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(e) Recommendations (5) Summary tables or text tables with accompanying text. The accompanying text will probably usually be brief but should at least point out the degree of error or possibility of error in each table in the report. One of the first summary tables should show the following:
(a) Amount of each tax collected (or levied)
(e) Average tax rate for the state. Where actual figures cannot be entered, the best estimates possible should be given, with footnotes showing the basis of estimate.
A second summary table should show by whom each tax is collected and the amount distributed to the state and to each class of locality, as county, city, etc.
As taxes are now so high and becoming so varied, another table should show the ultimate tax bases of the state, namely, its total wealth, its total income, and its total population, all subclassified as the committee may recommend, as realty, tangible personalty, intangibles, personal income, corporate income, etc. There would appear to be certain things relative to a state's wealth and income and taxable activities which should be known, even if a state's tax system, as at present constituted, did not show the need of such information for the successful administration of its present taxes.
(6) Following the summary and other text tables with their text discussion should come the basic tables.
Another question for the committee to determine would be how far historical as well as current data should be given. For example, there should doubtless be one table to show the amount raised under each tax in the state each year since the adoption of the tax and another should give the county equalization rates to date.
The question whether the data reported should be on a cashaccrued or a cash-received basis should be settled. Certainly it should not be one for one tax, and the other for another, and on one basis in some states while on the other, in others.
One important service of the committee would be stating the reasons for compiling the data in each table. This is important, as many members of our state legislatures see no value in statistics and the recommendations of a committee of such an association, backed by reasons which they could see, should be effective with many of them. The reasons supporting the compilation of some tables would be more purely administrative; whereas the reasons supporting the development of other information would be more exclusively scientific. One of the functions of the committee would be to determine how far the states should go in making available to the scientific world, the commercial world, and the public in general, the information which the newer taxes are piling up in the hands of our tax commissions.
The total tables that should be compiled, dealing with special situations in the various states, may be considerable. The committee could consider these particular matters, with a view to coordinating or distributing the field among the various states, to secure the largest amount information of use to tax men, relative to these particular problems.
There are several theories relative to statistics, as developed by a large governmental body. One is that governmental agencies have exclusive powers of getting information in the discharge of their duties and that if statistics relative to the matters under their jurisdiction are not developed, a by-product, having a value of several or many times the additional cost of developing, is allowed to go to waste. Another theory is that statistics relative to the field covered are essential for proper administration. There is still another theory applicable to certain statistics; that the statistical information is in itself so important that the work of the governmental agency is principally or exclusively directed toward their compilation. Whether in any case some slight changes in a law or in existing regulations should be made, to round out an important body of information, is a question to which the committee could well give careful consideration. It would appear that the tax commis. sions are the logical bodies to assemble information relative to such economic facts as the amount of wealth, the size of income, their growth, their concentration, their diffusion, their rate of growth, their increasing or decreasing rate of concentration or diffusion. States that have the general property tax, the inheritance tax and the income tax, can answer a large number of such important questions.
All states have several departments. There is a border line of information, about which it is a question whether it should appear in a tax commission's report or in, say, a comptroller's report. The committee should draw this line. It is possible, of course, thai certain data may well appear in different connections in different department's reports.
Then there is the fact that in various states the administration of various taxes is scattered around among various departments. Any tax expert should be able to find in a single report the state's tax facts for a given year. However differently a state's functions may be distributed among various departments, the equivalent information should be found in the corresponding report for all the states. The committee might emphasize the need for action upon this proposition.
A great deal of the content of a tax report is taken from reports of agents or local officials. It would be a part of the ground to be covered by the committee to consider the form and content of these underlying report forms, with a view to making them as uniform, as complete and as simple as may be. This might be laborious but would appear to be essential.
It would be a fine thing when the committee had drawn up the form of a model state tax commission report, with their explanation of its features, for the money to be forthcoming so that for one of the states that has a complete set of the newer taxes, an actual model tax report could be compiled. Such an actual model should be complete in tables, footnotes and text, so as to serve as a complete guide for those states which might compile any corresponding data in the future. Such a report would be the great landmark in American tax statistics. It should be worth several times its cost, for the positive information given in itself. Also it should be worth several times its cost as the model.
