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COUNTIES WHICH SHOW DECREASE OF ALL PROPERTY.
For this same period Cass, Griggs, Pembina, Traill, Richland, Walsh, Wells, Ransom and Towner show a decrease in both personal and real property. In these, as well as those counties in which real and personal property both made gains, personal property does not keep pace with the real estate. The following makes this plain :
All other counties in the state not included in these two tables show an increase in real estate and a decrease in personal property.
The tables page 42 further illustrate this tendency of personal property to decrease while real estate increases in value. The twenty-two counties included in these tables are taken at random from all parts of the state and furnish interesting data for reflection on the part of anyone acquainted with North Dakota values.
RATIO TO TOTAL ASSESSMENT.
Again this tendency is shown in the proportion which the personal property bears to the entire assessment. In 1890 it comprised 28 per cent of the total assessment; in 1900, 22 per cent; in 1909, 20 per cent; in 1911, 19 per cent and in 1912, 17 per cent. In 1890 realty bore 69 per cent and all other property than personal, 3 per cent; in 1900 realty bore 63 per cent and all other property than personal, 15 per cent; in 1909 realty bore 65 per cent and all other property than personal, 15 per cent. In 1911 realty bore 67 per cent and all other property than personal, 17 per cent;
and in 1912 realty bore 67 per cent and all other property than personal, 15 per cent.
Two salient facts at once present themselves to the observer in the data just given; 1st: The increasing proportion of the burden of taxation borne by railroads and other public utilities and real estate. 2: The constantly decreasing portion borne by personal property. It will be noticed that there was a slight decrease in the portion borne by real estate at the time the public utility corporations were developed and really assessed. However, as soon as readjustment had taken place, the burden of taxation on real estate at once began to steadily increase. Table page 30 presents the value of real property, the numbers of acres assessed, the value of personal property and the population in 1890, 1900, 1910, for the entire state and for those counties whose area remained constant for the period. Several peculiarities will be ob. served in the fluctuations of valuation, caused largely by years of depression and years of prosperity; but the whole tendency is toward a relative decrease in personalty and an increase in real estate. Table on Page 33 contains the ratio of increase and decrease for these same periods. It brings home very clearly the fact that the general property tax in not uniform, even upon those classes of property which cannot well be concealed.
All of these statistics mark clearly the fact that where there is no raw land to come under cultivation and be put upon the assessment rolls, there is little, if any, increase in the value of property for the purposes of taxation. This is graphically illustrated by the figures covering the past four years—outside of the western counties there is a positive decline in personalty and little, if any, increase in real estate. There was a flat raise of 121/2 per cent made by the state board of equalization in 1909, of all classes of property, and the years since have not been ultra prosperous and some kinds of property have actually declined in value. But the contention that there has been an actual decrease in the value of both real and personal property in any county in the state will need demonstration to be believable. That development has not been entirely arrested is shown by the general condition of business.
INCREASE OF BANKS.
Bank statements are invariably accepted as one of the surest indices of the trend of business. While nine counties in the state since 1909 decreased in taxable real and personal property, and personalty for the entire state decreased, the number of banksnational and state-increased from 591 to 733, an average of 35 yearly, or 24 per cent. Deposits have increased nearly $14,000,000, or 25 per cent, while new capital invested in banks has increased
by nearly three million dollars, or 27 per cent. Surplus and profits, the surest index of all to the prosperity of the community, increased for this period 40 per cent. The inevitable conclusion is brought home by the condition of banks as compared with taxable personal property, that this period of business depression has been made the excuse for much property to escape taxation.
The following is a summary of the bank statements, made under call of June 23, 1912, and under call of June 14 for national banks and September 14 for state banks in 1912.
It is useless, in the face of this phenomenal increase in bank deposits, bank capital and surplus and profits, to contend that property values in North Dakota have generally declined. Personal property has greatly increased, owing to the development of new territory and the tendency of the times toward corporation and kindred wealth. There has been no general decrease in the value of any class of property in this state during the past four years. The true explanation for this decline is to be found in the fact that, owing to the hard times, the tender-hearted taxing official has allowed personal property to escape, while the revenue deficit is made up on real estate.
NO DECREASE IN WEALTH IN STATE.
We do not believe that there has been an actual decline in personal property in this state during the past twenty-two years, nor in the past ten years, nor in any given period of time. The development of the state has been phenomenal and its wealth has doubled and trebled each Census period.
The experience of North Dakota is but a repitition of the experience of all states or nations which have depended upon personal property for revenue—the longer the attempt is made to collect the tax, the smaller the percentage of the property taxed. The fault lies with the system and its administration rather than with either the people of the state or business conditions.
TABLE SHOWING PERSONAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS FOR 22 COUNTIES
FOR 1909 AND 1912 AND INCREASE OR DECREASE FOR PERIOD.
*The statistics used in this column are taken from the abstract found on Page 218 of the 1909 report of the state board of equalization, which differ in some instances from the abstract on Page 238 of the same report.
TABLE SHOWING REAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS FOR 22 COUNTIES
FOR 1909 AND 1912 AND INCREASE OR DECREASE FOR PERIOD.
ASSESSMENT OF INTANGIBLE PROPERTY.
While, relatively at least, the personal property list decreases from year to year, the demands for revenue constantly increase, with the inevitable result that the burden falls more and more heavily upon the property listed. The property bearing a heavier burden from year to year is the visible, or tangible, while the class escaping more and more from year to year is that which can be hid, or the intangible. While all cattle, tangibles, are probably assessed at 40 per cent of their true value, intangibles, such as money, credits, stocks and bonds, are assessed at but a small fraction of their actual value or are not assessed at all. In fact, the woes of the taxing official do not really begin until he has to do with this class of property.
MONIES AND CREDITS.
Take for instance, Classification No. 19, “Monies other than those of banks, bankers and brokers.” In 1890 the total amount of this item was $317,731. In 1912 it was but $224,167, a decrease of nearly 30 per cent. While the money of the state decreased 30 per cent for purposes of taxation, bank deposits which should be assessed under this head increased roughly 1,600 per cent. It is hard to conceive of a more grotesque travesty on sound, fiscal policy than the pretence of taxing monies in North Dakota. A few exceptionally honest men, a few men caught in the midst of transfers of property, and the widow and the orphan, pay the mite which flows into the coffers of the state from this source.
In Barnes County, for instance, only $1,025 was returned under this item in 1912, while bank deposits were upward of $2,000,000. Burleigh County returned but $2,275, while the deposits aggregated about the same as those of Barnes. Cass County listed but $70,375, while deposits reached the very large sum of $8,870,090. Mountrail County was taxed but $1,899, while bank deposits amounted to $2,636,000. Ransom County listed but $100, while the bank deposits reached $1,264,000. Burke, McLean and Stark Counties returned no monies for taxation, while the bank deposits of these three rich counties aggregated approximately $5,000,000.