Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/18

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

transitu. As a matter of fact the granaries for no small portion of the surplus stock of the world's cereals are at the present time ships and railroad cars in the process of movement to the points of greatest demand for consumption. What shall be the situs of all such things for assessment? If actual location is to be determinative, then a product of grain, or merchandise, which, in movement for a market, or conversion into other forms, may happen to be in Illinois in April, in Ohio or Massachusetts in May, in New York in July, in New Jersey in August, and in Connecticut in October, will be liable to five separate taxes in one and the same year; for the laws of each of these States require their assessors to return, for taxation, all such property as at the periods mentioned may be actually within the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the taxing authority.

If, therefore, the existing system of taxing visible and tangible personal property in the United States is to be continued and made equitable and effective, the first essential step for the purpose of making it such, by preventing evasions and avoiding duplicate taxation on one and the same persons and property, is for all the States to agree that all their assessors shall make their visitations, inspections, and appraisements for the purpose of assessment on one and the same day, as, for example, the first day of April. The following probable forecast of the result has been made by a recent writer:

"On the appointed day, all over the country, a swarm of assessors must besiege the factories, mills, shops, and stores for the purpose of making an honest valuation of all merchandise on hand. This valuation must be completed in one day; or otherwise Smith's valuation being completed on April 1st, while Jones is left to April 2d, there will be a midnight exodus of easily portable goods from Jones to Smith, so that one assessor shall find little of value in the possession of Jones on April 2d. No help must be asked in the work of valuation from the owners or clerks; for if that is done, the assessor might just as well accept the sworn returns of the owners, as is done now, with the most ludicrous and inequitous results. As it is evident also that it would be impossible for the owners themselves to make such a valuation in one day, even with the aid of all their clerks, there must be a number of assessors employed, exceeding all the number of persons employed in holding and selling merchandise. The work might, however, by extreme diligence be done m a rough way by two million local assessors. As it would take them at least three days to tabulate, copy, and file their returns, besides the one day occupied in valuing, each would serve at least for four days; and if paid at the rate necessary to procure men competent for the task, the lowest cost of such an assessment, independent of printing