Taxation of Business

Selim Tideman

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, September-October 1936]

It has become the habit, if not the fashion, to say that "industry is burdened with taxes." This expression is not in accordance with actual fact. Industries are merely collectors for the Government, and get paid for collecting. Taxes on secondary industries are part in the cost of production and go into the price of goods and service with the regular profit added to the whole. At every stopping place in the criss-cross course of material and unfinished goods, at every line of transport, taxes are added on top of taxes with profit as cost of collection, until reaching the consuming public which buys and pays for more taxes than goods. This is the first lesson that should be taught in schools of social economy. When the consuming public tumbles to the trick that is being played on them then look for reforms to commence, and the new generation, once started, will not stop halfway. That the increased price reduces consumption, thus curtailing production and employment, is incidental, demand governing supply.

A very large part of the taxes thus collected are wasted in support of a horde of useless and troublesome political office cats, most of whom had better be discarded and left to find more useful pursuits for their living.

Taxes collected on labor and industry are substitutes for revenue the community earns, and its government does not get, thus shifting the rent into the price of goods. To this extent Mr. E. Jorgensen is perfectly right, and it does not require a whole book, nor two of them, to tell and explain that much.

One other expression that runs outside reason is, "Take the whole rental value of land." In the first place, this is impossible; second, even if it could, it ought not to be done. Speculation should, of course, be taxed out; land held idle or poorly used should yield its share, pay or quit and leave the chance for better men. But just as a man is making improvements on his land does so on the assumption that it will become worth more to him than its cost, so must public improvements and services be of higher value to the payer than the price asked as otherwise all incentive to social progress would be lost, at least on their part.