Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You Don't Own Your House

You don't own your house or your car or your boat or anything else you pay property taxes on. You may have paid off the loans and have a clear title but you still don't own the property. If you doubt that, try not paying the property tax annual rent to the government that permits you the continued use of the property.

You, me, and everyone else pay rent to the government to be allowed to use the house, car, boat, etc. Last year, that rent was $540,701,000,000.  Call it a tax if you like.

"If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? The correct answer is four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.”
--Abraham Lincoln

Update: Bradley dives into the topic in the comments and does a better job than I did in the original post.
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html
How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin107482.html

4 comments:

Bradley Pierson said...

Correct conclusion. Faulty justification.

That's properly classified as an encumbrance, not as an ownership interest.

Consider a man living in an area with no property taxes. He obtains a house in full ownership. Clear title, no mortgage. He decides to mortgage the house in order to gain funds to do something important to him. (Likely an ill advised move, but that's not the point.) He has taken out a loan, and the house is security thereon. He can now lose the house by failing to pay the note the mortgage secures. (The ubiquitous "paying the mortgage" is actually metonomy.) He is still the owner, yes? The bank doesn't get to tell him what to do with the property, or interfere in any way, save that if they are not paid they can begin foreclosure and seize and sell the house. They can't, as a co-owner could, move in to the place.

Oh, and if he fails to pay off an unrelated debt, that creditor can also start seizing and selling his assets. Including, exemptions aside, the house. If he goes to a restaurant and pays his bill at the end, did the fact that he had a creditor during the meal - who could, after due proceedings, seize and sell things if not paid - mean that he didn't own any property for that period of time?

The bank does not own the property by virtue of being able to seize it for non-payment. Having a creditor does not mean one has no property whatsoever. Being able to lose a property for non-payment of taxes falls in the same vein.

It also is not rent. Rent would entitle us to peaceful possession. Rent would entitle us to have the government fix broken things. Rent would entitle us to have the government resolve title issues. Rent is not what we have.

Now, look at building codes, ordinances, and other "mother may I" rules regarding homes. The things where you are able to do X, but only after asking permission. Those call into question the matter of "ownership" - an encumbrance wouldn't be able to reverse due process and make you get permission for that which you are entitled to do. (I'm not a fan of the ones that just tag on restrictions, either, but I suggest they're a different category.)

I will also mention that while every single obligation imposed upon a newly born citizen presumes consent to governance, and will, in any trans-generational government, inevitably do so, property taxes can, by consent of a single generation's owners, be established as an encumbrance and enforced as a property right. I suggest that, if fixed by objective criteria and established by consent of then-owners, such taxes are among the most sound of government powers. There is such a thing as a valid property tax, at least in theory.

As they are, unfixed, they're an ability to impose a whimsical obligation. The ability to impose an obligation, unilaterally, without any review save that by another branch of your organization...that calls into question ownership. Not because of the obligations terms or penalties for non-compliance, not even because it exists, but because it can be imposed. Because the collar is there, whatever length, or material, of leash the government may have attached to it, or not at the time, and regardless of where it is hitched. Merely by existence of the collar...

And that applies to the person when you take into account, for example, the lack of a cap on income tax and the requirement of occupational licenses.

You're focusing on a type of obligation. You've picked out a type that is not inherently wrong. Consider, instead, all obligations which the government seeks to impose, and the basis upon which it seeks to impose them.

B said...

Link no linky.

ASM826 said...

Link now linky again.

Ted said...

I own my house. I could pick it up and relocate it to another piece of land.

However, I only have "title" to the land. A bunch of rights to the use of that land and that includes the right of the local government to levey an annual tax on the value of the land and improvements on that land. The tax is on the land and the improvements. If I were to remove the house the tax levey would decrease. It is not rent .