[diggers350] to tax or not to tax land?

Simon Fairlie chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
Wed Sep 19 10:04:23 BST 2007

This is an interesting, bit of brainstorming  but it needs a good  
deal more explanation and thought .

The tax can't be annual otherwise the amount of land owned by a  
landowner would diminish year by year, and the prospect of  attrition  
would make sensible  land management impossible. Annual taxes have to  
be extracted from income not from capital and hence have to be in  
money or grain.

A tax of land would have to be  a one-off, ie inheritance tax, or an  
equivalent of capital gains tax when title is transferred . There  
could be some merit in this, though I'm not sure what the advantages  
are over a conventional land reform programme.

Its worth remembering that the biggest redistribution of land in the  
UK was a fiscal measure. It occurred between 1919 and 1922 under  
liberal government tax reforms, when according to Howard Newby, about  
a quarter of all land changed hands.   It was this that broke up much  
of the monopoly unveiled in the 1870 Domesday Book. Some of this land  
went to resettlement schemes under the smallholding Acts — and some  
of it eventually ended up subdivided for plotlands.

Land redistribution won't make any difference to the price of houses  
because supply is limited by planning constraints not by land  
ownership. A return of council housing would help , but existing CPO  
legislation could achieve this without requiring  a universal land tax.

Land redistribution for agriculture will become progressively more  
needed if food, energy  and land prices continue to rise. Demand for  
county smallholdings already greatly exceeds supply. However this  
involves a small percentage of the population, and there is no  
evidence yet of a large number of would-be farmers clamouring for  
land.  I guess this is because it is not that difficult to rent  
blocks of land at fairly reasonable prices — £50-£80 per acre, or  
even free if you are grazing land for environmental purposes. It is  
land with a farmhouse that is difficult to find. And here again, this  
is a planning issue, not a land ownership issue.



On 17 Sep 2007, at 10:31, Peter Hack wrote:

> this is a good idea..are you putting it out to
> people..it could also be used to rebuild local
> authority agricultural tenencies so that young people
> have access to faming.
> how are you getting it out there?
> peter hack

> --- james armstrong <james36armstrong at hotmail.com>
> wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> To tax land or not to tax? That is the question.
> To reconcile the difference between the taxers and non
> taxers
> Tax land! - But in land! Just as income is taxed in
> money.
> Don’t contemplate taxing land in cash -
> since the cash will certainly disappear into the
> coffers of the exchequer
> Use the forfeit land as the core of a national land
> bank.('usufruct' land)
> Sell the *usufruct -only- out of the land bank for use
> for housebuilding, farming etc
> This has a huge benefit , It breaks the present near
> 'monopoly' of land ownership
> as identified by Kevin Cahill.
> Once a significant alternative to monopoly land is
> available
> the monopoly is broken and with it the present ability
> to charge monopoly prices.
> for land and for houses
> with care the project can be designed to be
> progressive-
> making it progressively easier to acquire further
> tranches of land at cheaper rates
> Usufruct income can be used to purchase further land
> (at a punitively low purchase price)
> to further increase the land bank.
> 'Eminent domain' the legal doctrine, justifies
> compulsory purchase of land when needed
> as for railways, canals, MOD training areas etc now
> more justifiably for house building low impact
> dwelling and sustainable country small holdings
> Compulsory purchase powers exist and go back to 1947
> Compulsory purchase is now justified
> by the total failure of the present proprietary system
> which is daily systematically abused.
> Housebuyers pay a private tax to land owners
> Currently £56,000 for the land hidden under each house
> The scheme can be developed to favour (by tax and
> planning breaks) developing usufruct land
> With a view to making it cheaper to develop usufruct
> land than developing proprietary land
> The planning system , remodelled and used creatively
> has huge unrealised potential for remaking the present
> decrepit land system
> "Use it (yourself) or lose it" would be a guiding
> planning principle
> Used creatively it can bring our literally feudal land
> system to serve modern needs
> Capturing existing CAP funding, and capturing planning
> windfall can fund the national land bank growth
> This will have the effect of devaluing CAP-less
> development-less propietary land
> and making it easier to buy out land 'owners'.
> And add over the years incrementally to the land bank
> of usufruct land
> And eventually leave the ownership concept relict .
> taxing land has one great advantage- it is legal in
> international law.
> Confiscating land without payment is unlawful and
> possible but tiresome.
> all land can be safely gathered in to the national
> land bank.
> * 'Usufruct' , is 'the use of' not 'absolute rights
> over' not 'the thing itself'
> James
> ---------------------------------
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