This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
We now come to the important task of classifying fees. The essential consideration to be held in mind about these payments is that they cover a part of the total cost of certain governmental activities, which are performed for the benefit of all, but yet confer a real or assumed special benefit on the individual. When the payment covers the whole or a little more than the whole cost, it is a price. Since fees are levied upon the receivers of certain benefits from the government, it follows that the only classification for fees is that which shows what activities of the government convey the benefit. We can thus classify according to the different departments of the government, for the services of which fees are collected.
1. The most numerous are the judicial and legal fees, the character of which has already been made clear from the discussion of the nature of these expenditures.2 Examples of these are the regular court costs and fees, probate fees, the charges for recording deeds, mortgages, contracts, marriages, etc.
1 See further definitions in sec. 8.
2 See Part I., Chap. III., sec. 4.
2. Next come the administrative fees for the special services of that department. They are : police fees, charged for the special benefits accruing or supposed to accrue to the individuals from the exercise of the police power of the State ; the fees for education, when charged ; a large number of industrial and commercial fees for services rendered individuals in their industrial and commercial undertakings. The industrial fees include license charges for permission to carry on certain businesses (care must be taken not to confuse these with police fees, nor with business taxes assessed on the same plan). Commercial fees include road and canal tolls, harbour dues, and a number of similar charges.
A very important class of administrative fees are those known as special assessments or in England as " betterment " taxes, levied for local improvements affecting property, as streets, sewers, etc. Professor Seligman has defined these as follows: "A Special Assessment is a compulsory contribution paid once and for all to defray the cost of a specific improvement to property undertaken in the public interest, and levied by the government in proportion to the special benefits accruing to the property owner." He regards them as of so much importance as to make them a class of revenues co-ordinate with taxes and fees. Strictly speaking, they are fees.