In earlier part of nineteenth century the British tax collection system as far as commodity taxes are concerned were governed by many Regulations and some Enactments.
Prior to 1889, the Salt, Abkari and Customs departments were together. However by the Madras Salt Act 1889, Salt and Abkari were organised underthe Madras Salt department and it functioned from the Custom House at Madras.In more ways than one, in the Salt and Abkari department which stood separated from the Customs but functioned from the Custom House, Madras, the initial Excise administration in Madras was initiated.

The Salt department, under the Collector of Salt Revenue, Madras had three divisions- Northern, Central and Southern. Northern division consisted of  Cocanada, Nellore, Massulipattinam and Chicacole. Central Division  consisted of Chengleput, Bellary, Arcot and Cuddalore. Southern division  consisted of sub-divisions like Nagapattinam, Tinnavelley, Trichinapally, and  Calicut (Names as found in old records have been mentioned). Besides Salt  and Abkari revenue, the Salt department also administered all the Customs out  ports in the coastal areas and land customs stations.

The year 1924 crossed an important milestone when Salt revenue was  separated from Salt and Abkari department of Madras Presidency (till this date Excise duty on liquor remained with the State Government a fact we all know). 
A separate Salt department was carved out with Collector of Salt Revenue as  the head. This department also looked after the Customs out ports. The Salt department located its Offices in various places like Triplicane, Cathedral Road and finally Sterling Road. There were 13 Customs Outports in the Madras Presidency, at Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Portonovo, Vizagapatam, Baindoor, Gangoli, Cannanore, Moolky, Badagara, Ponnani, Allepey, Quilon and Trivandrum.

The Salt Amendment Act transferred the Madras Salt Department to the  administrative control of Government of India in 1926. This was a major  milestone in the centralisation of Modern day Central Excise Department. In  1932, Rules were framed for the recruitment of Personnel for the Salt   department. New uniforms were also prescribed during this period.
In 1930 Silver was made an excisable commodity. In 1931 Provisional Collection  of Taxes Act was legislated. In 1934 more commodities were brought under the  Tax net for instance Iron and Steel, Matches, Sugar and Mechanical Lighters.  Also a Tariff Act was legislated in 1934. Elaborate procedures, rules and  regulations were framed for assessment, levy and collection of duty on the new  excisable commodities like matches and sugar. 

During this time the Central Board of Revenue was constituted in 1934.  Collector of Salt Revenue, Madras looked after three fold functions i.e. administration of Salt Act under the Central Board of Revenue; administration of Excise on matches, sugar and other commodities under the provincial governments and administration of Customs Outports and Land Customs stations.
Now that many commodities came under the tax net the need for streamlining  the system was felt acutely by the colonial government. The British constituted  King's Committee to study the feasibility of centralising the administration of  Central Excises under the Central Board of Revenue.
Mr. F.C. KING, was deputed by the British Government to study the feasibility of the Government of India taking over the administration of Central Excises from the Provincial Governments. Hitherto the respective  Provincial Governments administered the revenue department and the  collection of tax from the various commodities. This report is of great
historical importance as it gave broad insight into the then existing  system and the guidelines to be followed to centralise the administration  of Central Excise under the Government of India.

The Madras Salt Department at that time had the administration of land Customs  (and outports). The report had noted that the staff employed by the Madras  Government for the purposes of the administration of the Central Excises was of the lowest grade (the report desired the upgradation of these posts in Madras  Presidency when centrally taken over). Mr. Greenfield, then Collector of Salt  Revenue, Madras, with whom Mr.King had consulted, had informed that  Inspectors in every circle of his jurisdiction except Tuticorin circle are available  to supervise the administration of Central Excises if entrusted to his Department.

 Continued in page 2