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Me Tax Efficient

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Submitted By cy283
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A tax is an involuntary fee levied on producers and consumers by the government that is used to finance government activities. A land value tax is a tax that is paid by landowners to the government based on the value of the land, disregarding property and any improvements made to the land. The most efficient tax would result in the least distortion of economic decision making thereby interfering the least with the market’s efficient allocation of resources and reducing the “excess burden” on society.

In this essay, we shall be first examining the economic effect of a land tax, and discuss how land tax is economically efficient. Then I will discuss how land value tax may not be the most efficient tax due to the supply elasticity of land created by government land use regulations and the existence of alternative potentially efficient tax bases.

Refer to figure 1. As land is immobile and the amount of land available at any point in time is fixed, we assume the supply of land (S) is perfectly price inelastic. Demand for land use is represented by D. The rent paid by the land user to the landowner is OR, and the rental revenue earned by the owner is ORAQ on figure 1. Changes in the economic rent of land do not affect the quantity of land supplied.

With the implementation of a land value tax of OT, based on the value of the land, the total rental revenue received by the landowner is reduced from ORAQ to TRAB, and the tax revenue earned by the government is OTBQ. As the supply of land is perfectly price inelastic, the incidence of the tax is borne fully by the suppliers, i.e. the landowner. If the landowner attempts to shift the tax burden to the land user, they would simply move to another plot of land where the rent is OR. The land user thus pays the same rent OR, whereas the landowner receives lower after-tax rental revenue.
Taxes change the prices faced by producers and consumers, thereby affecting their market choices (to save, invest, work, or consume) and distorting the otherwise efficient allocation of goods and services by the free market.

The implementation of a tax of shoes, for example, is represented by an upward shift of supply (S) to (Stax) and a shift in the market equilibrium from E1 to E2 in figure 2. This would lead to a corresponding increase in price from P1 to P2 and a decrease in quantity of shoes supplied from Q1 to Q2. The deadweight loss (social cost of the tax) is represented by area X on figure 2. This loss results from the re-allocation of resources and is the economic inefficiency of taxes. People would now face a reduced quantity of shoes Q2 at a higher price P2. The most efficient tax would thus be the tax that incurs the least social cost.

Land value tax is seen as an efficient form of taxation because it does not distort people’s economic decision-making, does not affect the free market’s allocation of resources, and thus does not result in any deadweight loss. This is because the quantity of land supplied is not affected by the implementation of a land value tax. This is represented in figure 1 where the implementation of tax OT does not cause a change in the quantity of land supplied (S), and the market equilibrium remains at point A. Compared to other taxes, land tax does not discourage any desirable economic activity; taxes on income reduce people’s incentive to work, taxes on capital may result in the outflow of capital to other countries, and taxes on labour may result in greater unemployment.

Taxes on property discourage the investment and maintenance of structures. Land value tax therefore is a more efficient form of taxation than property tax as it enables the government to raise the same amount of revenue without discouraging the development of land. This encourages more intensive use of land otherwise known as the capital-intensity effect.

Land value tax does not distort investment decisions. When a land value tax is introduced, only the pre-existing landowners on the day of tax implementation would suffer a reduction in the price of their land that is equal (???) to the value of the tax. This is represented in figure 3 below, where the demand for a parcel of land shifts down from Dbuyer to Dpost-tax, and there is a corresponding fall in price from P1 to P2 with no change in the quantity of land supplied. This is because potential buyers would also be subject to the land value tax after purchasing the land and would thus reduce the price they are willing to pay for land by the amount of the tax. Owners of the land bear the full incidence of the tax even if they choose to sell their land in response to the tax. The incentives to buy, develop, and use the land are not affected, and economic activity that was worthwhile prior to the tax remain just as worthwhile after the tax is implemented.

Land value tax does not affect the allocation of productive resources that are combined with land. This is because land tax is applied across all uses of land, and will thus not affect whether the land will be used for agricultural, industrial, or residential purposes.

Additionally, land value taxes are equitable as any increase to the value of land that landowners enjoy result from external developments and from not their own efforts or expenditure. Such benefits include the construction of infrastructure such as a train station or the provision of electricity in the vicinity. Most of these developments are the result of the efforts of the community, and accomplished through taxpayers’ money. By introducing a land tax, any increases in the value of the land would be captured by the tax.

A land value tax may not be the most efficient form of taxation because land value tax may not be completely neutral in its effects, and this distortion of the otherwise efficient allocation of resources may lead to deadweight loss to society.

One way this may occur is through the presence of land-use regulations enforced in some countries. In the UK, for example, land that is designated for residential use cannot be used to build a factory. In January 2009, one hectare of agricultural land in Southeast England cost £20,000, whereas one hectare of residential land cost £2.5m. As the value of land designated for residential purposes is much higher than for agricultural land, the corresponding land value tax for residential land will be much higher than for agricultural land. This may reduce the incentive to apply for permission to change the designation for land. Which may result in land being used differently compared to if the tax were not implemented. However, the scale of gains is large, and this is likely to be a negligible factor in influencing land development and investment decisions. Also, governments concerned about land value tax discouraging land development may address this by facilitating the application process to make it easier and quicker for planning permission to be granted.

Land value tax may not be neutral in its effects as it may create a preference towards land development projects that promise an earlier stream of rental receipts. As illustrated by Brian Bentick (1979) and David Mills (1981), rents that will be collected from projects to be developed in the future are taxed in advance of their receipt. This, in a way places a tax on waiting such that the return from such future developments must compensate the opportunity cost of sacrificed-liquidity and taxes paid in anticipation of the development on the vacant land. The non-neutrality of the land value tax results from taxing the land while it is being held idle. This may lead to the hastening of economic development, but to an extent that may be socially excessive.

A land value tax may also not be the most efficient form of taxation due to other potentially more efficient tax bases such as natural resources.

There are also practical difficulties involved with the real-life implementation of the land value tax, such as the political unattractiveness of implementing a perceived new tax, the valuation of land separately from the property it contains, etc. However, there are successful cases in which land value taxes have been implemented and continue to function effectively, such as in Denmark, states in the US, and Australia. Furthermore, these practical obstacles to implementing a land value tax do not play a role in deciding whether or not a land value tax is economically efficient.

In conclusion, land value tax is thus an efficient form of taxation because it enables the government to raise funds for their activities without distorting the efficient allocation of goods and services by the free market. The excess burden on society that results from a land value tax is minimal relative to other current forms of taxation, thus making it one of the most efficient forms of taxation. There have been some situations in which land value tax may not be as efficient as initially suggested, though these are largely negligible in comparison to the general argument for land value taxation.

Reading and Sources

J. Mirrlees et al. (2011). The Taxation of Land and Property. In Tax by Design: the Mirrlees

Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dye, R.F. and England, R.W. (2010). Assessing the Theory and Practice of Land Value Taxation.

Policy Focus Report no. PF025, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge, MA.

Oates, W.E. and Schwab, R.M. (1997). The impact of urban land taxation: The Pittsburgh

experience. National Tax Journal 50(1): 1-21.

Seely, A. (2013). Land Value Taxation. House of Commons Library Standard Note no. SN6558.

House of Commons Library, London.

George, H. (1879). Progress and Poverty. Book 6, Ch. 2 and Book 8, Ch. 3. Available from:…...

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