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Dave Beans

George Monbiot - The Only Way To Fairness In Housing Is To Tax Property

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The problem with a bedroom tax is that it would most likely be an addition to the tax system rather than a substitution (i.e. we wouldn't pay less elsewhere), would catch a lot of people who aren't actually that well off (because a. the government assumes kids shouldn't have seperate bedrooms so would most likely tax rooms that were occupied and b. bedrooms in new builds are tiny so someone with a much larger property in terms of floorspace could end up paying less tax than someone crammed into a tiny new build), and would most likely be easy to avoid (by re-classifying your spare bedroom as a library or knocking through your mansion for New York penthouse style living with one giant uber-bedroom, etc, etc).

What we need is a total change in the emphasis of taxation away from income and towards resource use and a much much simpler system of taxes in order to close down loopholes, not additional taxes on top of what we already pay adding a further layer of complication to a system that is already rife with opportunities for evasion. Monbiot's older article on Land Value Tax is much better:

For the simplest, fairest and least avoidable levy is one that the major parties simply will not contemplate. It's called land value tax.

The term is a misnomer. It's not really a tax. It's a return to the public of the benefits we have donated to the landlords. When land rises in value, the government and the people deliver a great unearned gift to those who happen to own it.

In 1909 a dangerous subversive explained the issue thus. "Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived ... the unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done."

Who was this firebrand? Winston Churchill. As Churchill, Adam Smith and many others have pointed out, those who own the land skim wealth from everyone else, without exertion or enterprise. They "levy a toll upon all other forms of wealth and every form of industry". A land value tax would recoup this toll.

It would have a number of other benefits. It stops the speculative land hoarding that prevents homes from being built. It ensures that the most valuable real estate – in city centres – is developed first, discouraging urban sprawl. It prevents speculative property bubbles, of the kind that have recently trashed the economies of Ireland, Spain and other nations, and that make rents and first homes so hard to afford. Because it does not affect the supply of land (they stopped making it some time ago), it cannot cause the rents that people must pay to the landlords to be raised. It is easy to calculate and hard to avoid: you can't hide your land in London in a secret account in the Cayman Islands. And it could probably discharge the entire deficit.

It is altogether remarkable, in these straitened and inequitable times, that land value tax is not at the heart of the current political debate. Perhaps it is a sign of how powerful the rent-seeking class in Britain has become. While the silence surrounding this obvious solution exposes Labour's limitations, it also exposes the contradiction at the heart of the Conservative party. The Conservatives claim, in David Cameron's words, to be "the party of enterprise". But those who benefit most from its policies are those who are rich already. It is, in reality, the party of rent.

This is where the debate about workers and shirkers, strivers and skivers should have led. The skivers and shirkers sucking the money out of your pockets are not the recipients of social security demonised by the Daily Mail and the Conservative party, the overwhelming majority of whom are honest claimants. We are being parasitised from above, not below, and the tax system should reflect this.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/21/i-agree-with-churchill-shirkers-tax?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

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