Tag Archives: andrew-stunell

Tories (and Lib Dems) in a Pickle over Council Tax

Eric Pickles is getting his knickers in a twist about new government guidelines that suggest that “double glazing, central heating and fixed kitchen units” should all be taken into account when adjusting council tax on the basis that (gasp!) they might affect the value of the property.

The reason for this doesn’t really have much to do with the general evilness of the government. It has far more to do with the fact that, um, council tax is a tax which is at least supposed to be based on a property’s value. And who introduced this state of affairs? Why it would be Mr Pickles and his chums in the Conservative Party.

If the Tories are opposed to property taxes, they should propose scrapping them. To propose never revaluing property again is to say that people who live in houses which have, relatively speaking, devalued in recent years should subsidise the winners of the property market. If you don’t like the invasive nature of government inspections, then this is yet another reason for a land value tax – which isn’t based on things like your kitchen or your windows but on the land values which are externally calculated.

But of course they’d never advocate such a thing: it is hard-wired into their genes, as Lloyd George would be able to tell you. Sadly, the Lib Dems are similarly averse to taxing land values, preferring to tax labour instead, which is why Andrew Stunell here becomes a strange bedfellow with Pickles.

For some sanity, we must cross the Atlantic for a sensible editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Dutiful city taxpayers’ real grievance is with the high percentage of property-tax deadbeats, and with the city for not doing more to collect back taxes, which now amount to more than a half billion dollars, according to Hallwatch.org.

While this new wave of assessments should leave the city property tax system less out of whack, it isn’t the best fix.

The reform commission proposed the better ideas in 2003: A new citywide valuation at full market value (instead of the current, wildly confusing fractional system) and a gradual move to a two-tiered system of taxing land more aggressively than the buildings on it. This “land-value taxation” encourages smart growth while discouraging speculators and slumlords.