Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thursday Evening, October 14

THE PORT OF BOSTON
Our Neglected Asset
The Opportunity in Port Development
The Hope of the Future

EDWARD F. McSWEENEY

Chairman, Board of Port Directors, will deliver an important address on this interesting and timely subject. The address will be the expression of Mr. McSweeney's views and conclusions after a careful study of the great problem. The most important feature in the future development of the city of Boston is the proper and best development of our harbor.

GEORGE S. SMIth will preside. A dinner will be tendered the guests at 6 o'clock. Tickets at the Office of the Civic Secretary.

Thursday Evening, October 21

RUSTOM RUSTOMJEE A native of India and a lecturer of wonderful power of expression,

will speak on

"INDIA AND THE WAR" Included in the series of pictures shown on the screen will be many of the

CITIES AND TEMPLES OF INDIA

Hon. ROBERT Luce will preside
Dinner at 6 o'clock. Tickets at the Office of the Civic Secretary.

Thursday Evening, October 28

RICHARD E. FOLLETT

Director of the Detroit Zoological Society “A PANORAMA OF AMERICAN FOREST, FIELD, AND

WATER LIFE" Mr. Follett's lecture will be illustrated by motion pictures. The scenes are wonderful reproductions of wild life in action. The animals and birds of the forests and the fish of the streams are realistically depicted.

DR. GEORGE W. FIELD, Chairman of the Fisheries

and Game Commission, will preside
Dinner: at 6 o'clock. Tickets at the Civic Secretary's Office

axation

dry chur

REVIEW OF RECENT EVENTS

TAXATION Thursday Evening, April 29, 1915

bu Important addresses on Taxation in Massachusetts were delivered on the above date.Former Lieutenant-Governor Robert Luce presided and introduced the following speakers: Hon. Samuel W. McCall, Hon. Grafton D. Cushing, Hon. W. D. T. Trefry, Prof. Charles J. Bullock, Hon. Calvin Coolidge, Charles A. Andrews, Hon. Lawson Purdy,

PRESIDENT Fistud "Gentlemen of the Boston City Club. We are here to-night to consider one of the most important and fundamental of the questions that come into an ordinary society; that is, how to get money to carry on the functions of government. The question is getting to be more and more acute every year for many reasons. We have new ideals as to the obligations of the State in looking after its citizens. We have developed the thought that the State is largely responsible, not merely for the education of children, but the health and well-being of the community, and every one of those operations involves the expenditure of large sums of money. Honorable as are our aspirations in that direction, I think we are bound to recognize that we should not carry out our ideals to extravagance, but, in addition to this source of expenditure, for which so much good can be said, there is no doubt whatever that we are in the era of great extravagance, national, State, municipal, and individual. The atmosphere reeks with the spendthrift idea, and side by side with this matter of taxation, I think we, and those representing us in the government, should be giving great thought to the question how we can save money, how we can get the better of the extravagant ideas of our time. It makes the situation a very complicated and difficult one.

“Of course an ideal system of taxation has never been attained in the history of the world. I doubt if anything like an ideal system will ever be attained as long as man exists on the earth, and certainly no taxation system will ever be perfect; but there is no doubt in my mind, however, but our tax system might have been adequate in the earlier and simpler conditions of a hundred years ago, yet now it is entirely inadequate, and there must be some radical change in the fundamental point of approaching this great question.

“At the present time, as I look at it, there is no logical motive in our taxation methods. Certain things to me are very clear. One is that the industries of Massachusetts are taxed far more than the industries in the neighboring States with which our industries have to compete, and this is a most serious situation.

"When it comes to individual taxes, it seems to me that our methods are unfair, according to the interpretation placed upon the law by the Supreme Judicial Court. It means a man suffers injustice because of how he lives. We all feel these things, and the question is how to get

out of them. It is easy enough to speculate, to get up theories of taxation, but we want in this State a plain, simple system that seems logical, reasonable, and fair. I don't know whether we shall succeed in doing it or not, but we must try.

"If there were more time I should be rather pleased to have this opportunity of giving my own speculation on this subject, but you will not hear it. You would have heard but an amateur's discussion of the subject. We have with us to-night gentlemen who have studied, and while I think sometimes a man's opinion is likely to be colored by his apparent interest in the point of view to which he has devoted so much time, I think there is no question in the world but that this subject of taxation is an expert matter, and we should get all the views of all the experts on the subject.

“I am guilty of an impropriety in saying these few words, for I am really here for one function, which is to introduce to you the presiding officer of the evening, our old friend Mr. Robert Luce, who will introduce to you the speakers it is your privilege to hear to-night.”

Mr. Luce, in introducing the speakers in the Auditorium, said:

HON. ROBERT LUCE

"When I was in politics, one of the lessons I learned was the danger of over-confidence, and so it must be with some request for allowance that I describe this meeting as one which may well have more the character of a jubilee than one for partisan argument, for, unless the gentlemen of the Legislature who have spoken at the gathering in the banquethall and elsewhere to-day are at fault, the constitutional amendment which we shall consider this evening, or to which part of the evening is sure to be given, has a very promising chance of passing the House. It already has passed the Senate. The chances are very strong that it will be endorsed by the people next year.

