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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 22, no. 562: December 21, 1878

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS^ GUIDE. YoL. XXII. NEW YOEK, SATÜEDAY, DECEMBEE 21, 1878. No. 562. Published Weekly by €h Seal €siate %mxti ^ssonation. TBRJlS. ON'K YEAR, in advance....SlO.OO. Communications should be addressed to C, IV. SWEET, Nos. 345 AND 347 Broadway MR. BRIGGS' PROPOSITIONS. We are indebted to Mr. James A. Briggs for a verbatiin copy of the address on Taxation, de¬ livered by him before tho State Bar Association at Albany, which has already attracted wide¬ spread attention in the daily press, and is deserv¬ ing of the thoughtful consideration of property owuers as bearing directly upon their Interests, and indieating the drift of expert testimouy upon this subject. Tho measures of tax reform set forth in this ad¬ dress are by no means novel or original, but can be estöily recoguized as the embodiments of ideas, with immatürial variations in form heretofore advanced, by David A. Wells and George H. Andrews. At the time of their first enunciation they were freely examined and discussed by the press, and failed to make any lasting impression ujxia the public mind, or to evoke any legislative action. Whatever value or merit was once claimed for them, they were found upon close examination to be logically untenable and prac¬ tically inimical to the best interests of the State and city. They were long ago so thoroughly ex?- pounded and exploded that it is somewhat of a surprise to Iiud them revived and spread before the public at this late day «s beneficial or Jprac- tical measures of reform. Mr. Briggs is largely indebted to his prede- cessors for the main substauce and groundwork of his propositions, aud they are certainly uot in¬ debted t« him for auy reinforcemeiit of argu¬ ment, or eveu for any clearer or more cogeut advocacy of these peculiar measures. We bave placed ourselves upon record as de¬ claring these measures to be fraught with direct and incalculable injwry to the interests of real estate, and the lapse of time together with careful study and reflection have failed to uusettle our conviction. Whenever aud wherever this questionable mode of reforming our present dis¬ creditable tax System may appear, we intend to array ourselves in Opposition to it, and to reit- arate our stauding objeetions. In the preface of bis address, Mr. Briggs says that " * Taxation, should it be confined to real ■estate I' is the subject proposed to me by your -committee for the topic of discussion. I shall not •confine myself to this question, and in regard to •it would merely say there are many who have gfiven much attention to taxation, who have come to the conclusion that taxation upon real estate is the best system tbat can be devised for raising revenue for State purposes." It is to be regrettodthat Mr. Briggs sbould bave Seen fit to evade the discussion of the vital topic which was proposed to him. Even though he migbt have chosen to espouse the affirmative of tbis question, it "wonidhave beeu interesting to property owuers to see the grounds of belief set forth in logical and connected ordor of those who espouse tbis side. The svveeping a.ssertioii with which Mr. Briggs is content to dispose of this question is lacking, we believe, in historical accu- racy. Besides'^. Wells aud Andrews, we have yet to learn of any other prominent publicist who has taken a decided stand on their sideof the question. In support of his own thesis Mr. Briggs was compelied to cite as sole authority the deductiou of a French philosopher who flourished nearly one hundred and fifty }-ears ago, who is re¬ ported as haviug discovered that all wealth arises from the earth, and hence to have concluded tbat it is proper to levy all taxation upou real estate. As if in äpolögy for quoting this ancient and musty authority, and for adopting this .startling conclu¬ sion, Mr. Briggs candidly admits that uo Euro¬ pean government has since then paid the slightest attention to this recommendation, but that, on the contrary, the taxation of real estate iu Eu¬ rope has been confined to extremely small per¬ centages. According to data, which we quote bodily from the address, the percentages of rev¬ enue now exacted by European govemments from real estate ai'e as follows: France......................................... ig 43 Holland.......................................... 8.68 Russia.i..................................1J.21 Austria....................................1764 Prussia.........................................'