One of the most noticeable features of the speech with which Mr Ballance. has opened the political campaign, ;is leader of the Opposition, is his outspoken declaration m favor of the. principle of progressive taxation. He is reported to have said —f' With regard to the monopoly of lands m the colony, there were 84,547 freeholders iii the colony, and the value of the land held by them was £8-4,208,000 ; and of these there were 2353 who owned land valued at .£43,395,000, or more than half the value of the whole land. Then again there were 528 holders i of over 5000 acres each who owned | 7,000,000 acres, while the whole of 1 the land disposed otF m the colony was not more than 14 or 15 million acres. They would find nothing to be compared with that m the Mother Country. The remedy was twofold, and they ought to face it, and see that legislation m that direction was carried out. It was a practical simple specific, and that was a graduated land tax. It was only simple justice that these men .who were not now contributing their fair share towards the revenue of the colony should by this means be compelled to do so. By the adoption of a graduated land tax they •would find these estates would become subdivided and a larger number of people would be upon them." The other branch of Mr Ballance's "twofold" remedy is the re-acquisition by the Crown of private lands where required for the purposa of settlement. In both matters we agree with him, but on the present occasion we propose to refer only to the first, that of progressive taxation. In that principle we have always concurred, but we certainly would not apply it to land alone. If the public burden is to be fairly adjusted, all classes of property and income should be taxed m their due proportion. Taxable property should be divided into two classes, viz.:—(l) Landed property, and (2) all othsr property not being property from which income is derived, and these should be supplemented by a class under the "head of, " Income," being income derived from any other source than landed pi'operty. This done, there should, m the case of such income, be Ait untaxable minimum, all income above that minimum being taxable upon a progressive scale. Thus, if say for example, £200 were that minimum, then a man with £300 a year would pay upon £100, and the man with £400 a year would pay upon £200, but would pay on the second taxable £100 a somewhat higher rate than on the first £100. As regards property yielding no income, the tax should be at the minimum rate, and as regards landed property there should be a liberal exemption for improvements., and the tax should rise with the value at such a mte of increase as to fall with sufficient weight to discourage the tendency to aggregate enormous estates, and to ensure the turning of the land to the best account. Writing on this subject our Itangitikei contemporary says :—" We take it that m the. interests of the whole community the Legislature has a right to insist that all its lands shall be beneficially occupied, or m default of that that their owners shall be compelled to contribute something extra for the privilege of using them m a manner less profitable to the State. We will illustrate our meaning by an example. There is m the Hawke's Bay district an estate of fifty thousand acres of s good land as there is m the Colony. This land is splendidly situated, near a township, and if it were cut up into five hundred-acre farms, it would support m comfort a hundred families,'or'five hundred persons m all. At present it is used as a sheep run, and there are employed on it only four men, and these unmarried. So valuable is the land for sheep grazing that none of the employe's is permitted to run a horse on the fifty-thousand-acre estate. The owner draws a splendid income from it, which he spends m England, for he is a permanent absentee. Hence, instead of having the contributions of five hundred persons to the Customs' duties, we have the contributions of oidy four. What a loss of revenue we see here! Averaging the Customs' duties paid, by each individual at £3 per curium, we find that this estate pays only £12 a-year, whereas if it were subdivided into five-hundred-acre holdings it would pay £1500 a year. Besides this, a considerable part of it would, m the latter case, be employed for growing cereals, and thus a considerable quantity of machinery Avould be required, the manufacture of which would furnish work to a number of artizans, and there would also be horses to shoe, finding work for blacksmiths; and m harvest time a good many laborers would be required. Adding all these items together, it wilj be perceived that the Stai-$ suffers heavy loss by permitting this estate to remain as it v; t This estate is only a fair example of many others m various parts of New Zealand, and it is not too much to affirm that the annual \vm, to the State by properties of ti\i* kind must amount to s.evaw.l hundreds of thousands c$ p,au.ncK ISfow,. the State has enhanced the value of these properties tenfold at least by the construction of railways and roads, by the making of harbors, the building of wharves, etc. Why should not the State get back a portion at least of the " unearned increment?" There is no just reason to the contrary. We would, as we have previously urged, meet the difficulty by imposing a progressive Property-tax, and to guard against the uufairne.sji of class taxation we Avould nfeo have a progressive Incoino-tciX^ so that there should lie KetjUjaMty of sacrifice" all mt»nd. It has been alleged that a law of ihis kind would frighten away capital. This is a mero bogey, and nothing more. Wwe the 50,000-acre estate, tq which we referred above, cut Uj> into five-lmndred-acre farms there would be a large amount of money needed by the one hundred fanners who would settle on it, whereas the present owner does not need to borrow at all, for he is enormously rich. Indeed, were the big estates cut up m the way we have suggested, the English capitalist would find ten times as much occupation for his money as he does now. Again, where the English capitalist has lent money w\ those- big estates, he generally $nds that his investment }s. f*vr from a profitable one, »nd, wot infrequently the estates pass
into the hands of the absentee mortgagees, and become veritable eyesores to the ColonyK. i«here are numerous instances ol: |his kijid m the southern portion of the South Island. In cases like tliesey fenglish capital lias proved a curse rather than a blessing, for it lias locked :up hundreds of thousands of. acres of land Avhich are profitable neither to the nominal owners, to the rnortgagoes, nor to the State. The Ncav Zealand. Legislature has already recognised the principle of limiting the acreage of individual holdings by enacting that no man shall be permitted to acquire more than Gi-0 acres of tiyatclass public lands. Let it extend the principle by imposing such, a progressive tax on big estates that their owners will lind that it would be profitable to them to subdivide them say into G4O-acre farms."
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PROGRESSIVE TAXATION., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2531, 30 September 1890
PROGRESSIVE TAXATION. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2531, 30 September 1890
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