The Little Home

Joseph Thompson

[Reprinted from an undated pamphlet, Simple Talks on Taxation, published by the author]

...Grace, did you get a receipt for your contribution to the Red Cross?
... No, I'm afraid not.
... Well, your check will do as well.
... But I didn't pay it with a check. I paid cash.
... Hm. Then we can't deduct it. I'd hate to ask the Red Cross for a receipt at this late date.
... Well, since we did pay it, won't the government take your word for it?
... In the eyes of my government, I am a lying chiseler. They certainly won't take my word for anything. Another thing, I hope little Grace will be born before the year-end!
... Little Grace? You mean Richard, don't you?
... I mean little Grace! Want to bet? She can save us about a hundred dollars if she'll only arrive before December 31st!
... Isn't that ridiculous!
... What particular detail?
... Why, that our baby will cost One hundred dollars more on one day, than he would if he was born on the day before!
... The whole thing is utterly ridiculous - and tragic, too.
... Tragic?
... Yes, tragic. If it wasn't for the tax system, instead of paying a big rent on this apartment, you and I would be preparing a nice little home for her, with plenty of space to move around in.
... How do you mean?
... Well, I've got our income tax report far enough along to find that the government is going to fine me for working, in the sum of Eighteen hundred and eighty dollars! Of course Grade - -
... Of course Richard -
... Of course the baby, if she'd only arrive before New Years, would reduce that by One hundred.
... Are they going to take as much as that?
... They sure are. So the little home stays in the dream department.
... But, after all, that wouldn't buy us a home.
... Let's see if it wouldn't. We'll call the tax One thousand, for convenience, we pay another Four hundred in State and City, and Thirty-six hundred a year for rent. That's Five thousand out of my Twelve. I don't have to tell you where the remaining Seven goes, what with living costs, insurance and so forth. Oh, we save some - damn little though.
... But we have to pay the rent and the taxes, so why talk of the - what was it - the Five Thousand dollars?
... Sure we do. That's why I'm making out this income tax report. But suppose that we could keep the Five and got a nice location and started to build - -
... On Five thousand dollars! Why you couldn't get a nice location for five times that!
... Not at present. But, just for fun, let's suppose we didn't have to buy a location, just lease one.
... Build on a lot we didn't own!
... It's done all the time. Only instead of leasing from someone, we'd pay a land tax, or rent.
... I don't understand you.
... Well, they're holding the kind of land we'd want at twelve thousand an acre. Holding it idle and paying trivial taxes which they can deduct from their income. But suppose our public officials got some sense and said "Twelve thousand an acre? - let's see. At five per cent that works out at Six hundred per acre, a year, plus the tax you're paying on it now."
... You mean if a landlord had ten acres he'd have to pay Six thousand dollars in taxes each year?
... Well, if it was worth One hundred and twenty thousand dollars, that sounds reasonable. Many a business man borrows at that rate and is glad of the chance.
... But a landlord's land might not be paying him anything! A business could use the money to make more money, as you so often say, but his land might be idle!
... Properly taxed, it would be quite expensive to hold it. Yes.
... You mean he'd have to sell?
... Or use it He'd be wisely prudent if he sold, though I don't see him getting any Twelve thousand an acre - fact is, if he held it too long, he'd get next to nothing for it.
... Why?
... Because everyone else with idle land would be selling, but fast! If the government taxed it to it's full value, and I shouldn't say "taxed," I'd rather say "collected the full rental of the land." There'd be no point in holding it if the government took its only revenue.
... But couldn't the landlord raise his rent?
... Nope. The government would just collect that much more from him. There'd be no point in holding land unless you were using it.
... Do you mean he'd have to sell?
... For whatever he could get The sooner, the better.
... And you mean we could buy cheaper?
... I mean more than that.
... Well, I'm getting tired of thinking, but what more do you mean?
... I mean that we could get a home site without paying out any capital, by just assuming the payment of the land rental, and use our capital for building.

... And not own the land!
... Sure we'd own it! As much as anyone owns land right now. And again, if our government was smart it wouldn't fine us for building.
... Fine us?
... I said "fine," I meant "tax." It's the same thing.
... No tax on the house?
... Exactly. When you put your car at a parking meter, you don't pay more for a fine expensive car that you do for a "jallopy." So if you paid the rest of the public for the space yon wanted, why should it cost you more in taxes, the better house you built there?
... But with our money, the house would cost too much anyway.
... Suppose the land, oil, minerals, fossil fuel, and forests brought the government all the income it needed, and there was no tax on building material, contractor's equipment, worker's wages and my pay, a house could be quite inexpensive.
... I think you're talking nonsense.
... You're not alone in your thinking, that's why we'll go right on living in this little apartment.
... Oh, I'm going to bed. I can feel Richard - -
... You can feel Gracie. Want to bet?
... Richard.
... All right, then, Richard.
... I can feel him moving about and kicking.
... He'd better save his kicking until he's of taxable age, and as for moving, I hope he makes his big move before midnight, December Thirty-first A hundred dollars is a hundred dollars; Goodnight, Gracie darling. I'm going to try to do as much of this report as I can, before midnight Lemme see. DEPENDENTS? Gee; That one'll have to wait 'til New "Years!