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of personalty may accomplish good results. On this point, however, they reserve their decision and ask to be continued in office to make a further study. Finally, they suggest the inauguration of a regular tax conference within the state.
Reports of Permanent Commissions
In addition to the reports of the special tax commissions above reviewed, attention must now be called to the permanent commissions which, under one name or another, are now found in eighteen states. In a half-dozen of the eastern states, where the commissions are of longer standing, running back as far as two or three decades, the reports are chiefly formal in character, containing little but statistics, with but few comments. This is true, for instance, of Massachusetts 29 (created in 1890), of Maryland30 (created in 1878), and of New Jersey81 (created in 1884), which deal primarily with the corporation taxes. The peculiar situation in New Jersey, which has been referred to elsewhere,32 is being handled by a special Commission on Railway Valuation, which is expected to report before long. In New York the last report of the Tax Commissioners 33 (created in 1896) deals primarily with the various theories underlying the assessment of franchises, and suggests greater uniformity in corporation assessments, as well as a further classification of personal property.
The last report of the Connecticut Tax Commissioner34 (created in 1901), is less formal. In his previous biennial report the Tax Commissioner had called attention to the evils of the poll and military commutation taxes, and had recommended the separate valuation of land and buildings, an increase in the inheritance tax, with the adoption of provisions designed to avoid double taxation, and various changes in the insurance taxes. In the most recent re"Report of the Tax Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston, 1910, pp. 593.
Report of the State Tax Commissioner of Maryland. Hagerstown, 1910, pp. 227.
Twenty-sixth Annual Report of the State Board of Assessors of the State of New Jersey for the year 1909. Trenton, 1910, 2 vols.
"Political Science Quarterly, vol. xxii, p. 322.
"Annual Report of the State Board of Tax Commissioners of the State of New York. Albany, 1910, pp. 321.
"Report of the Tax Commissioner for Biennial Period 1909 and 1910, including the first Quadrennial Statement of Property exempted from Taxation. Hartford, 1910, pp. 251.
port, while repeating some of these recommendations, he calls attention to the fact that the complete separation of state and local revenues has broken down in Connecticut, in so far as the special taxes no longer suffice for state purposes. The state property tax which had been suspended since 1890 was again authorized in 1909, although at a low rate. The Commissioner, however, calls attention to the evils of the old system, and recommends the adoption of the Oregon or apportionment-by-expenditure plan. He also recommends the creation of a State Board of Finance empowered to pass upon the appropriations and expenditures.
Largely formal in character also are the reports of the Indiana and North Carolina Commissions, which are likewise of fairly long standing. The Indiana report of 190735 characterizes the assessment of poll taxes as disgraceful, but calls especial attention to the good results that have ensued in the increase of personal property values from the annual conference conventions with all the county and township assessors. The 1908 report of the North Carolina Commission (reorganized in its present form in 1905) 36 recommends a constitutional amendment to permit segregation of revenue, and ascribes the failure of the inheritance tax to bad administrative methods. The report of 1910, however, contains nothing but statistics.
We now come to a group of more recently created commissions, primarily in the South, where we find more than merely formal reports. The West Virginia Commission was organized in 1904 as the result of the tax reform movement. The second report,87 after an interesting discussion, recommends a constitutional amendment to permit of classification, a production tax on oil and gas, and various changes in the corporation and inheritance taxes. The third report for 1910, makes a more vigorous demand for constitutional revision. The greater part of the report is concerned with the question of classification. In Texas also the Tax Commissioner calls attention to "the antiquated system of the general property tax" and discusses at length the questions of
"Biennial Report of the Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners. Indianapolis, 1907, pp. 118. Proceedings of the Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners. Indianapolis, 1908, pp. 478.
Report of the Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners. Raleigh, 1908, pp. 265.
Second Biennial Report of the State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia for the years 1907-1908. Charleston, 1908, pp. 381.
separation and of centralization, both of which he approves.38 Incidentally, he calls attention to the failure of the state intangible tax, first levied in 1907. In 1910 the growing dissatisfaction reflected itself in a report of the Business-Men's Association,3 which declared that "our revenue system is rigid and stupid, and is not sufficiently elastic to meet changing conditions." Finally attention may be called to the Alabama Commission which was created in 1907 as an evolution out of the "Back Tax" Commission. The findings of this commission are noteworthy as being "conclusive on all her officials and as binding unless changed by a court of competent jurisdiction." In their report for 1909,40 the Commission state that the result of the year's work has not been altogether satisfactory. In the next report, for 1910, they tell us that the progress has been more encouraging. As a matter of fact, however, the Commission seem not to have used their powers very effectively.
Next in order is to be noted the Michigan Board. In their report for 190841 they call attention to their efforts to improve the assessment of mortgages by investigation in the adjoining states. They sadly confess, however, that the evasion is still very great. They also discuss at some length the assessment of vessel property. In the sixth report, of 1911, they deal primarily with the subject of railroad taxation, and a separate paper by one of the commissioners calls attention to the fact that the "ingenious Cooley-Adams method does not entirely fill all the requirements of the case."
