CHAPTER XVI
TAXES ON WINDFALLS

§ 1. By windfalls I mean accretions to the real value of people's property that are not foreseen by them and are not in any degree due to efforts made, intelligence exercised, risks borne, or capital invested by them. In the present chapter I propose to consider taxes assessed upon these objects. It is apparent immediately that in their announcement aspect such taxes conform to the ideal, for they take the same given amount of money from the taxpayer without reference to his conduct in any respect. What is to be said of them in their distributional aspect?

§ 2. It is possible to imagine a community in which, by a miraculous dispensation of Providence, windfalls are so distributed that large ones always go to poor people, moderate ones to men of middle incomes, and none at all to rich people. In actual life there is no reason to suppose that anything of this sort happens. On the contrary, if any general presumption can be made, it is that rich people are more likely to enjoy windfalls than anybody else, because most windfalls consist in unlooked-for changes in the value of some piece of material property, and pieces of material property are, in the main, owned by rich men. We have, therefore, no ground for supposing that windfalls as a whole are good for distribution or that taxes upon them would be distributionally bad. Something might be said, if it were administratively practiable, for exempting from taxation any windfalls (of moderate amount) that fall to poor people: but, apart from this, in so far as true windfalls can in practice be isolated, the general considerations set out in this volume point towards heavy taxation--perhaps 100 per cent taxation--of all of them.

-177-

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