Monday, February 4, 2013

Do you think you own it?

I paid my annual Property Taxes Thursday morning. I never pay before the last minute. I don't see any benefit to paying before I absolutely have to. I do pay, though. Every single year - every single penny.

The line moved pretty quickly as it usually does where I pay. There were a dozen or so people in line in front of me when I got there. As the line suffled forward, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the other people in line ever thought about Property Ownership. I'm pretty sure that everyone in the line with me thought they own their home if their mortgage is paid off. On paper, I do too.

The key thing to remember if you think that you "own" something, is what happens if you don't pay up (or do any number of things required of you by the powers-that-be) to someone else. If I don't pay my property taxes I get fined. I have no problem with that. If I don't like the taxes assessed on property that I own I can work to change that via activism and the voting booth. If I simply don't pay the taxes and continue to be in arrears, then the fines/penalties increase and an increasing percentage of interest kicks in.

At this point... I may have a problem with the idea of "property" taxes over all. I may think those taxes are too high, or that the money given over to the government through that tax scheme isn't being spent wisely. But over all, if property taxes are the law of the land and they have to fine people who don't pay and even negatively impact the credit rating of scofflaws who don't continue to not pay the bill.... then OK.

Eventually, though, if I don't pay the taxes and fines then the Government will either foreclose on "my" property and take it away from me - or more usually the Government will sell the lien on "my" property to a third party who will then foreclose and take that property away.


Its pretty clear that under that sort of system - I don't really own the property at all, do I? I'm just renting. As long as I'm a good little citizen and do what the Government wants me too, I get to live there. I have a serious problem with that sort of arrangement- and I think you should too.

This isn't about whether or not you should have to pay property taxes. This isn't about whether or not there should be a punishment if you do not pay. My problem is with the erosion of Property Rights of the Individual. If someone can legally take property that I've paid for completely, just because I don't do what they want, then that property was never really mine to begin with.


acairfearann said...

Absolutely correct.
Property taxes also tend to have an unfortunate effect on the community. In my area, they have been devastating to the 'land rich, cash poor' usually small farming operations with historic houses. Property tax encourages people to only look at land as developable capital for immediate gain. End result: subdivisions, strip malls, and mcmansions. And ten years later people are complaining about the 'loss of character', strain on watersheds supplying reservoirs, and the increased demand for services. So the property tax goes up, again...and another 120 acre farm goes up for sale to the developer.

My family has lived on this hill for 143 years, if anybody 'owns' this land it is I by grace of God. But I'll lose it to the taxman in about fifteen years at the current increases.

Paladin said...

acairfearann - Yep.

And don't even get me started on the ridiculous Death Tax (estate tax). Even if farmers/ranchers manage to navigate the ridiculous property taxes every year there's still a huge risk that their kids will loose the property after the have passed on because of the high value of the property, bldgs, and equipment (on paper) that doesn't relate to large amounts of cash on hand to pay an inheritance tax. That's responsible for the death of a great many family farms and ranches too.

acairfearann said...

My thoughts on the death tax are nigh on unprintable. I've never seen any good come of it; in both the UK and the US, I have seen the destruction of many things in order to pay it from the break-up of innumerable businesses and farms to the dispersal of irreplacable breeding stock and historic estates. The latter two are usually lamented by the media, the same media that usually champions keeping the tax. You would think they could do the math.

Six said...

I've had that same thought. The government ultimately holds all our mortgages and they're never paid off. Makes me consider finding a nice plot of BLM land somewhere inaccessible and putting up a log cabin. Sauce for the goose as it were.