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threatened with that stroke of the dart which shall seize them with pangs unfelt before, while it brings to those who help the community with their labour blessings of which they have never dreamt. In plain prose-if the eloquent peroration to the Fourth Report of the United Committee for the Taxation of Land Values may be called plain prose—such taxation, when in full working, is to 'make rent a public fund.' According to a still more plainspoken pamphlet, published by the same body and somewhat unfortunately named 'Form IV.- What next?', 168 Members of Parliament have petitioned the Prime Minister (and have received a sympathetic reply to their memorial) to empower local authorities to levy rates on the basis of the National Valuation, as well as to levy a ‘Budget tax on all Land Values to be applied :
(a) In providing a national fund to be allocated toward the cost of such service as Education, Poor Relief, Main Roads, Asylums, and Police, thereby reducing the local rates; and
(6) In substitution of the duties on tea, sugar, cocoa, and other articles of food.' 'What next?' we may well ask.
Condemned as unauthorised by as strong a tribunal as exists in these kingdoms, that unlucky attempt at a buff-paper thumbscrew called ' Form IV.' now serves only to point a moral. But the National Valuation, to which it was once intended to serve as a.guide, is still alive. When the Inland Revenue Commissioners issued their last report, that valuation was employing an army of at least 172 permanent officials, and 1376 other gentlemen who were, it is said, 'engaged on a temporary footing '; all these being additional to the Land Valuation Officers,' who were apparently only employed in the financial year 1910-11, but whose services in that year cost the State 174,0001. By the 31st of October 1911 the Land Valuation Staff (including both permanent and temporary members) had increased to 2301 ; and the annual salaries of these gentlemen amounted to no less a sum than 323,0001. It seems likely that the National Valuation will continue to employ large numbers of officials, whether on a permanent or a temporary footing, and to cost considerable sums until it is-save the mark ! --completed. Its opponents think that it will take at least twenty years; its friends say five years; and the Prime Minister once, in an enthusiastic moment, hoped to see it finished in a year. That first year has long since come to an end; when it closed, provisional valuations had been issued for 370,000 pieces of land, out of nearly 11,000,000 that have to be valued. But stay! in that year also, the Land Valuation Department made the momentous discovery that the manor of East Quantockshead was still in the hands of a lineal descendant of a man who held it at the time of the Old Domesday Book, William the Conqueror's Domesday Book-a horrid symptom of that feudal state of affairs which it
was one of the objects of the New Domesday' to abolish for ever.
Let us see now what this National Valuation actually is. The memorial and pamphlet ask that its completion may be hastened, and that it may be made accessible to the public—the public may not examine a man's income tax returns to ascertain his income, but if his capital is in land, they are to be made free of this information as to its values and describe it as 'the valuation of all land apart from improvements, provided for in the Budget of 1909-10.' That Act provides for a valuation of all land in the United Kingdom,' in which each plot in separate occupation is to have four different values assigned to it; and by a subsequent Act owners are given a conditional power to demand the aggregation of contiguous plots up to 100 acres. The four values are called : gross value, full site value, total value, and assessable site value; the last being also called original site value, or site value sans phrases. If any plot has a value for agricultural purposes differing from the assessable site value, the value for agricultural purposes (ascertained on some principle undefined) is also to be shown. Of the four values that are defined, only the first, the gross value, has any relation to any value that is ascertained in the ordinary course of business, or that has ever before been estimated for purposes of taxation. The definition of these four values takes up two whole pages of the King's Printer's copy, but it may be said-briefly and I hope not unfairly—that the gross value is intended to represent the market value of the piece of land if unencumbered; the full site value to represent the gross value after deducting the value attributable to buildings and appurtenant machinery, to timber and growing crops; the total value to represent the gross value a's diminished by any burden of fixed charges and public rights to which the land is actually subject; and the assessable site value to represent the ultimate residue, still further reduced by the value attributable to the expenditure of money upon the land by owners or tenants of the land, so long as it has not been spent with a view to purely agricultural improvements, and by certain minor deductions. Minerals are not to be taken into account in any of these estimates; the provisions for the inclusion of minerals in the National Valuation, or for their exclusion if unworked, and the definitions of the value of minerals, are very complicated, and cannot be dealt with in this place. All the values of land that have been mentioned are to be estimated as on the 30th of April 19:19; the only provision for a revision of these values applies merely to undeveloped land, that is to land not covered with buildings, and not used for any business but agriculture. But these values are not to be ascertained for all the land in the United Kingdom; the assessable site value of land used for the purpose of railways,
canals, docks, or waterworks is taken to be the actual cost of the land to the company or body so using it.
Pausing here for a moment, and assuming-only for a moment —that the objects of the United Committee and of the memorialising members are right and just, it is manifest that the National Valuation, as it stands, cannot effectively serve these objects.
