The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chap. 2, Part 2, Article 1: Land Tax


Chapter 2d, Part 2: Article 1: Land Tax



Article 1: Taxes on Land Rent

30 A tax on land rent may be based on a valuation which: 31 A land-tax assessed on each district according to an invariable rule becomes unequal after some time according to the lands' unequal degrees of improvement or cultivation. 32 The landlord derived an advantage from the constancy of the valuation of all British lands rated to the land-tax. 33 The rents of British estates have continually risen since this valuation was first established. 34 Since the tax is paid in money, land valuation is also in money. 35 This constancy of valuation would have been a very great inconvenience either to the taxpayers or to the government because circumstances always change. 36 A tax on land rent which varies with the value of the rent is recommended by the French Economists as the most equitable of all taxes. 37 In Venice, all the arable lands leased to farmers are taxed at 10% of the rent. 38 This land-tax is certainly more equal than England's land-tax. 39 This system of tax administration might be adjusted to: 40 For example, the landlord and tenant might jointly be obliged to record their lease in a public register. 41 Some landlords charge a fee for renewing the lease instead of raising the rent. 42 Some leases prescribe to the tenant: These prescriptions are generally caused by the landlord's ill-founded conceit of his own superior knowledge. 43 Some landlords, instead of a rent in money, require a rent in kind, in corn, cattle, poultry, wine, oil, etc. 44 When the landlord chose to occupy his own lands, the rent might be valued according to an equitable arbitration of the farmers and landlords in the neighbourhood 45 Such a system of administration might free this kind of tax from any uncertainty which could oppress or inconvenience the taxpayer. 46 The cost of levying a variable land-tax would be greater than levying a fixed land-tax. 47 The most important objection to a variable land-tax is the discouragement of land improvement. 48 If this kind of tax successfully encourages land improvement through this system, it will unlikely create other inconveniences for the landlord. 49 This variable rent tax would readily suit itself to actual situations, by its own accord and without any government attention. Historical Land Surveys 50 Some states do an actual survey and valuation of all the lands in the country, instead of simply registering leases.
A page of the Domesday Book
A page of the Domesday Book


51 In ancient Prussia, the land-tax was assessed according to an actual survey and valuation. 52 The survey and valuation of Bohemia took more than 100 years. 53 In Prussia, the church's revenue is taxed much higher than those of lay proprietors. 54 In Silesia, lands held by a noble tenure are taxed 3% higher than those held by a base tenure. 55 A land-tax assessed according to a general survey and valuation, however equal it may be at first, must become unequal after some time. 56 In 1666, the Montauban was assessed to the real or predial taille according to a very exact survey and valuation.

Next: Chapter 2e: Barter taxaxtion