." ji!39 Belgium.........................................2o.7'2 Hungary......................................32..30 Great Britain.................................... .5 33 NewYork State...............................,. ^^gg We are at a loss to imagine how Mr. Briggs can expect the legislators or Citizens of the great Em¬ pire State in this latter end of the nineteenth Cen¬ tury to udopt a conclusion which has laiu dormant and has been practically discarded for so long a time, and to adapt our tax system to a Standard wbich is in direct Opposition to the eulightened judgment of the most advanced uations of Europe. There is an unfitness or incongruity in this mode of teacbing which needs to be only referred to to be exposed. Instead of discussing the question proposed for debate, Mr. Briggs has chosen to dismiss this vital topic unconsidered, and has coutented him¬ self with the adoption of the ideas and condu¬ sions of other persons, without even restating their arguments or furnishing any additional facts to support his case. Instead of argument, he has presented to his hearers a mass of tech¬ nical data derived from his experience as a State Assessor, all going to show what is universaily understood by tha reading public, that personal property in the hands of individuals in this State, and particularly in this city, is searcely touched by the Tax Assessors, and, when reached, ap¬ pears in altogether disproportioned amount to the total that is known or believed to exist. and always in a beggarly disparity to the amount of assessed real estate valuations. Mr. Briggs' address proceeds upon the assump¬ tion that since (3ounty Assessors have failed through apathy, ignorance or corruption to reach a tithe of the personal property which is assessable under tbe law, therefore it were better to abandon all attempt at imposing a tax upon personal property. It would seem as if the nat¬ ural deduction from these facts "would he that 'such palpable failures and laches os the part o£ County Assessors shouUl be corrected by addi¬ tional legislation, if necessarj-, or eise by strictly enforcing the penalties which are prescribed for nou-performance of duty iu the present State tax law. Mr. Briggs shows and admits that at present real estate is made to bear iu this State fully seven-eighths of taxation, and, as if this were not euough, he blandly proposes that the other eighth also should be assessed upon real estate, in order that personal proiierty may go entirely free. We have carefully perused the füll address of Mr. Briggs, aud have excerpted from it. as well as its desultory method would permit, eertaiu Substantive propositions which are scattered throughout the text. We uow present these for the benefit of our readers. PHO POSITIONS. 1. To relieve refd estate from State taxation, excepting the State common school tax. 2. That all taxation should be limited to real estate. 5. To limit taxation to real estate for ali Stat« purposes, except the State common school tax, and also for all local taxation in towns and cities. 4. To limit taxation to real estate in th© counties. . 5. To relieve all personal property in the hands of individuals from taxatiou. 6. To reduce the legal rate of int«rest through¬ out the State to six per cent. 7. To assess valuations of real estate for tax¬ ation at intervals of five years; new buildings to be returned annually. 8. That banks be taxed on their capital for State purposes only, aud other corporations be taxed lightly. Finally, to raise all taxes for State purposes, except the school tax, from incorporated com¬ panies aud exempt real estate from all other State taxes, and personal property in the hands of individuals from all assessment of taxation. It will be seeu that the first, second, third, fourth and final propositions are cognate in sub¬ stauce, whilo the intervening oues relate to sub¬ sidiary topics which do not necessarilj' belong to a discussion of the main question. We would call attention to the fact that the first and third propositions are in direct conflict. The third embodies an altogether different idea from that elsewhere presented, and from that w^hich, from the eoutext of the other propositions we would suppose Mr. Briggs intended to present. Whether these inconsistencies are the fault of the type or of tho manuscript, we are unable to dis¬ cover, but it is certain that the substance of this third proposition has given a coloring in the minds of reviewers to the whole of Mr. Briggs' address—a coloring, we would add, which is lia¬ ble to %vrest it from what we conceive to be its original Intention. For a proof of this we will quote from the editorial review which appeared in the New York Herald: " Mr. Briggs maintains tbat State taxes, with a few specified exceptions, should be levied onreol estate alone, i-eleasing the great mass of personal property." Overlooking this kzpsus pennos as we discem it, the gist of Mr. Briggs' propositions and of his predecessors in these opiiüons is that State taxa¬ tion shall be taken off real estate and appUsd