Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/22

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ceived any higher consideration from the public than that of being denounced and laughed at. And most naturally; for what woman would tell her age or the amount and value of her jewelry and finery, and more especially to a stranger invested with brief official authority as an inquisitor and assessor?

Again, a very large part of what is termed "personal property" is, through the necessities, policy, or organization of governments, made exempt from taxation; as, for example, all instrumentalities and property of a government—national, State, or municipal—especially the bonds, notes, currency, and certificates of indebtedness issued by the United States. The several States also generally exempt or lightly tax the deposits and surplus of savings banks, the accumulations of mutual insurance companies, the property of charitable, religious, or educational organizations, and also a comparatively small amount—but large in the aggregate—of personal property in the form of household furniture, clothing, working tools, vehicles, and animals, and the produce of farms not sold but consumed by the producers; and that the present tendency of State legislation is furthermore to continually enlarge the list of exempt property. The aggregate money value of such exemptions can not be accurately stated, but there is reason to believe that they include about one fifth of all the personal property of the United States.[1]

Taxation of the Instrumentalities of Commerce.—Extensive as has been the foregoing review of the inherent difficulties attendant on the attempt to equitably and efficiently tax personal property, the results of taxing the instrumentalities or objects of commerce are especially worthy of additional notice in this connection.

A little reflection ought to abundantly satisfy that to tax the instrumentalities or objects of commerce in one locality, and to exempt the same from all direct taxation in another, will clearly not permit the former to enter a common market on an equal basis for competition with the latter. And yet this unjust discrimination is exactly what does result from the attempt of a majority of the States of the Federal Union to tax all such instrumentalities or

  1. The New Jersey State Board of Taxation, in their annual report for 1895, call attention to the fact that, out of the total amount of assessed property in that State in 1894, nearly ten per cent, or $72,786, 571, was exempt from taxation. The amount of tax exemptions in Newark, N. J. (a city which within recent years has been nearly bankrupt by excessive indebtedness and taxation), is reported for 1897 at $18,076,568, made up in part as follows: Churches, $4,081,750; private schools, $196,900; city property, $4,924,950; cemeteries, $893,800; charitable institutions, $1,231,700; public parks, $4,654,867. Soldiers' and sailors' widows have exemption to the amount of $523,675; firemen, $79,445; the National Guard, $36,475. These figures do not include the railroad exemptions, which are under the charge of the State Tax Commissioners.