The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, MAY 1, 1880.
The financial circumstances of the colony, thanks to reckless government in the not very far past, require the imposition of direct taxation, and with a view to retrieving the ground the colony has lost, Parliament last year imposed a direct property tax, which they hoped would materially help to bring our income up to, at least, very nearly the level of our expenditure. Wo all know why this tax was imposed. We were all aware that had no financial difficulty existed, had the public exchequer been as healthy as could have been wished, we would never have heard of a property tax. But there was a certain deficiency staring the Treasurer in the face, a deficiency that was bound to become greater instead of decreasing ; and Parliament, however unwilling to add to the already heavy taxation, was forced, in the pressing circumstances, to accept the measure submitted to theni. The Property Tax Act has been received with much opposition by some portions of the press, especially those who supported the Grey Government, while the moderate journals, after having considered it calmly and dispassionately, have been forced to the conclusion that it was about the only course left open to Parliament if they wished to raise revenue, and at the same time make all directly contribute who were able from their means to do so. The Opposition have done their best to condemn the measure, some even going the length of denouncing it as an attack on the sacredness of home, and a violation of the domestic privacy of every man in the colony. But no one who reads the Act as it stands will entertain that opinion of it for a moment. True, it will require careful working, for it initiates a mode of taxation in these colonies that has never been previously tried here ; but when it comes fairly into operation, and the tax has been collected, it will be .found that it is neither so inquisitorial nor so harassing as it has been made out to be, while it will reach the pockta of many wealthy men whom the Land Tax could not approach. We give below an extract from the Wellington Fast, which we think gives as lucid an explanation of the points that have been purposely hazed by Oppositionists as we have seen in any of our contemporaries There is not a single word in the Act empowering an assessor to enter a man’s house and value his personal property. The power of entry given to assessors is precisely the same as was conferred by the Land Tax Act introduced by the Grey Government, and simply enables them to enter on land and premises, and put questions to the owner or occupier regarding his real estate. There is nothing whatever in the Act by which the domestic privacy of the ratepayer can be invaded in the slightest degree. It is not probable that the first instalment of the tax will be collected before September next, but the assessors arc now entering on their duties, and a slight sketch of the modus operandi of the tax may not be uninteresting to our readers. First of all, then, the Commissioner will give one month’s public notice of the time and place at which all persons shall be required to furnish statements of their real and personal property. It is the duty of every man owning property to procure the necessary forms, if they are not supplied to him, as any person liable to taxation under the Act incurs a heavy penalty by wilfully refusing or neglecting to furnish a statement of his property. It should be borne in mind that the taxpayer has to value his personal property himself- —the Act gives no power whatever to the assessors to value it. If a Deputy Commissioner is dissatisfied with a man’s return he may demand a fuller return, and if he is still dissatisfied with it he may object to it. The objection would then go before a Board of Reviewers, sworn to secrecy, with power to call for persons and papers. The taxpayer has also power to object to an assessment, and the objection, if not allowed by the Commissioners, will go before the Board. This is almost precisely the same practice as that adopted in reference to the collection of the Income Tax at Home, and every care is taken in the Act to hedge round all the proceedings with the strictest secrecy. Borne difficulty will no doubt be experienced at first in giving correct returns, although it is reduced as far as possible to a minimum by the instructions on the forms which are issued to the ratepayers. There are a few leading points which it is useful to remember, and which we shall endeavor, as concisely as possible, to lay before our readers. First, and most important all, it should be borne in mind that every man is entitled to deduct all his debts and an exemption to the amount of £SOO. If, after paying all ho owes, he would be left with property to the value of £5lO, he' will have to pay the tax on £lO, which at Id. in the £ would amount to lOd. If the balance only represented £490, or even £SOO, he would escape the tax altogether. It will thus be seen that the tax will be of comparatively limited application. The working man, except in rare instances, will escape scot free. Hot so the propertied classes, and no doubt the burden of the tax will fall very heavily on the trading community who have to pay on their stock-in-trade, as well as on any other property they may possess. Property of every description, both real and personal, in fact, has to pay the tax, provided it does not come within the £SOO limit. The only exception is made in favor of certain public institutions, agricultural implements, life insurance policies, vessels of every kind, and property held in reversion in which the owner has no present beneficial interest. Every firm, partnership, or association is entitled to one deduction of £SOO, even if each member has received that allowance in the assessment of his individual property ; but only one deduction will be allowed to a firm, no matter how many members there may be. An error, which has gained considerable currency is that a person must specify his
debts ; but, ns a matter of fact, all that lie lias to do is to state the gross amount of debts for which he claims a deduction.
Reports from the North still record the spreading among the cattle of pleuropneumonia, and settlers are gradually becoming alive to its dangers, and the need of battling with it while it is yet comparatively young. At one meeting on the subject at Auckland it was resolved to ask Government to introduce a Bill next session to legalise the imposition of a local rate to provide funds for the indemnification of settlers whose cattle had been slaughtered to stay the progress of disease. Yesterday the Geraldine County Council passed a resolution requesting the Governor to issue an Order in Council prohibiting the importation of cattle by sea to the South Island, whether from the North Island or the Australian colonies.