Taxes on land rent

TTPI - Working Paper 6/2016
Author name: 
David Ingles

There is increased interest in land taxation in Australia and internationally, as reflected for example, in the Henry report on tax reform in 2010 and the UK Mirrlees Report in 2011. This interest stems from the immobility of land as a factor of production, which stands in contrast to other factors such as capital and labour. Logically, immobile factors can be taxed more heavily and with less efficiency cost than mobile ones. The interest in land taxation revisits the work of the 19th century reformer Henry George but in fact has antecedents going back to Ricardo and before. By making land more expensive to own, we can (somewhat paradoxically) make it cheaper to buy. At the extreme a 100 per cent tax on land rent reduces the capital value to the annual rental value; that is, to around 3-5 per cent of the untaxed value. A 5 per cent tax reduces the capital value of land by half, and a 1 per cent tax reduces it by 17 per cent. However the lump-sum nature of land taxes – and their high visibility to taxpayers - makes them politically very difficult to raise. The theoretical revenue available, which is one-third to one half of all Commonwealth tax revenue, may be practically unavailable.

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