Another and more interesting group of reports comprises those of some of the Western and Northwestern states, where greater progress has been made in the direction of centralization of assessment. Of these perhaps the oldest is Wisconsin, created in 1905, whose biennial reports have always attracted considerable attention. The report of 190942 well maintains the reputation of the
"Third Annual Report of the Tax Commissioner of the State of Texas for the year 1908. Austin, 1908, pp. 105.
Tax Revision. Report of Committee on Taxation. Texas Commercial Secretaries and Business-Men's Association. Fort Worth, 1910.
Report of the State Tax Commission of Alabama for the year ending September 30, 1909. Montgomery, 1910, pp. 75.
"Fifth Report of the Board of State Tax Commissioners. Lansing, 1909, pp.
“Fourth Biennial Report of the Wisconsin Tax Commission to the Governor and Legislature. Madison, 1909, pp. 177.
Commission. We are told that so far as the property tax is concerned, local assessments "did not improve," and "it is quite apparent that we are fast drifting away from the assessment of personal property and towards a tax on land only." The Commission declare that there can be no material reform in taxation methods until the election of assessors by the locality is abandoned, and they state frankly that the establishment of the tax commission and the creation of county supervisors of assessment have not proved a remedy. "Things are getting worse instead of better." They discuss the income tax, but are doubtful about its efficiency for state purposes. They call attention to the exemption of mortgages from taxation and recommend that the policy adopted in Wisconsin be extended to all intangible property. In the discussion of corporate taxation they advocate an extension of the unit rule. An appendix by one of the commissioners lays emphasis upon the failure of local self government, and the need of a constitutional amendment to secure further centralization in assessment.
In Minnesota the first report of the Commission, created in 1907, is noteworthy in that it contains comparatively few statistics and a great deal of discussion.43 This is due largely to its chairman, Professor, now President, McVey. The report includes a comprehensive statement of the history and present methods of the Minnesota system as well as a summary of the work accomplished by the Commission. We find the usual facts and allegations about the inequalities of the tax system. Among the remedies considered, the Commission think that separation is not so effective as centralization. With reference to corporations a special chapter on railways concludes in favor of the gross earnings, rather than of the ad valorem, tax and holds that Wisconsin and Michigan have taken retrograde steps. Among other interesting discussions are those of the timber tax, the tax on iron ore lands, and on inheritances. The Commission voice their conviction "that the general property tax, as applied to personal property, can never be a success because fundamentally wrong.
In their second (1910) report, which is a volume of almost 500 pages, they revert to some of the earlier discussions. They frankly declare that the law requiring taxation of property at its full value "is a dead letter, a still-born statute, unenforced and unen"First Biennial Report of the Minnesota Tax Commission to the Governor and Legislature of the State of Minnesota. St. Paul, 1908, pp. 279.
forceable. Any attempt to comply with its provisions would be revolutionary." Separate chapters are devoted to almost every phase of taxation, including the income tax. The Commission conclude that "an income tax in Minnesota would not prove any more equitable or satisfactory than the present personal property tax." Among their many recommendations they lay emphasis upon a change in the basis of assessment from full value to 50 per cent, and upon the replacement of local by county assessors. Two interesting chapters on the cost of government and on municipal receipts and disbursements are contributed by Dr. R. H. Hess.
The Kansas Commission was appointed in 1907 and at the end of 1908 it made, as required by law, two separate reports, one to the governor thirty days before the convening of the legislature, and one to the legislature on its opening. The report proper, to the governor, containing an account of what has been accomplished, gives interesting figures showing that the result of the Tax Commission has been to increase assessments about sixfold. Incidentally they ascertained that in a certain county assessments varied from 212 to 76 per cent of the prices for which the property was sold during the same year. As contributing to the increase in assessments the Commission give credit to the conference conventions with the county assessors, the proceedings of which are published annually. In the report to the legislature containing recommendations, the Commission acknowledge the weakness of the general property tax but doubt whether present public sentiment in Kansas is quite ripe for a change. They take strong ground, however, in favor of classification, and look forward to a system of separation of state and local revenues. Taking it all in all, the report of the Kansas Commission is one of cheering progress.
The second biennial reports for 1911 are brief but equally good. The report to the governor summarizes the work done by the Commission; the report to the legislature calls attention to the fact that the legislature enacted the majority of its earlier recommendations but that there still remain for consideration the problems of separation and of classification. As to these the Commission make as yet no definite recommendations, although they show their favorable inclination. Finally they emphasize the "First Report to the Legislature by the Tax Commission, State of Kansas, January 12, 1909. Topeka, 1908, 59 pp. First Report of the Tax Commission State of Kansas. Topeka, 1908, 357 pp.