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constitution should apply to any measure relating to taxation or exemption, approved by the people, whether passed by the legislature or submitted by initiative petition; fourth, it empowered the people of the several counties "to regulate taxation and exemptions within their several counties, subject to any general law which may be hereafter enacted."
The two amendments proposed by the legislature were defeated, and the one proposed by initiative petition was adopted by a narrow margin.
The underlying purpose of this amendment was to provide complete county option, but no enabling machinery was provided and opinions on both sides differ as to whether existing laws will cover such an election. Even had the legislature desired to provide such machinery its hands were tied by the provision that no tax legislation can be effective until ratified at the next general election. The amendment prevents all progress until the fall election of 1912 and there was no tax legislation this year.
The legislature has resubmitted to the people two amendments practically identical with those defeated last year, and designed to give the legislature a free hand in dealing with tax matters. It has also submitted an amendment repealing the one adopted last year with the exception of the provision relating to the poll tax.
Changes in Tax Laws. The changes of general interest made in the statutes may be divided into three groups, those affecting personal property; those affecting inheritances; and those affecting administration.
Personal Property Tax. Iowa placed moneys and credits in a special class to be taxed, after making an offset for debts, at a rate uniform through the state of five mills. The tax is assessed and collected where the owner resides, and divided upon the same pro rata basis among various funds as other taxes collected in such district. This law does not apply to banking capital or shares. The tax ferret law of 1900 and all acts giving local officials the power to employ ferrets, was repealed.
Michigan enacted a mortgage-recording tax of 50 cents on the $100, similar to the New York law, and exempting mortgages from local assessment.
Minnesota enacted an annual tax of three mills on the fair cash value of "money and credits" in lieu of all other taxes. "Money" includes all forms of currency in common use, and bank deposits.
“Credits" include "every claim or demand for money or other valuable thing, every annuity or sum receivable at stated periods, due or to become due, and all claims and demands secured by unrecorded deed or mortgage, due or to become due." The former offset for debts has been repealed, and no deduction is allowed.
These forms of personal property are listed, assessed and equalized separately from other classes of property, sworn confidential lists being made out by the persons assessed. In case of failure to make such list, the assessor is given power to fill out the same to the best of his knowledge, and a penalty of fifty per cent is added thereto.
The tax is collected in the same manner as other personal property taxes, and is distributed, one sixth to the revenue fund of the State of Minnesota, one sixth to the county revenue fund, one third to the city, village or town, and one third to the school district in which the property is assessed.
The new law does not include money and credits of banks, bonds and notes secured by mortgage in Minnesota, and state and municipal bonds. Bonds of the State of Minnesota or its governmental subdivisions, hereafter issued, have been exempted from all taxation except the inheritance tax. It should be noted that Minnesota has had for several years a recording tax similar to the New York law, and exempting mortgages on Minnesota real estate from the general property tax.
New Hampshire exempted money loaned at not exceeding five per cent and secured by note or mortgage on real estate in the state.
New York has enacted a flat tax payable once only and to the state, at the rate of one-half per cent on the face value of "secured debts." The term includes all mortgages not recorded in New York and bonds or notes or debentures secured thereby, also unsecured serial bonds, and state and local bonds of other states. The tax is an extension of the mortgage-recording tax plan and supplementary thereto. Payment gives exemption from local taxation. If this state tax is not paid, the secured debts continue to be assessable locally, but without deduction for debt.
Wisconsin has enacted a state graduated income tax, carrying with it exemption of such personal property as moneys and credits, stocks, household furniture and farm machinery. And taxes paid on personal property not exempted, can be deducted from the sum due for income tax.
Exemptions are $800 to an individual income; $1200 to husband and
wife; $200 for each child under eighteen, or each person for whose support the taxpayer is liable. Incomes of non-residents from property in the state are taxable without exemption. The rates range from one per cent on the first thousand dollars of taxable income, up to six per cent on all above $12,000. The tax is divided, ten per cent to state, twenty per cent to county, and seventy to the town where the income is derived.
Corporation incomes are taxed on a differently graded scale, based on the relation between profits and assets employed. Dividends are then exempted from the individual income tax.
The state tax commission administers the tax and is empowered to appoint income tax assessors, not less than one in each county, for three-year terms. Such assessors will also have the powers of the present county supervisors of assessment over the local assessors.
Bonds of local subdivisions have been exempted by another statute from the property tax.
Ohio seems to have adopted a reactionary attitude in personal property taxation. In that state the law allows debts to be offset against credits only. The legislature passed a bill to define bank deposits or credits (following in this the rule adopted in the State of Washington), but this bill was vetoed by the governor. The legislature also passed a bill amending the law relating to the powers of the state tax commission so that it could not be interpreted to permit the commission to demand from banks and financial institutions the names of their depositors and amounts of their respective deposits. This also was vetoed by the governor.
