Brandon Lewis seems to confirm the image of the Tories as the stupid party. On the Today programme, he said:
The problem with having a revaluation [of council tax bands] is that you'd then be moving people to a higher tax bracket that they are in through no fault of their own.
This, of course, is not a problem with property taxes, but a virtue. The case for taxing land is precisely that its value depends not so much on the efforts of its owner as upon society's efforts.If the value of your house rises because (say) transport links have improved, you've gotten a windfall because of other people's efforts. You should be taxed on that.As someone said back in 1909:
Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains— and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.
So spoke that notorious communist, Winston Churchill (quoted here (pdf)).
In this sense, a land tax is exactly the sort of tax we want. It raises money without deterring useful activities such as work, entrepreneurship or saving. This is why people as diverse as the IEA and IFS both support it.
In fact, far from deterring work, property taxes might even encourage it. What sort of person lives in an expensive house? In many cases, it's someone of high ability - the sort of person we want to be working hard. Forcing them to pay to stay in their home might therefore make them carry on working, rather than retiring or downshifting. Land value taxes, then, might be a way of "tagging" (pdf) high-ability people, incentivizing them to work. In this sense, they are an optimal (pdf) tax (pdf).
But what of those who can't afford to pay - say, the retired?
No problem. They should sell up, thus ensuring that a scarce resource - a big house - is reallocated to those who most want it. Property taxes are, then, just a "bedroom tax" for the rich. And what could be wrong with this? After all, we're all in this together, aren't we?