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Chapter XXI

Assessment and Collection of Taxes.

§1. Every government must have the power of providing means for its support. The money which is needed to pay the expenses of administering the government, if the state has no permanent source of revenue, or income, must be raised by taxation. A _tax_ is a rate or sum of money assessed upon the person or property of a citizen for the use of the state. When assessed upon the person, it is called a _poll-tax_, or _capitation tax_, being a certain sum on every poll, or head. But as persons ought generally to contribute to the public expenses according to their ability, taxes are more just and equal when laid upon the property of the citizens. Few poll-taxes are levied in this country.


§2. There are certain kinds of property which are exempt from taxation; such as the corporate property of the state, of counties, and of towns, including the buildings in which the public business is done, the prisons, jails, asylums, &c., and the lands attached to them; school-houses and meeting-houses, with the lands attached; burying-grounds, and the property of literary and charitable institutions. But the property of business corporations, as rail-road, banking, insurance, manufacturing, and other stock companies, like that of individuals, is liable to taxation. _Real estate_, or _real property_, is land with the buildings and other articles erected or growing thereon. _Personal estate_, or _personal property_, consists of movables, as goods, chattels, money, and debts due from solvent debtors.

§3. As the property of every person is to be assessed in proportion to its value, it is necessary, first, to make a correct valuation of all the taxable property. For this purpose, the assessor or assessors pass through the town, and make a list of the names of all the taxable inhabitants, and the estimated value of the property, real and personal, of each; and returns of the same are made to the proper county officers, who cause the tax-list for each town to be made out, and order the taxes to be collected.

§4. In some states, persons liable to taxation are themselves required to furnish lists of all their taxable property, printed blank lists having been previously distributed among them for this purpose. To secure an accurate valuation, the assessors, (called also _listers_,) may require persons to make oath that they have made a true statement of their property and its value. In states where the polls of the tax-payers are assessed, these also are set down in the lists at such sums as the law directs to be affixed to each poll.

§5. Before a tax-list can be made out, it must be known what amount is to be collected in each town. This amount is made up of three parts: First, the sum wanted to pay the expenses of the town for the preceding year; secondly, the town's share of the county expenses; and thirdly, its proportional share of the expenses of the state government, or of what is to be raised for state purposes.

§6. The apportionment of the amount of the state and county expenses among the several towns, is made according to the amount of property in each as valued by the assessors. The state auditor or controller, having received from the several counties returns of the value of the property in each county, is enabled to determine its quota of the amount to be raised for state purposes. To each county's share of the state expenses is added the sum to be raised in the county for county purposes; and the amount is apportioned among the towns in proportion to the value of the assessed property of each. Then adding to each town's share of the amount of the state and county expenses, the amount to be raised for town purposes, gives the sum to be collected in the town.

§7. Having thus ascertained the sum to be raised in each town, the officers whose duty it is, cause a tax-list to be made out, in which the amount of each person's tax is set opposite his name and the estimated value of his property. The tax-list of each town, certified and signed by the proper persons, is put into the hands of the collector, with a warrant ordering the same to be collected.

§8. The money collected for county and state purposes is paid to the county treasurer, who pays to the state treasurer the amount raised in the county for state expenses, and retains the remainder to be expended in the county. The money collected for town purposes is paid to such persons in the town as are by law authorized to receive the same.