Toilet paper profiteering? It’s nothing new

Readers may (or may not) be interested in an old court decision made in Britain in 1929 concerning a consignment of toilet rolls.

In RUTLEDGE v THE COMMISSIONERS OF INLAND REVENUE (1) (1928-29) 14 TC 490, the appellant, Andrew Henderson Rutledge, was in Berlin on business when he was offered an opportunity of purchasing very cheaply one million rolls of toilet paper. He bought them and, within a short time after his return to his home country of Britain, sold the whole consignment to one person at a considerable profit.

The court held that the profits in question were liable to assessment to income tax and to “excess profits duty” as being profits of “an adventure in the nature of trade”. The net profit, from an outlay of £1,105, was £10,895, as follows:

Cost of paper … £1,000
Commission paid to party giving introduction to German firm … £100
Petty expenses, cables, etc. … £5
Total outlays… £1,105
Proceeds of sale … £12,500
Less Allowance for freight charges paid by purchaser … £500
       Net proceeds … £12,000
       Net profit … £10,895


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