In LA They Get Caught Cheating on the Property Tax
Yet Even an English Lord Gets the Power In the Land
While some try to keep Earth’s worth all to themselves, others understand it’s really common wealth. We trim, blend, and append six 2012 articles from (1) Los Angeles Times, May 22, on an appraiser by R. Vives and J. Dolan; (2) theyworkforyou.com, May 22, on land value by Lord Vinson (Conservative); (3) website of Leo Foley, Alderman, Hobart City Council, Tasmania (Australia); (4) Canberra (Australia) Times, May 7, on tax reform by N. Towell; (5) Toronto Star, May 19, on housing by Frank de Jong (Earthsharing Canada); (6) Pittsburgh's Black & White Reunion in January, a seminar on race by D. Sullivan.
by Ruben Vives & Jack Dolan, by Lord Vinson, by Leo Foley, by Noel Towell, by Frank de Jong, and by Dan Sullivan
Ex-Appraiser Arrested In Probe of Assessor's Office
Marking the first arrest in the wide-ranging corruption probe into the assessor's office, a former Los Angeles County property appraiser accused of improperly slashing the value on more than 100 Westside homes and businesses was taken into custody.
Prosecutors say Scott Schenter, 49, falsified department documents and unlawfully lowered property values by $172 million for multimillion-dollar homes and businesses. Schenter allegedly secured campaign contributions from the owners for Assessor John Noguez, authorities said.
Noguez is a primary target of the broader influence-peddling investigation, which began last year. Also under scrutiny are several high-ranking assessor's office employees and Noguez campaign contributors, including tax consultant Ramin Salari.
Salari runs a successful business representing wealthy property owners on the Westside in their bids to get the assessor's office to cut their tax bills. Salari's clients dominated the list of owners who received improper tax breaks from Schenter.
Schenter said Noguez's campaign was in debt after the election, despite having raised more than $1 million in a race in which his chief rival raised less than $50,000.
After discovering the cuts, which wiped tens of millions of dollars from the county tax rolls, officials decided that a few were warranted due to the declining real estate market, even if they had been made without proper documentation or authorization.
For the rest, officials sent letters to the property owners explaining that an error had been made and that their tax bills would go back up.
To read more
JJS: While some toadies worry about how high land prices affect the rich, a British Lord worries about how they impact everyone else.
House of Lords: Housing Question
My Lords, I hope the Minister is aware that the land value of a house in the 1960s was about 25%. The land value of a house today is over 50%. That means that the present generation are paying 25% more for their mortgages than most of us here today did. Most people who have analyzed the situation believe that this is due to excessive land rationing through the planning system. I applaud what the Government are trying to do in freeing up the planning system but we really have to get to the heart of this, release more land and bring supply and demand into balance.
To read more
JJS: Yet the needed land need not be pristine wilderness or farmland but can and should be land left idle in already developed areas. To stimulate owners of underused sites to get busy, there is an easy mechanism available to government, that the town councilor below suggests. So while a member of the British House of Lords cites a particular problem, a member of an Australian town’s council cites a broad solution.
We All Have an Equal Right to the Bounty of Earth
From this simple statement, great insights unfold. If we are born with equal rights, how come some people are rich, while most people are poor -- very poor? Social justice is a worthy aim, but without economic justice, it is unattainable.
There is a fairer way to share the earth’s bounty, so that the widening gap between rich and poor can be closed. If we are born with an equal right to the resources of the earth, then we should all share equally in the dividends of our common wealth.
The collection of land and resource rents for public purposes is an idea whose time has come.
To read more
JJS: While a member of an Australian town’s council cites a broad solution, so does a national Australian commission.
Stamp Duty Reform Will Take Decades
Treasurer Andrew Barr said this morning that the government had accepted a key recommendation of the long-awaited Quinlan review of taxation that the transaction tax was inequitable and should be abolished.
Mr Barr said the review would form the foundation of a historic agenda for reform of the government's revenue-raising efforts that would be based on "fairness, efficiency and simplicity."
There are also recommendations to abolish duties on general insurance and life insurance, to retain payroll tax in some form, and to adopt a broad-based land tax to replace the revenues forgone from the reforms.
To read more
JJS: While a member of an Australian town’s council cites a broad solution, so does a candidate for a Canadian town’s city council.
Rein In Real Estate Speculators
There’s really only one way to make Toronto housing affordable for everyone -- including young families. But the City can’t do it alone; the provincial government will need to help out.
Step one: the Ontario government would need to instruct the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) to ignore buildings and assess only the land under buildings.
Step two: Toronto would then apply the municipal tax to the lot values alone, also ignoring buildings.
The tax rate would need to be raised to make up the revenue lost by untaxing buildings -- but remember, this is a revenue-neutral tax shift. The only difference would be people with larger houses on small lots would pay a little less, while people with smaller houses on large lots would pay a little more.
This tax system, called “land value taxation,” is used successfully in many jurisdictions around the world. Under LVT, Toronto property owners could improve, renovate, and expand without being hit by tax increases.
Also, holding vacant and under-used land (parking lots) out of its best use would cost more, so speculators would have no choice but to build now or sell to someone who would.
And, since land becomes more expensive to hold, developers would be encouraged to build more and larger units on less land to meet the needs of all at reasonable prices. Infill and building higher would result, providing needed housing without urban sprawl.
To read more
JJS: Earthsharing Canada also has a new video, their first! To read more .
While a Canadian activist uploads a great video, an American activist uploads a great seminar talk.
Dan Sullivan: We are inviting people who advocate shifting away from property tax to debate that issue. David Baldinger initially accepted the challenge, but has not responded to our subsequent invitations. We will accept anyone, but prefer the best advocates.
To read more
JJS: Also, Dan gave a fascinating talk on history and reform at a seminar in Pittsburgh's Black & White Reunion in January. To read more .
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
If the state won’t collect the commonwealth …
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