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Administrative Consideration of Taxes


The purpose of the present chapter is to discuss certain questions which arise in the framing of tax laws, the discus sion being regarded primarily from the point of view of administration.

67. Shall All Revenue be Secured by a Single Tax? Any scheme of taxation by which simplicity in fact as well as in name may be secured would receive the immediate and uni versal approval of financiers, and it is largely as a means of attaining simplicity that certain writers have been led to ap prove the idea of single taxation. The plan which com mends itself to the treatise consists in a careful classification and judicious selection of sources of revenue. As a means of strengthening this conclusion we shall pass in rapid review a few of the more prominent schemes of single taxation that have from time to time arrested public attention.

The Single Income or Property Tax. While the abolition of all taxes except those imposed on incomes or property has never been seriously proposed as a measure for immediate adoption, there is scarcely a general treatise upon finance that does not give a more or less direct approval to the thought that the simplest and fairest tax is the one that accepts personal income as the basis of contribution. Whether the authors of these treatises intend it or not, the impression is left that as the revenue system approaches the taxation of incomes it attains its ideal perfection.

We need not arrest our investigation with a consideration of the difficulties that lie in the way of the assessment, levy, and collection of taxes on personal incomes, for the argument goes astray before it reaches this point. It is manifest, if any one thing, or element, or quality is to be made the basis of the levy of taxes, it must possess homogeneity, not alone from the industrial point of view, but from the social and political points of view as well. It must bear the same import to all

citizens, and not change its character, either for the citizen or the State, with changes in its quantity or its use. This is not true of personal incomes. Whether regarded as posses sions or as potential expenditure, incomes change their quality with their amount, and the social results of their expenditure vary with the objects to which expenditure is assigned. All this is familiar to the student of the most recently de veloped economic theory, which aims to disclose the ministry of wealth and to re-analyze the principles of production and exchanges in the light of the economy of consumption. As suming the analysis thus suggested to be sound, it is evident that while the single income tax might contribute simplicity to the revenue system so far as the object of taxation is con cerned, yet it would nevertheless bring the system again into confusion on account of the classification of incomes, and the great variety of ratings that would be necessary to attain justice, either from the point of view of the relative payment of individuals or when considered as a permanent feature in the social structure. But this line of reasoning has already received adequate attention. The considerations, moreover, upon which this general conclusion rests are equally per. tinent to all of that large number of propositions for single taxation which attach themselves to some peculiar feature of property, and on this account their special consideration may be omitted.

single, incomes, taxation, tax and view