classes of banks. They have also to reimburse the Treasury for all charges incurred in respect of the redemption of their notes, and for the cost of engraving the plates required for printing them. Further, they have to pay fees, ranging from £4 to £15 for the visits of the bank examiners. These taxes have been the cause of very great dissatisfaction among the banks, and the Comptroller has many times recommended their repeal. There can be no doubt that they were originally imposed for the purposes of the war, and afterwards were continued to assist in the vigorous efforts at redemption that were being made; but those necessities have passed away and there would seem to be no just causes for continuing the tax, particularly that upon deposits, which is economically unsound. Last year, owing to anticipated opposition to the measures for refunding, a Bill for the repeal of this tax was hastily passed through the Senate, but it did not come before the House of Representatives.
The amount of taxes paid by the national banks to the United States from the commencement of the system to July 1, 1881, las been £21,771,000—composed as follows:Tax on circulation
£9,812,507 on deposits
10,528,870 on capital
L21,771,004 It should be mentioned that while the tax paid on the circulation has been, as above quoted, nearly ten millions, the whole cost to the government of the national bank system has been but £1,030,000. The ratio of taxes, both United States and local, to capital since 1866, is given below :-
Great inequalities exist in the rates of taxes imposed on bank capital by the various States, and also in the mode of assessment,
Although it is expressly provided that the rate of State taxation shall not be greater than is imposed on other moneyed capital in the same State, discriminations are made against national bank shares, and give rise to much dissatisfaction and numerous law suits.
Great dissatisfaction is also caused among national banks, in
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(R.S. 5212.) to the Comptroller, under oath, the amount of the dividend and the amount of the net earnings in excess thereof.
The dividends paid by the banks have been upon the whole fairly satisfactory, although, taking into consideration the value of capital in the United States, and the general rates of interest prevailing, the average dividend on national bank stock must be pronounced moderate. The taxation to which I have just referred has averaged 3.9 per cent. upon their capital, and no doubt the great expenses attending so many separate organisations must have contributed to keep dividends down. I regret that there is nothing in the Comptroller's report that will enable us to form any estimate on this head. We must bear in mind that these dividends have been concurrent with considerable accumulations of reserve funds. I annex the rates of dividends paid since 1869, the tables at my command going no further back :