When the tax-nabbing city burghers of New London, Conn., decided to set a record for greedy government by confiscating private property to give to developers, they were at least transparent in trampling through a fundamental right of individual property owners.
Endorsing the collectivist land grab, the U.S. Supreme Court was more devious, substituting “public purpose” for the Constitution’s “public use,” once again illustrating the dangerous dictionary nuances of a “living constitution.” Developers basked in the glow of their newly anointed public spirit before bathing in the money of their newfound landfall. Thus did “greed for the greater good” enter our lexicon from Stage Left, soon to turn your modest homestead into someone else’s castle of more tax progress.
“Great scheme,” said other local and state governments, ever envious of early adopters of KA-CHING tax policies. “Better get us one.”
Come we then to New Hampshire’s “View Tax.”
Here’s how it works. Decades ago, you bought this property way out in the woods, looking up at the mountain or down at the lake. Even by New Hampshire standards, it was remote. Probably took you three or four months to find the owner, who was glad to skin you for a few dollars more than his father paid for property no one before had even asked about.
You built a house, maybe even doing some of the work yourself. It was tricky getting to work on those stormy days, but you made it and you paid the mortgage. Not many government services all the way out there, so the property taxes were as moderate as your income. You weren’t getting rich, but you owned your home.
Others of your countrymen were getting rich. They had money to burn, but nowhere to live. In the cities, where their outrageously expensive apartments looked out on air shafts, if they were lucky, they had learned to lust after…a view. With GPS finders mapping away, they navigated to New Hampshire.
They started buying houses, shacks, property, anything with a view of anything pretty. In the cities, they had learned to overpay for everything they coveted. Johnny Lucas, on the other side of the village, got $500,000 for his single-room, shower-only cabin. Lilly Weathers, looking right out on a pond, got six for hers. But they wanted to leave, go somewhere warm and chase hurricanes.
You don’t. You can’t. Your job is right there in New Hampshire, where it’s always been and where it’s going to stay. You’re happy in your house, even though you don’t have much free time to look at that view.
Too bad, citizen. Because New Hampshire tax assessors have also discovered the “view factor,” the view TAX. Simply put, they take the normative property value and move the tax assessment way on up just because you have that view. Some towns now even have separate lines on the appraisal records for the view.
In one case reported by the Associated Press, “the view added $140,000 to [the] property’s underlying value of $22,900. The property owner’s taxes are thus expected “to jump from less than $500 last year to more than $3,000 this year.” That’s not an incremental tax increase. That assesses a subjective “view” at six times the value of the property, from one year to the next.
The tax and spenders, who always have an argument for their excesses, say no big deal. Tax assessments must reflect fair market value no matter how that is arrived at. Furthermore, view and location are always part of the formula, specifically stated or not. They want the money; the taxman cometh.
According to the AP, “New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor said the underlying problem is the ‘perversity’ of the state’s heavy reliance on property taxes. The state has no general income or sales taxes, and the resulting high property taxes are hardest on those who are land-rich but income-poor.”
A revolt, of sorts, has begun. Hearings are being held around the state. Elected officials cluck sympathetically, but what can they do? You have a view. It has a value. Yours is theirs. Pay now.