A Land Value Tax.
Land is a unique element in any society; there is a limited amount of it and it is needed for virtually all activities which take place in a society. We need it to grow food and crops, to build homes on and to construct factories, warehouses and offices. It is such a critical element that I believe the Government should pay particular attention to its ownership and use or lack of use.
Traditionally whoever controlled / owned the land had the power in that community and rights have been established whereby it can be passed on in perpetuity. There is also a long history of peasants being thrown of their land; The Enclosures in England, The Highland Clearances in Scotland, the Plantations in Ireland, The Conquest of the Wild West in America and so on and so on.
Whether land is being used or not has been a hot potato since Roman times when there a “law of usufruct” which gave local people the right tomake use of land if the landowner was not doing so!
The arrival in 17th C of “fractional Reserve Banking” (Banks only needed to hold a fraction of their deposits in cash) meant that those with assets were welcomed by the banks if they wished to borrow. The most common asset in the 17thC was land. While many of the loans were used to develop international trading, cotton, spices, slaves etc. some was also used by existing landowners to increase their acreage. Gradually more and more of this limited commodity, land, was owned by a smaller and smaller number of people.
The value of land often increases in value through no work carried out by the owner himself. Public services and infrastructure work (sewers, water, sealed roads, transport, public parks etc.), carried out in the vicinity of the land will improve its value.
I believe a value should be put on unused land and a tax levied. A number of benefits would accrue from levying such a tax. A regular tax bill coming through the letter box would help to remind the owner that he is sitting on an asset which costing him money every year whether he uses it or not.
Speculators who buy land with the specific intention of holding it until demand pushes up the price would have to take into account that any future profit will be reduced somewhat by the land value tax. If for example the Dart Service was extended close to his land the value would naturally increase (through no work on his part, unless of course he had lobbied for it!) but so also would his land tax bill.
This additional source of income for the Government may enable them to reduce taxes in other areas, such as PAYE workers. This would help overall economic activity since lots of people would have greater spending power. Many other types of taxes discourage economic activity, eg: VAT is a regressive tax on expenditure.
Some of the wealthiest people in our society own large banks of land which in some cases are not being put to any use which helps in their society or encourages economic activity. “Use it or loose it”! Or at least pay tax on the value of the land.