In the first place, it will not be correct up to date; it is not correct now, because the values are estimated as on the 30th of April 1909, we are now in April 1912, and a very small proportion of the Valuation has been completed ; and if and when it is finished, it will of course be much less correct in relation to the conditions then prevailing in the land market. The earliest date at which the Government now hope for the Valuation to be completed is some time before March 1915; and I do not suppose the most ardent memorialist would desire that taxes or rates should be levied in 1915 upon a basis of value which obtained in 1909; still less is it possible that that value should remain stereotyped for all time as the measure of taxation. Secondly, the National Valuation is not a 'valuation of all land apart from improvements,' because, as has been shown, the Act expressly prohibits the valuers from making any deduction for the value attributable to agricultural improvements. In the third place, the value of land used for railways, canals, docks and waterworks is not shown at all, improvements or no improvements; for the cost of such land may be a very different thing from its value, as those enthusiasts who gird at the land-owners for having, as they say, extracted excessive sums from railway companies and so on as compensation for parting with some of their land, are never tired of protesting; it was indeed one of the express objects of the National Valuation that such 'extortion should be rendered impossible in the future. Lastly, the National Valuation results in many cases in a minus quantity for assessable site value; this is understood to be due to the deduction in respect of permanent charges, feefarm rents and so forth, and Mr. Wedgwood has on two recent occasions stated in the House of Commons that for this reason the basis upon which he and his friends propose to levy the rates is the 'full site value,' which does not take such charges into account. If he had not repeated the statement, it could scarcely have been conceived that he meant what he said, for the full site value shows no deduction for improvements other than buildings and their appurtenances, and timber and growing things; the deduction for improvements generally is not made until the assessable site value is reached, and the assessable site value takes into account the permanent charges. Neither does
any of the various values now shown in the Valuation leave out of account all improvements, or even all non-agricultural improvements, and at the same time disregard the permanent charges.
In these four points, then, the National Valuation, as it is now directed to be carried out, fails to serve the fresh objects to which it is sought to apply it. It is easy to talk of amendment; and no doubt the Act could be amended to meet some of these points. But what then? If the Act is amended so as to secure the National Valuation being corrected from year to year and brought up to date sufficiently to serve as a permanent basis of assessment, not only the 172 permanent officials, but a large number of those other members of the band of 2301 who are now only engaged on a temporary footing' must remain as a continuous burden upon the national finances. If a deduction is to be made for the value due to agricultural improvements, every plot of land which has such a value, and of which the valuation is completed before the amending Act is. passed, will have to be re-valued 'as on the 30th of April 1909' -and the labour and money already expended on the valuation of those plots will be thrown away. The values of all the plots. valued before the amending Act will have to be re-calculated so as to show a sum which allows for improvements generally, and which at the same time takes no account of fixed charges.
On those points, then, the Act may, as a legislative measure, be capable of amendment—but at what expense of work and money wasted in the past, at what cost in the future? On the other hand, in the matter of placing an 'unimproved value' upon the sites of railways, canals, docks and waterworks, the Act is incapable of satisfactory amendment. No one can tell the site value of a railway. Is it the agricultural value of the adjoining land? Is the valuer to imagine the permanent way only to be non-existent, or is he also to wipe out the embankment that supports it? Where the railway crosses a river, is he to suppose that two different companies own the strips of land abutting on either bank, or is he to take it that the same railway company owns both strips, with the right to connect them by a bridge ? If the former, the site value of the railway can be no greater than that of a strip of pasture beside it. The second hypothesis of course accords more with common sense and with the facts -but if we take the bridge into account, or even the right to construct it, we are not finding the unimproved value of the land. What is the value of the ground occupied by a watermain, or the bed of a canal ? Are we to assume the canal filled up again with earth, and cattle feeding upon it, like the Roman Forum in our grandfathers' day?
These are some of the insoluble problems which make it im
possible to produce a site value for the great statutory undertakings that provide the greater part of our civilised amenities; and they explain why the Legislature in its wisdom has refrained from enacting that in the national valuation the land that they use should be valued at anything but its prime cost. But in exercising this commendable self-restraint, the Legislature-low be it spoken—was merely ‘hedging.' The truth is that the case of the railway or the canal is a reductio ad absurdum of the whole attempt to estimate a site value. Great Britain is an old country, and much of its land has been fully improved for hundreds of years; an enormous proportion of it has been in enjoyment of all the improvements it can bear since the days of George the Third, when the great roads and canals were made. Most of our main lines of railway and a great part of the vast network of branch lines have now been in existence for some sixty or seventy years, and there are no large areas of improvable land in England which still remain to be opened up' by modern means of communication. Since the days when the use of land was paid for in military service and not in money, the inhabitants of this island have not been in the habit of buying, still less of valuing, land apart from the improvements upon it; and there is no canon in this country, such as there may be among the vast tracts of practically virgin land in Canada or the Antipodes, for ascertaining the unimproved value. Moreover, except for the purpose of sale, Englishmen at any rate are not in the habit of estimating land at a capital value; and even when estimating for sale, they value the land at so many years' purchase of the rent. Rent, or annual value, is the Englishman's ordinary measure of the value of land. All our local rates, all our imperial taxes on land, have long been imposed upon this basis.
Under the Poor Relief Act of 1601, the overseers of the parishes, upon whom that Statute imposed the duty of raising money for the relief of the poor, performed their task by making assessments upon the annual value of land as well as upon personal property ; but the difficulty of rating the latter class of property became too great, and towards the end of the eighteenth century assessments on ships and stock-in-trade and personal profits gradually dropped out of use, until they were prohibited by a temporary Act of 1840, which has been continued for various periods to the present day. Until 1910, the basis of annual value, which the overseers adopted because they knew no other, was the only basis of all rates and taxes on land except the death duties. And we know no other basis to-day that is not wholly artificial: a fact of which there can be no better testimony than that of the Land Values Depart