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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Chapter XXII. — A Land "Value" Tax is not an Additional Burden on Land

Chapter XXII.

A Land "Value" Tax is not an Additional Burden on Land.

A Very usual answer to the Single Tax proposal is that it would put all the burden of taxation upon the land, and would let off every other form of wealth and of income. It has been shown that the burden (wrongly so called) of ground rent is now borne by tenants and landless people. Single Taxers don't propose to add to this, but simply to take it for public purposes from those who are now receiving it—from the landowners, whose unearned perquisite it has been. It is not, however, true to say that this would make landowners only pay all the taxation. It would be equally true to say that the wholesale importers now pay all of the Customs taxation because they are the ones who actually pay the cash to the collector. The landowners now receive the amount from their tenants, or enjoy it in extra advantages if they use their own land, and would then pay it over to the State. The importers pay down the cash, but recover it from the retailers, and they again from their customers.

The inferences which are drawn from the incorrect supposition, that an additional burden would be imposed, are, that it would, in the first place, be unjust; and, in the second, ruinous to industry and to accumulation by discouraging the use of land.

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It will not be necessary to take any notice of the inferences if the premises can be shown to be without foundation. It may be at once, then, denied that a land-value tax is a burden upon land. The argument under the preceding heading completely disposes of the fallacy of one popular assertion. It is there shown that the landlord has no power to pass on to his tenant the tax on ground rent. The ground rent is the only charge to come against any tenant in the Single Tax era, because all taxes and rates would be abolished. It is, therefore, not a new charge. The Single Tax would wholly fall upon the ground rent received or enjoyed by the land-owners: it would be so much abstracted from what they received, and could not be made to constitute an addition to it. The consequence is that, as far as the tenant would be affected, the so-called burden, so far from being increased by adopting the proposed reform would, on the contrary, be reduced by the amount of the present taxes.

The next heading will show the effect upon the various classes of landowners. The most important portion of it, in this connection, is that which deals with the cases of owners who have carried on operations upon their land which have added to the produce of the country. It will be shown that improvements and all other effects of their industry will remain intact, and that they will all benefit from the remission of the present taxes. The inference may fairly be drawn from the existence of the latter fact that, where an owner's investment in land is not greater than he is able to make personal use of, the credit from taxes remitted will fully balance the debit arising from the adoption of the Single Tax. There will, therefore, be no additional burden placed upon the land of working proprietors.

These two classes—the tenants and the working proprietors—are the only ones who exercise their industry upon land, and as they will not be burdened by the reform, it follows that no use of land will be discouraged.