Excise, the name given to taxes or duties levied upon articles of consumption which are produced within the kingdom. There are, however, some duties to which the term is applied which can scarcely be called duties upon consumption, such as the sums charged for licences to permit persons to carry on certain trades or professions, as auctioneers, solicitors, etc., and the licences to kill or deal in game, keep dogs, etc.
Excise duties had their origin in England in the reign of Charles I., when a tax was laid upon beer, cider, and perry of home production by the Long Parliament in 1643. This Act prescribes also a list of foreign articles upon which excise duties were imposed in addition to duties of customs already chargeable. This Act was adopted and enforced under Cromwell, and by a'statute passed in the reign of Charles II. the duties of excise were granted as part of its revenue to the Crown.
Excise duties are subject to the serious objection that the regulations under which they are collected interfere with processes of manufacture so as to prevent the adoption of improvements; hence their unpopularity in past times. But, however odious formerly to the people of England, these taxes are now viewed with more toleration, and are allowed not only to be a convenient and effective species of impost, but to be attended with this collateral advantage - that the supervision of the revenue authorities tends to protect commodities subject to excise from fraudulent adulteration. The advantages, indeed, are such that, under recent Acts of Parliament, many imposts have been classed (probably for greater convenience in collection) under this head of duties, which are not (as before stated) properly in the nature of excise. To this branch of the revenue, which used to be (and, until the change contemplated by the Local Government Act, 1888, is effected, will continue to be) under the management of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue (together with that of stamps and taxes, with which it was amalgated in 1869), have also now been assigned not only the duties payable in respect of such licences as above mentioned, but duties on stage and hackney carriages, on railway passengers, on race-horses, on wine licences and refreshment houses, and also such as are known under the term of assessed taxes, these last being duties assessed and charged upon persons in respect of houses they inhabit, and of certain articles by them used or kept. And such assessed taxes comprise the duties on male servants, on carriages, and on armorial bearings.
In the United States the word excise has no official meaning, the analogous term there being "internal revenue," which is chiefly derivable from the taxes imposed on whiskey, tobacco, and malt liquors. There are also taxes on banks, etc., but stamps ceased to be a source of revenue after 1883.