The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Small but Hungry

R. Alex Whitlock has posted on the un-American nature of the property tax [somewhat mysteriously, his post is titled The Case Against the Sales Tax]. Comparing land ownership with free-and-clear ownership (e.g., of cars), he notes:
We've apparently decided that property (land property, to be specific) is different. If I own a tract of land outright, I still have to pay the government to keep it. I have to make payments on that land for the rest of my life. A lifetime of payments on my own property.
This is completely accurate. I would only add that this tax structure is inevitable, given the small size of municipalities (compared to the mobility of workers and consumers). A property tax is about the only tax they can levy and enforce. City- or county-level sales taxes are just a recipe for large stores just outside the county line, taunting the aldermen.

It is worth noting that the only place in downstate New York with low property taxes is New York City -- which has the size and muscle to raise money with a 4.5% income tax.