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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/337

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

the disagreement among economists respecting the diffusion of taxes has mainly originated.

With this premise, let us next consider what facts and experiences are pertinent to this subject, and available to assist in reaching sound conclusions; proceeding very carefully and cautiously in so doing, inasmuch as territory is to be entered upon that has not been generally or thoroughly explored.

The facts and experiences of first importance in such inquiry are that the examination of the tax rolls in any State, city, or municipality of the United States will show that surprisingly small numbers of persons primarily pay or advance any kind of taxes. It is not probable that more than one tenth of the adult population or about one twentieth of the entire population of the United States ever come in contact officially with a tax assessor or tax collector. It is also estimated that less than two per cent of the total population of the United States advance the entire customs and internal revenue of the Federal Government.

In the investigations made in 1871, by a commission created by the Legislature of the State of New York to revise its laws relative to the assessment and collection of taxes, it was found that in the city of New York, out of a population of over one million in the above year, only 8,920 names, or less than one per cent of this great multitude of people, had "any household furniture, money, goods, chattels, debts due from solvent debtors, whether on account of contract, note, bond, or mortgage, or any public stocks, or stocks in moneyed corporations, or in general any personal property of which the assessors could take cognizance for taxation"; and further, that not over four per cent, or, say, forty thousand persons out of the million, were subject to any primary tax in respect to the ownership of any property whatever, real or personal; while only a few years subsequent, or in 1875, the regular tax commissioners of New York estimated that of the property defined and described by the laws of the State as personal property, an amount approximating two thousand million dollars in value was held in New York city alone. Later investigations show that this state of things has continued. Thus, in 1895, out of a population of about two million, it was estimated that only seventy-nine thousand, or not over four per cent of the inhabitants of the city, were subject to primary taxation, and that one half the whole amount collected in that year was paid by less than a thousand persons. In the city of Boston, where the tax laws are executed in the most arbitrary manner, the ratio of population directly assessed is somewhat greater, but aside from the poll tax, which is a per capita and not a property tax, only 7.27 per cent of residents paid a property tax in 1895 out of a population of 494,205. In one of the