Taxation of Business Property: Is Uniformity Still a Valid Norm?

By John H. Bowman; Frederick D. Stocker | Go to book overview

10
SELECTED BUSINESS PROPERTY TAXATION ISSUES: PERSONAL PROPERTY

John L. Mikesell

Personal property now constitutes a smaller share of the property tax base--about 10 percent--than at any time since the presumption of a general property tax developed in the first half of the nineteenth century. The share remains above 20 percent in eleven states, however, and where it does constitute a significant share, it is because of business personal property remaining in the base. In light of the quest for broader sales and income tax bases in recent years, is there a case for altering the path of narrower coverage of personal property, or should more states follow the lead of those removing such property from the general base?


HOW HAS THE PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX DEVELOPED?

Personal property was a natural inclusion in the property tax base under the "assumption of homogeneity" that drove tax policy in the first half of the nineteenth century. The idea that property ownership, regardless of form or use, indicated taxable capacity was probably reasonable in an agrarian economy that lacked complex financial instruments. That implied both broad coverage of properties, real and personal, and the uniformity clauses that dictated equal rates and valuation standards for those properties.

The zenith of personal property share occurred in the Civil War period. The real component of the ad valorem base was only 57.7 percent in 1860 but had risen to 74.4 percent by 1890. By 1937, the personal share of the base was less than 16 percent, a share that held to the mid-1950s ( Netzer 1966: 139). The 1986 share, 10.1 percent, shows decline in the next thirty years, but nothing like the decline during the first three decades of this century ( U.S. Bureau of the Census 1989: vii). Although some states have excluded personal property from the tax in recent decades, their actions have not had the aggregate influence of that experienced in earlier years.

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Taxation of Business Property: Is Uniformity Still a Valid Norm?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vii
  • Foreword xi
  • 1: Taxation of Business Property Overview 1
  • Conclusion 21
  • 2: Perspectives on the Business Property Tax Base 25
  • Conclusions 43
  • Notes 43
  • 3: Emerging Legal Issues: Valuation and Expenditures Limitations, Toxic Waste Impacts, and Intangibles Valuation 45
  • Conclusion 61
  • Notes 62
  • 4: Uniformity as a Policy Objective 63
  • 5: Uniformity in the Context of Other Concerns 77
  • Conclusions 89
  • Notes 91
  • 6: Enforcement of Uniformity 93
  • Notes 109
  • 7: Business Property Tax Incentives and Economic Development 111
  • Appendix 7 Business Property Tax Incentives by State, 1992 124
  • 8: Special Problems in the Valuation of Business Property 139
  • Conclusion 149
  • 9: Tax Valuation of Contaminated Property 151
  • Conclusions 158
  • 10: Selected Business Property Taxation Issues: Personal Property 161
  • Notes 169
  • 11: Future Directions for Business Property Taxation 171
  • Notes 182
  • References 185
  • Index 195
  • CONTRIBUTORS 203
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