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Thread: Tax and Circumstance

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    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Tax and Circumstance

    AIB Monamogolo in "Is new growth always an economic benefit?"

    In Germany, there are few closets. As I understand it, this is because people are taxed on how many rooms they have and if it has a door, it's taxed as a "room". This is why they have shranks in every room. Shranks usually don't play so well in American homes after soldiers and their families come back to The States because we have closets (and more windows, generally speaking), so there are fewer uninterrupted expanses of long walls to place these huge pieces of furniture against. My German mother favored wall units when I was growing up: They can be arranged to take up the length of a wall (like a shrank) but aren't as inflexible. It was a flavor of her heritage, but adapted to the reality of her new homeland.

    Also, as I understand it, at one time in The Deep South (of the U.S.) , people were taxed on how many doors they had. Presumably, the idea was that a larger, more expensive house would have more doors going in and out. In reaction to that, people built houses with tall windows starting very low on the wall to access their porches. It avoided the tax.

    In thinking about Monamogolo's remarks about taxing schemes differing from place to place, I wondered what would happen if some place had their circumstances or taxing scheme suddenly altered. I wondered it because that may well happen with the whole peak oil thing: lifestyles may have to drastically change over a fairly short time-frame. Then what happens to the entities relying on taxing schemes planned around our current sprawl-based lifestyle? Well, the result may be a crisis similar to what happened to The Deep South post-Civil War. As I understand it, pre-Civil War, The South got most of its taxes from slave-owners. I believe it was an attempt to soak the rich and not bother poor folks too much (which seems common with taxing schemes). When slavery ended, the economic basis of government essentially collapsed. The consequences were pretty ugly and it took decades to recover. (I suppose some folks would argue that The South has never fully recovered.)

    I was wondering if other people knew of any other examples like the ones above or had any other thoughts on the topic.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by mendelman; 02 Jan 2008 at 12:44 PM.

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I don't have any other germane examples but I have often wondered how gasoline and tobacco taxes are going to be replaced when their dollar generated potential is eliminated by shortage and social pressures. And what will happen when clever politicians realize that your solar panel or wind generator is providing value to you that MUST be taxed because the power companies can't pass their taxes on to you if they're not selling you electricity? Are you collecting sales tax from them when you sell back excess generation? Better think about it, you might owe the IRS already.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    ~snip~
    Also, as I understand it, at one time in The Deep South (of the U.S.) , people were taxed on how many doors they had. Presumably, the idea was that a larger, more expensive house would have more doors going in and out. In reaction to that, people built houses with tall windows starting very low on the wall to access their porches. It avoided the tax.
    ~snip~
    Off-topic:
    I was taught that the floor-to-ceiling windows in hot climates were intended primarily for ventilation. By opening the bottom sash, cool air would enter from the floor and circulate to the ceiling, exhausting hot air out the opened top sash.


    I do know that the Mansard roof was specifically designed to circumvent tax collectors in Paris, but I forget the particulars. Anyone?
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    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    I do know that the Mansard roof was specifically designed to circumvent tax collectors in Paris, but I forget the particulars. Anyone?
    The mansard roof had an unusual origin dating from the time of early 17th-century French royalty. During this era, Parisian property was taxed on the basis of the number of floors below the roofline. These taxes went to support the grandeur of the royal court and, as you might imagine, the high taxes were wildly unpopular. A French Baroque architect, Francois Mansart, began to design buildings with an apparently lowered roof height -- in essence an 'attic' that could still be used and even rented out as occupyable space -- in order to increase building area while keeping the property tax of his clients to a minimum.
    Source: http://rktect.blogspot.com/2006/02/h...sard-roof.html

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    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Ofos, I still have fantasies of someday having a home that is at least partly dependent upon solar power. The biggest appeal for me is that it is more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Another appeal is that after it is set up, presumably there would be little ongoing cost. So: shhhhhh.

    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Off-topic:
    I was taught that the floor-to-ceiling windows in hot climates were intended primarily for ventilation. By opening the bottom sash, cool air would enter from the floor and circulate to the ceiling, exhausting hot air out the opened top sash.
    I don't see any reason why both statements cannot be true. I will see if I can find something online to backup what I have heard.

    In the meantime, a search turns up these items, not exactly on topic but close and may be a lead on better information:
    A brief tax history of America http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/adams7.html (again technical difficulties -- thank you mendelman for fixing my other linky).
    The problem with trying to soak the rich, from an historian’s perspective, is, it doesn’t work as planned. The rich, going all the way back to the Romans, have had the means to control and evade taxes that got out of line. Howard Hughes paid no income taxes, and his tax planning was quite legal. In the final analysis, the middle class is the only dependable source of tax revenue – and that is a truism tax makers should not forget when they seriously need more revenue. As any tax practitioner will tell you, the richer you are, the easier it is to control taxable income.
    Tax history museum http://www.tax.org/Museum/1861-1865.htm
    The Civil War represented a watershed moment in the history of American taxation. The quick, limited engagement both sides confidently predicted soon proved a chimera. Instead, the exigencies of protracted, destructive warfare * engulfing private property and civilian populations as well as commissioned combatants * demanded innovations in government financing. While the outcome of the conflict may be attributed to any number of contingent factors, the varying fiscal strategies undertaken by the Union and Confederate governments undoubtedly influenced the capacity of both societies to sustain the war effort. North and South employed markedly different approaches. The North's proved more efficacious in the long run.
    History of property tax in the United States: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/f...tax.history.us

    And thanks to both of you for the Mansard roof example

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    More successful than expected?

    Up here in Scandinavia car owners have been encouraged to go green by being offered free parking in town, and even free entry to cities that have congestion charges (e.g. Stockholm). In Gothenburg, this has been so successful, that city council, I'm told, is having to do a rethink, and start charging for parking even for green vehicles. Perhaps the charge will be lower than for 'dirty' cars, I don't know, because there are still an awful lot of dirty cars to be replaced, and some encouragement is still needed for making the big switch.

    If you can think of a parking fee as a tax, then here is a case where the exception (clean cars) become the rule, and the other exception (free parking) has to be reduced or eliminated for other reasons - like congestion or inadequate parking. But here, everyone has been surprised by the rapidity of the switch to clean cars.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Well, bubba beat me to the Mansard roof example. On a related note, I believe that in Holland, property taxes were (and maybe still are) based on the lot's square footage and not the size of the actual home. Thus, many very skinny, tall row house-type developments emerged. This pattern was replicated in many early US cities (I think of Philadelphia's Germantown housing - at least the earliest stuff) but for aesthetic and building-knowledge reasons and not taxes.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    MZ - The economic problems of post "war of northern agression" had a number of factors. One, of course, was the fact that a lot of wealth (slaves) became valueless overnight. Taxes on slaves dropped to nothing. As important, maybe even more so, is the fact that the war was fought largely within the Confederate States. As a result the infrastructure was distroyed. So even real estate or business typically had little value to tax. This further points to the problem of depending on taxing somthing like development around an Interstate interchange. What happens if 2 of the 3 holels close because of not enough traffic due to expensive fuel?

    We are already seeing this in many parts of the country (Florida for sure) where large areas are filled with repo homes. The value of real estate will be vastly reduced next year for many counties, I think.

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