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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/492

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472
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

profits were greatly impaired. The income from the Federal domains amounts to about five tenths per cent of the total revenue. The largest item of expense to the Confederation is the army, which requires nearly forty per cent of its entire revenue. "Although carrying on no wars of its own nor joining in the conquests of other countries, Switzerland is compelled to undergo this great expense in order to preserve her neutrality and the integrity of her borders."

The comparatively recent tax experience of the twenty-two Cantons of Switzerland has been very peculiar, and different in many respects from that of any other country—a result that might naturally have been expected from their respective governmental independence, jealousy of other cantons, internal antagonisms consequent on the division of each canton into subgoverning communes, and in the radical differences in respect both to language and religion.

The taxation of property in general (or the so-called general property tax) has been thoroughly tried in Switzerland and, although substantially abandoned in all other European countries, is still adhered to, and constitutes an important feature in the fiscal system of all the Swiss Cantons. In the case of realty the tax is levied on the capital, and not upon the annual value of the estate. In the case of personal property everything is taxed, whether it yields an income or not—furniture, pictures, jewelry, carriages, etc.; but furniture and trade appliances up to the value of $1,000 are exempted.

With a view to the successful enforcement of this kind of taxation almost every conceivable method has been devised and adopted, such as self-assessment in the form of compulsory returns on the part of the individual; assessments by officials on assumed data, oaths and no oaths, publicity and secrecy; and all of these, as has been the experience of the United States in the same line of policy, have been confessedly ineffective. One institution, however, has been developed in recent years that is peculiar to Switzerland, and that is the so-called inventory method (inventarization). "As soon as a taxpayer dies his entire property is at once seized by the Government and held until an exact inventory is made of it. If this discloses fraud in the previous self-assessments, punitive taxes must be paid, ranging in some cantons over a period of ten years." That such a method of tax administration has and will prove effective in increasing tax receipts can not be doubted, but its objectionable features are no less evident. Thus it intrudes upon the privacy of families, for the purpose of fixing seals upon their property, at a most inopportune moment, and seeks evidence of the violation of law, "as it were, in the very chamber of death." It also offers a bounty