"Possibly there are men present who do not understand that this means the end of a contest that has been waged for a full generation. Massachusetts, like all republican communities, and I am using the word ‘republican' with the small letter in this case, is intensely conservative. It moves very slowly, and it is a long time after its serious-minded men come virtually to agreement upon any important proposition, before the mass of the people consent to make any change. The agitation which may culminate in the vote early next week dates back to about 1875. It was then that a commission, the first I believe of numerous commissions on the subject, was formed by Mr. Thomas Hills, Chief Assessor of the city of Boston, who was convinced of certain propositions in the matter of taxation that have since that time been held by many of the assessors of the Commonwealth. He was of the belief that the existing law could be enforced so that personal property could be disclosed, and, by what was known as a doomage system, it would be possible to secure justice, and that if only the individual property could be disclosed, then the tax rate would soon fall on real estate; there would be much more evenhanded justice than at that time, or to-day, exists.

"The trouble with his proposition was that all history denied it. Ever since there have been governments, every method that human ingenuity could devise had been used. The rack, the knout, the gallows itself have been used from time immemorial to extort from individuals the tax based upon that form of property, and everywhere it has failed. By that means, the doomage system, although given the most intense application, they failed to disclose more than a third or a quarter of the personal property. But there arose a body of men in this State who held that was the only way to measure the capacity of our people to pay enough, and so, year after year, they came to the State House and fought out the issue, first with the Massachusetts Anti-Double Taxation League, and later on with other organizations, and every year there was a deadlock. No progress whatever could be made, and I say, with some sorrow and compunction, that after a service of two years on the Tax Committee, I was so faint-hearted as to make up my mind that my lifetime would not see the deadlock broken. I regret, in these later years, no more active part has come to me in the fight, which I believe is now to be so happily completed.

"Some progress has been made from time to time, some changes in the law, after the usual long and hard effort. You will pardon me, if I recall that in seven successive years I stood on the floor of the House and spoke for the direct inheritance tax, and seven successive times it was knocked down, and in the eighth year the House adopted the measure without a word of debate. It was done right at the proper time.

“This evening we have for one of the speakers a man who has practical knowledge of the working of the law, and another Massachusetts man thoroughly familiar with the whole complicated problem, as well as one from beyond the bounds of the State who will instruct us as to what has been found useful and what has not been found useful in another larger commonwealth than ours.

CHARLES A. ANDREWS

Deputy Commissioner of Taxation “Taxes in Massachusetts, in figures, amounted to $107,000,000 in 1914. In round figures, 'for running the State, $20,000,000 was required, and the rest for running the municipalities. Taxes in Massachusetts are assessed by one of two authorities, and only two assess taxes here, either the State or the municipality. We think we have county taxes, and we do, and county expenses, but no tax is assessed for any county purpose, as such. It exists merely as part of your tax to the municipality. You never heard of a county tax in Massachusetts. There are none. There never have been any.

“Taxes are assessed by the municipality on your property and by the State upon privileges. There is only a slight variation from this

absolute rule here. Bear in mind, then, that your tax is assessed either by the State on account of some privilege which you enjoy, or by the municipality upon some property of which you are possessed, and fundamentally that is all there is to the study.

“Massachusetts taxes are controlled by a constitutional instrument, strait-laced and unbending. The constitutional provisions relating to taxation are two, and briefly are: (1) Property must be reasonably and proportionally taxed, and (2) Privileges must be reasonably taxed. All tax laws are made by the Legislature. There is no body under any circumstances that can make tax laws contrary to the laws of the Legislature. The Legislature established the old tax code in conformity to the Constitution of the State, and the provisions of the Constitution are, that if taxes are to be levied, they must be reasonable and proportional, and if levied upon privileges, they must be reasonable.

"The principal privileges which have been taxed, and are taxed, in Massachusetts, by laws passed by the Legislature and administered by the State for its own good, are corporate privileges and the privileges of bequeathing or receiving property at the death of the testator, inheritance tax, and corporation taxes of various kinds.

"Most of the discussion we have had in the last twenty-five years with relation to our tax system, has related to the taxation of property, and not to the taxation of privileges, and since we can't undertake to cover the whole situation here to-night, I want to say a few words about the taxation of property, how the Constitution was made, the kind of a law we have, and the trouble it makes for us. The Supreme Court, for two or three generations, in its interpretation of the provision relating to property, has said, in substance, that property ought to be proportionately taxed. The Court has said in almost so many words that it is impossible for the Legislature to pass laws which shall distinguish between classes of property and tax one high and the other low. Repeatedly the Court has said that if property is to be taxed at all in a municipality, every class of property, every item of property ought to be taxed at the same rate, upon the same valuation its cost value and this measure for taxes, this guide for taxes, was set up and we were obliged to administer.

“This measure for taxes, these guides for taxation, were set up when we were a colony, and when the only kinds of property were land and live stock, and small stocks of merchandise. Money did not exist. Credits were unknown. Shares of stock were almost unheard of. Each little community was a whole in itself, and the possession of $1,000 worth of land or live stock indicated half the ability to pay taxes by the owner, which was possessed by the owner of $2,000 worth of land or live stock. In those simple days, when classes of property were simple, when there were none of the complications brought about by trade, and money was almost non-existent, the standard of taxation adopted in colonial times and later under the Constitution, was as good a standard as anybody ever had wanted.

« PreviousContinue »