The growth of problems which called for the attention of central authorities, and the general trend toward this form of administration, have demanded a competent central organization to render the required services. At first the duties were placed upon boards already in existence, with results which were far from satisfactory. The final outcome has been that in more than three fourths of the states organizations usually known as state tax commissions may be found. While an accurate generalization of their nature is impossible, yet it may be said that the boards are composed of few members, usually three, appointed for a comparatively long period, at a compensation which is large enough to obtain men of expert knowledge and capabilities. As far as possible the attempt has been made to keep political influences apart from the tax commission.
Activities of Commissions. - The work of these commissions has been so varied that again no accurate generalization can be made. They are expected to form the balance wheel of the fiscal system of the state - to discover the evils, formulate remedies, and induce legislatures, when this is necessary, to make the needed changes in the fiscal machinery. The general supervision has had a wholesome effect upon the activities of subordinate officials, even down to local assessors. The introduction of the mere possibility of supervision at first had an exhilarating psychic effect which, however, tended to wear off with time, causing more actual supervision to become necessary. The most marked result on the part of local officials has been the increased and more uniform assessment of real estate. The aid which has been given to local assessors in formulating methods, such as the use of the tax map, has aided materially in accomplishing this result. The extent of the supervision varies from mere advisory powers to absolute control of all assessments, as in the state of Ohio.
Auditing and Accounting. - Since the advent of the state tax commission, much progress has been made in the adoption of uniform systems of public auditing and accounting. It is only through such uniformity that any accurate knowledge and comparisons may be had of public expenditures, and this is the basis for the solution of fiscal problems. In a few cases the commissioners aid in making up the budget estimate, but this is as yet not generally true. From their knowledge of the sources of revenue, however, their services should be acceptable in helping to formulate state budgets. The work which has been done in auditing and accounting, however, bids fair to lessen the squandering of public funds and to prove a material saving through the elimination of inefficient and wasteful methods.
Corporation Assessments. - Another accomplishment, for which the tax commissions deserve credit, has been the improvement in the processes for valuing the various classes of corporate property. It has been through their studies and experiments that the various plans - gross earnings, net earnings, ad valorem, and other planshave been tried, and the merits and defects of each noted. Tax commissioners have succeeded in creating an attitude of respect from the corporations, because of the fair treatment they have extended, which has been beneficial in more ways than in an increased revenue. Mention should be made of the valuable contributions to fiscal knowledge which have been made through the reports of the various commissions. Many of them are a part of the most valuable literature on fiscal problems, and should be consulted by students interested in systems of state revenue.