Despite the notorious failure of the general property tax in Ohio, as evidenced by the reports of its own investigating commission and confirmed by investigators of other states, who held Ohio conditions up as a horrible example to their own states, Ohio seems determined to continue the vain attempt to reach personal property under the general property tax by drastic and inquisitorial methods.
Oklahoma also is experimenting with inquisitorial methods, having adopted a tax ferret law despite the sad experiences of other states.
Inheritance Tax. New York took a pronounced stand in favor of interstate comity in tax matters by exempting certain intangible property of non-resident decedents from the inheritance tax. Other important changes were also made.
Prior to last year, the rates had for a number of years been one per cent on amounts to direct heirs and five per cent to collaterals. If
less than $10,000 passed to direct heirs, or less than $500 to collateral, the estate was exempt. In 1910 the law was radically changed. The rates were based on the bequest and went up to five per cent on direct and twenty-five per cent on collateral on the excess over $1,000,000. The exemptions were lowered to $5,000 and $500 for direct and $100 for collateral. The double taxation in which New York had been a conspicuous offender was continued and aggravated by the high rates.
This year the law has been amended so that money and securities of non-residents deposited in the state and their shares in New York corporations, are exempt. (Such property is generally liable in the state of the decedent's residence.) This exemption does not depend upon reciprocal provisions of other states but is absolute. It follows the “model law” endorsed by the International Tax Conference in 1910, and stops so far as New York can, double taxation of such property. The high rates of last year have been modified, four and eight per cent being the maximum, and the exemptions are more liberal, though the principle of progressive graded rates has been retained.
In addition, bequests to religious, educational and charitable purposes, outside the state, are given the exemption heretofore confined to bequests to such purposes within the state.
California, on the other hand, has increased its inheritance tax rates until they now reach a maximum of twenty-five per cent on bequests in excess of $500,000 to distant relations and strangers; the greatest rate previously having been fifteen per cent.
Maine has exempted, when owned by non-residents, shares and bonds of corporations organized under its laws, that have less than $1,000 of tangible property in the state.
Iowa and Minnesota have readjusted their rates.
Administration. State Tax Commissions have been created in three states: Colorado, New Hampshire and North Dakota. In general the laws follow the Minnesota and Kansas acts and give broader powers than is possessed by most of the older state tax commissions.
New York has radically changed its method of assessing real estate. Assessments will now be in rem everywhere, as they have been in some cities only. Tax maps may be adopted and property assessed by block and lot numbers. The separate assessment plan used in New York City has been extended to all cities in the state. A mathematical rule for equalization by county supervisors between local tax districts has been placed in the statute. The state comptroller is directed to compile annually statistics relating to local taxes and
expenses and the provisions for sinking funds. The assessment of special franchises has been improved by conferring additional powers upon the state board of tax commissioners.
Oklahoma abolished township assessors and township boards of equalization. County assessors are to be appointed by the governor for next year and their successors are to be elected in November, 1912, and biennially thereafter, for two-year terms. The compensation of the county assessor is graded according to the assessed valuation, and he must pay whatever deputies he appoints. The county commissioners are made a board of equalization of which the assessor is secretary, and have summary power to correct the assessment roll, subject to appeal.
North Carolina increased the powers of the corporation commission (which performs the duties of a tax commission). The commission is to appoint a county assessor in each county for a two-year term, who shall devote not exceeding three months to his work and receive four dollars a day for time actually employed. He is to have general supervision over the township or city assessors, who are appointed by the county commissioners annually.
Michigan restored to the state board of tax commissioners the power (of which they were deprived in 1905) to review assessments in any district on their own initiative, and to order a reassessment.
Ohio enacted a new tax limit law (replacing the law of 1910 that had not yet been applied). This law provides that the total tax rate for all local purposes levied in any district, shall not exceed ten mills ($1 on the $100). Maximum rates are specified for county, city, township, and school purposes, aggregating fifteen mills. A budget commission is established for each county, consisting of the county auditor, the mayor of the largest city in the county and the prosecuting attorney, who pass upon all local appropriations, and if these would require a higher total rate than ten mills the commission is to adjust them as it sees fit to within the limit. Specific increases over the local or the total maximum rate may be authorized by popular vote, but the aggregate tax rate must not exceed fifteen mills. These limits do not seem to include the state "direct” tax which, however, is very small.
The law provides also that the total amount raised in any tax district in 1911 shall not exceed the levy of 1910 by more than six per cent, that raised in 1912 shall not exceed 1910 more than nine per