Although tax officials often change, with changes of the party in power, if a model report was worked out and followed only once in a given state, the great probability is that it would be followed successively. Following a preceding year's report is following the path of least resistance, accordingly the committee's work could be considered permanent.
There is another interesting possibility connected with such a report. A tax department is only one of several departments. If the tax departments generally adopt a model report, it may stimulate the other departments, where they have not already done so, to follow the example of the tax department in developing model standard reports and lead much earlier than would otherwise be the case to an output of completely co-ordinated and scientific reports from our various state governments.
One feature in New York State reports, as they have been printed these last few years, gives occasion for another question. Those reports have been including a section entitled “Status of Taxation in Other States”. This has been included at the desire of the commissioners and covers matters in which they have been more immediately interested. It gives a birdseye view of certain points and saves the time of digging up the information in the law reports. Such a compilation is well worth while and it would appear that it should be extended, but, if so, it would appear that
there is a much more economical way of managing it. Every once in a while some trust company, some legislative committee or other organization, or individual, works out a comparative statement for some one tax. Why cannot these efforts be co-ordinated, all the taxes distributed among those who care to undertake the labor and a book published for the whole field. When once developed, each state commission could each year easily revise the information relative to itself. In this way everybody could get the benefits of the efforts of each.
With the states accordingly, getting their tax data out in comparable form, the census or some other body could then compile a report of taxation in the various states and we should have two reports, giving the comparable data relative to our tax legislation and to the results achieved thereunder. The reporting of tax statistics in the United States would then be on a satisfactory basis.
The committee's original work should be followed up by their making annually a critical review of the year's annual tax reports, for publication in the Bulletin of the National Tax Association and the publication of the American Statistical Association. Such a review would serve as a continuing guide for each of the various states.
If the proposal here made should be generally followed it would go a long way toward making it possible to substitute on our library shelves, for books now dealing with economic theories, books dealing with economic facts. Our tax statistics would then be second only to our census statistics.
The content of our tax reports should not be determined by a single head or by an uncoordinated series of suggestions, but it should be determined by a group who will consider the whole field, from each of the various angles.
Mr. Howard continuing: It is my hope that this association will appoint a committee to take up this matter.
Walter W. Law, JR., of New York: I want to inquire if the chair would entertain from me now a motion to appoint such a committee, or to recommend that the association appoint one?
CHAIRMAN Lord: Do you ask unanimous consent to offer such a resolution at this time?
MR. LAW: Yes.
CHAIRMAN Lord: Unanimous consent is asked by the gentleman from New York to introduce a resolution such as is suggested.
(Moved that it be granted) (Motion seconded)
CHAIRMAN LORD: Is there objection? (No response)
Chairman LORD: If there is no objection, you may present the resolution.
*MR. Law: I think it is a matter of a great deal of importance, and that it would be a simple matter for the states to prepare statistics along uniform lines; very much as railroads make their accounting returns on uniform lines, and I therefore move that the president of the association be requested to appoint such a committee, which will take the matter under advisement and report at a subsequent meeting.
(Motion seconded) CHAIRMAN LORD: Are there any remarks? (No response) (Ayes and nocs) CHAIRMAN Lord: The ayes have it; the resolution is adopted.
We will now hold memorial exercises in memory of our esteemed ex-president, Judge Howe of Kansas, and I will call on Mr. Rowan of Kansas to speak first.
W. McD. Rowan of Kansas: Mr. President and gentlemen of the convention. When Mr. Holcomb wrote me saying that, cn account of my close association with Judge Howe, he would like me to make some remarks along the line just suggested, I wrote him that I would do the best I could. I am frank to say to you gentlemen, in the first place, that I am not a public speaker, and in the second place, that it comes very close home. I have prepared just a short address that I should like to read, which I hope will throw some sidelights on the Judge's life that you gentlemen who were associated with him in this convention have not probably known.
There is much that might be said when talking about a man of such force and character as the late Samuel T. Howe; but to this conference there is nothing that I can say that will make liis memory any more dear to those of you who knew him and were associated with him. Some of you may not have been privileged to know him personally, but there are none connected with the National Tax Association but know of him and of his work as a member and as its onetime president. He was honored many times and in many ways, but I know how much he appreciated having been chosen by such men as you to be at the head of the National Tax Association, and he talked often of the men who did and now do take an active part in this work.