Monday, November 14, 2005

Live free or die? Not quite

In the never-ending search for content to read over breakfast oatmeal, I came across a rather provocative piece in The Washington Post.

Entitled N.H. Puts a Price on Panoramas, the article describes how assessors in the state made famous for banishing income taxes are now placing monetary values on the views from certain homes. These so-called bonus features are then used as the basis for increases in property tax assessments.

I have no quarrel with the basic concept of taxes. As I've repeated so often before, it's the price we pay for the standard of living we currently enjoy. I take issue, however, with blatant grabs for cash that violate every ethical contract between ratepayers and their democratically elected governments.

I know these things matter little to the porcine politicos we put into office and their civil servant cousins who collectively feed at the publicly-funded trough. But their indifference does little to reduce unfair taxation's impact on the rest of us.

Selfishly and somewhat sheepishly, I do admit I'm almost sorry that municipal governments closer to home haven't tried anything similar. I'd happily devote a column or two to this if it was ever floated for our part of the world.

Your turn:
Now that they're taxing the view, I guess it's open season on all of us. What will they decide to tax next? Will this cat-and-mouse game ever really end?

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Update: The Washington Post has picked up this link on its "Who's Blogging?" page. Click here to see who else is blogging about this story.

14 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

This sounds like they've been listening to George Harrison's Taxman a little bit too much.

Anita said...

Carmi,

I'm pretty much an anti-taxation girl myself, but I'm not in agreement with you on this one.

The view is absolutely a key determinant of housing value. And housing value is the basis of property taxes. So if the view is not taken into account, then in effect, you are taxing people without a view unfairly. Homes without a view have a lower market value than those with one. A lot lower in many cases.

I do agree with you though that politicians grab for cash anyway they can and that the money is frequently misused. Taxes should be much lower and much easier to pay. We need reform badly.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

They're threatening us with view taxes here in the UK too. See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1860008,00.html. Although I haven't read anything suggesting that if your view is over a rubbish tip, or of a brick wall a few feet away, your tax will go down. I wonder why that is?

I'm in favour of paying tax for a good standard of education, health care, roads, emergency services etc. But I don't think the cat-and-mouse game will end any time soon, because one person's fair tax is another person's outrage.

buffi said...

So...if youlive next door to a bakery will they tax the smell? And, if the view from your home is crappy, do you get a tax credit? That is ridiculous.

netchick said...

Well, actually, this already happens behind the scenes -- Or at least it does here in British Columbia, where nicer areas of town (almost always with a view of the water, or the mountains) are taxed far higher than the areas at sea-level no where near the ocean.

I say, if you can afford the land values your home is sitting on, you can afford the higher taxes that comes along with the nicer area.

But then again, I come from one of the highest taxed societies... And I appreciate having socialized healthcare and better amenities for what I pay in taxes.

Easy said...

This is outrageous!! While the view can affect the purchase price, it's a very subjective thing. The whole system of assessing property values is screwed up.

Dave said...

I live in New Hampshire, and I can tell you firsthand, view is very very important. I drove down the road the other day and there's this big huge view as you drive down the hill from my town to the next. well all of a sudden there is this new house that you can. see. what the heck is that doing there, I thought. uggh.

but here's the other side of it. our little town (2000 folks) tries to maintain its rural character. and if there is a premium to be paid for views, towns can keep valuations high by preserving the views. I know it sounds twisted, but we're a strange bunch up here.

Aginoth said...

The window tax was a glass tax which was an important social, cultural, and architectural force in the United Kingdom during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Glass making was costly and the use of glass for windows and other purposes was even costlier because of a tax levied specifically on it. The tax was introduced in 1696 under King William III of England and was designed to impose tax relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer. The bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, hence the more tax the occupants would pay. This is the reason for the bricked-up windows so often seen in very old houses in the UK.

The richest families in the kingdom used this tax to set themselves apart from the merely rich. They would commission a country home or a manor house whose architecture would make the maximum possible use of windows. In extreme cases they would have windows built over structural walls. It was an exercise in ostentation, spurred by the window tax.

The tax was not repealed until 1851, when it was replaced by a tax akin to the present-day "council tax".

Some allege that the term "daylight robbery" originated from this tax, but given that the phrase daylight robbery was first recorded in 1949 (ref: http://www.takeourword.com/), centuries after the "window tax", this seems unlikely.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_tax"

Thumper said...

OK. Supose you have a nice view. If the window is damaged and you put drywall up instead of a new window, do your taxes go down?

I bet not...

We're all taxed waaaay too much as it is.

Michael Manning said...

Carmi: You are a good guy who trusts the basic concept. However, I have become fed up of taxes collected for one purpose, then diverted to another. The neighborhood I grew up in is a mixed bag. THe once nice shopping center (predating "Malls") is now run down and hoodlums hang out there at night. On the other hand, a vacant restaurant for 5 years was recenntly leased and remodeled into Poppye's Chicken and a new car wash was built. YAY! But then Section 8 arrived and property values plummeted. With so many up and down variables I wonder if some sort of Steve Forbes Flat Tax is an answer? So, I agree with the music whore, but at the end of the day, what is the solution? One works to improve their home with an addition of a side porch and they are punnished for it? I prefer incentives.

Claire said...

Our Government will probably just slap a 3rd tax on petrol...we've already have each litre double taxed so why not triple?!

Plumkrazzee said...

If the view out your front window is determining your property taxes, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. *ahhhhhhh* I should never be charged more than $1.00 per quarter.

John D Schultz said...

Carmi,

I agree with Anita. When looking for property, the property with the location, location, location is the property with the highest value.

I fully expect that a lakeshore or ocean-front property would have a higher assessed value than a similar property that was located next to a commercial or industrial development.

The quantification of the value of the view is certainly subjective. However, it is completely inline for the assessor (who by law is required to assess the value of a property to within 10% of the actual market value) to account for all variables used to determine value of a property.

la la la I can't hear you said...

I'd write about this at Lam(b), but I have some local readers, and I'm scared I'll give the town tax assessor a bright new idea. She's got enough of em as it is without my help.