This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
The property tax as the soleor chief form of direct taxation has nosupporter among scientific writers. So universal and unanimous has been the condemnation heaped upon this tax that we must consider in detail some of the objections that have been raised.
Professor Seligman sums up his interesting discussion of this tax in words to the following general import:
The general property tax is a failure as the main source of revenue from the triple standpoint of history, theory, and practice.
1. Historically, it was once well-nigh universal. In a community mainly agricultural it was not altogether unsuited to the conditions. But as soon as industry and commerce became important, it failed to extend so as to comply with the requirements of justice. It became in fact, even where not so considered, a tax on real property. Everywhere but in America it has been (a) divided into a number of subordinate property taxes, (b) allowed to become a subordinate member of another system, or (c) entirely abandoned. Sooner or later it will have to be abandoned in America.
2. Theoretically the general property tax is deficient in two respects. First, it assumes that there is an ascertainable general property. But since property is a composite of inseparable but widely differentiated elements this assumption is contrary to the fact. " The general mass of property has disappeared and with it vanishes the foundation of the general property tax." Secondly, "property is no longer a criterion of faculty or of tax-paying ability." Two equal masses of property may be unequally productive [because used by men of differing talents, and thus differently joined with the personal element, or because the possession of them may give rise to fortuitous gains, or because the owner of one mass of property may be labouring under peculiar economic disadvantages].
It is the income which property yields that is the best index of the tax-paying power which the property represents.
3. Practically, "the general property tax as actually administered to-day is beyond all peradventure the worst tax known in the civilised world" As at present administered it fails entirely to reach intangible property. It debases public morals by putting a premium on dishonesty. It is regressive and presses hardest upon those relatively least able to pay.1
This is strong language,—even stronger has been used. But no words are too strong to express the iniquities of this tax.