Topic: A Tax to Grind
Monday, 23 November 2009 by David H. LeVan
Well, it’s that time of year. The turkey is in the oven, the cranberry sauce is simmering, family and friends are in from out-of-town and… the property tax bill is due. Yep, it’s that time of year. Just when you are to celebrate thankfulness, that infamous, unwelcome bill from your local jurisdiction comes to mind. What better way to taint the occasion than the thought of having to pay your property tax bill.
There are many other things that you may be thankful for this Thanksgiving season; your health, your family, your friends, your job, the feast on your table, etc. but I’ll bet (and I’m taking a guess here) that one thing you may not be thankful for is your property tax bill. It’s there, waiting to make a dent in your accounts, and possibly chip away at your dreams of an in-ground pool come springtime (Clark Griswold immediately comes to mind…) In our society, paying property taxes is not viewed as a positive expenditure – certainly not helped by over-assessments or mismanagement of budgets…. Even in the ‘A Tax to Grind’ community we take sarcastic tones and jabs at the aspects of property taxes.
This Thanksgiving, I want to be thankful for property taxes. There, I said it: Thankful for property taxes. I think it takes stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, looking at why we have property taxes. Property taxes fund the firefighters and their fire trucks, the roads we drive on, our children’s teachers and their classrooms, the police officers, the beautiful public parks we enjoy, and so much more! I’m going to guess that we are all thankful for these. As frustrating as the administration of property taxes may be, it is possible to be thankful for them and the services they provide this Thanksgiving.
Topic: A Tax to Grind
Thursday, 19 November 2009 by David H. LeVan
There seems to be some debate over which NFL team is “America’s Team”. Both Dallas Cowboy fans and Green Bay Packer fans would lay claim to be fans of “America’s Team”. I was pondering this while watching the game last Sunday – which, by the way was fantastic. Why would a team with only 5 world championships (Dallas) even be in the running with a team with 12 world championships (Green Bay)? The Packers were winning “Superbowls” even before they existed in that form (not to mention the first two actual Superbowls). And…. who doesn’t like cheese? Now you might be thinking I am emboldened by the fact that the Packers won last weekend, stunning the red hot Cowboys….. and you would probably be right.
When it comes to taxes in America, I think we could all agree that most of our taxes reflect taxes that we see in other countries. We would probably also agree that we have way too many taxes but I’ll save that for another blog. Income taxes are common in other parts of the world. We have sales taxes, others have VAT taxes. Even with property taxes, many countries have real estate taxes in one form or another. Yet, if I had to say which tax is “America’s Tax”, it would have to be personal property tax. I don’t proclaim to be an expert in the taxation policies of every foreign country, but personal property tax is unique to America, almost $100 billion a year-unique. Annually, thirty-nine states tax personal property and nine tax inventory. Understanding “America’s Tax” is important if you are doing business in one of those states. It is particularly important if you are in one of the nine that includes inventory.
Personal property taxes would be common to both Packer and Cowboy fans, as both states tax personal property. While we may never agree on “America’s Team” we might actually have a chance in agreeing on “America’s Tax”. And, by the way, I respect the Cowboy fans who disagree with me on “America’s Team” (as misguided as they may be).
Topic: A Tax to Grind, Property Tax Valuation
Thursday, 12 November 2009 by David H. LeVan
The Indian tax Rebellion of 1851 is a prominent example of what can happen as a result of poor property tax policy. The Indian tribes of southern California were hit with a $600 yearly property tax in 1850 though they lived miles outside of the city and received no services in exchange for the property taxes they were required to pay. The Indians were already poor and none of the tax was used as a form of government aid for them.
The Indians paid the first year’s property tax, but in the summer of 1851 they refused. They found courage in their leader, Major General Joshua Bean. The property tax collection face-off led to a full blown war. Then in an astonishing turn, Bean joined the troops who were sent to quell the revolt and fought the Indians who he had riled into action. With the loss of Bean, the rebellion ended quickly (in December of that same year).
Though it was not a long war, it came to a tragic close with many deaths on the side of the Indians. That ill-fated $600 property tax was like building a fire and throwing gasoline on it.
The relationship between the taxed and tax collector has long been a combustible one. With a well-founded property tax policy in place, friction between the two parties can be minimized. A policy lacking in basic common sense, on the other hand, is likely to fan the flames of distrust and create a fire which can quickly burn out of control.
If we learn anything from our history, perhaps it is that we should not let the power of taxation go unrestrained.