A tax increase I support

Over the weekend my family and I were at the beach enjoying the weather when a local man drove by with his trailer in tow playing patriotic music from external speakers.  This isn’t really odd in my town, he’s been doing it for a few years.  The trailer is a moving billboard of sorts, basically protesting the town administration of dishonesty and ruthless tax policies.

It’s somewhat of an anomaly that my town is run by Democrats and has been for decades, but its economy is thriving and taxes are low.  This is because we have a diverse mix of industry, business, and residential properties and our First Selectmen present and past have done a good job spreading the burden to all so that none are over-burdened.  All three have very competitive tax rates compared to surrounding towns and the state overall, such that my property tax is about two-thirds what it would be the next town over.

The local man, I’ll call him John Smith, drives through the town daily eventually making his way to the town hall to park his mobile billboard.  His complaint is that the town has redesignated his property in order to increase what he owes in property tax from $17,000 a year to $85,000 a year.  This is true, but not as nefarious as he tries to make it seem.

Here’s the problem: Smith’s property used to be a working apple orchard.  They made delicious pies, offered fresh fruits, everyone enjoyed it.  But a few years ago Smith halted production of produce, essentially he stopped being a farm.  With farm status comes a significant tax break to which he was the beneficiary.  Smith’s protest is that the town, upon discovering he was no longer a working farm, updated his property’s status to straight residential, in turn causing his tax status to increase five-fold.  Smith believes he should qualify for the farm rate despite no longer being a farm.

However, when Smith laments that the town raised his taxes, his perspective is off a little.  True, he pays more taxes, but his taxes weren’t increased.  The farm rate is the same, and so is the residential rate.  He was merely placed into the proper tax classification.  He’s not without options.  He could parcel out the land to developers and make a fortune.  He could even take the First Selectman’s advice, “You know, it’s very simple.  All you have to do is grow something to be a farmer.”

It’s too bad that Smith has seen such a dramatic increase in taxes, it’s enough to break anyone’s bank.  The town obviously acted properly.  It is pretty simple, if you’re not running a farm you aren’t a farm and shouldn’t qualify to be taxed as such.

Comments

  1. Sounds fair to me!

  2. TerranceH says:

    Wait. What? $85,000 in property taxes?!?! Just how much property does he own! I have an acre and I pay like $1400!

    • Calculating it out from what I pay on my 3/4 of an acre, between 15-20

      • TerranceH says:

        I don’t understand how taxes can be that damn high. I went and looked at my information and I pay about $1,400 in the summer and about the same in the winter, so about $3,000, given or take.

  3. Sounds fair. It’s not like he can’t afford it. Sell the farm if he’s not using the land.

    Also see churches who don’t fill the pews. Not doing church work? time to recycle the land. It’s not like people aren’t trying, but if this guy had one tree on 100 acres, it wouldn’t really be a farm in that case either.

  4. I agree…. I wonder is there a reason he stopped planting apples on the land? Yeah, he would make a lot of money renting the land… I am not understanding why he is not doing that and instead chooses to run his mobile billboard around town. Has anyone talked to him about his options? If so, is he simply not willing to listen? Or is it that the only persons that have brought the options to his attention are all persons he views as enemies, so his mind just sorta shuts them down. I wonder if neighbors/towns folk sent him a polite letter stating the same options if he would hear it differently… just a thought.

    • KT

      He has been at this for like 3 years now. He knows his options, he just wants to keep his land and pay the lower taxes without running the farm. He is quite obstinant, he goes to the town meetings and tirelessly rehashes the issue regularly. I just think people don’t like the idea of having to sell their property just to relieve a tax burden. It makes them feel like the government is trying to take their land or force them out of town. This whole animosity (generally speaking) in my state began when the town of New London used eminent domain to take people’s homes and land to give it to a private developer. Their reasoning was the developer would pay more taxes than each citizen and therefore would be more beneficial to the community.

      Government — in all forms — simply isn’t acting in a manner which fosters trust that they have your best interest in mind.

  5. I can see both sides of this argument. But I have to lean more toward the farmer. It’s his land and the tax rate changes are the government dictating what he must use his land for, as if they have any right to do so. Taxation is commonly used to compel the behaviors suitable to gov’t agendas, and I find that to be abused in most cases.

    At the same time, zoning laws are not generally hidden and to change the use of one’s land and expect the zoning laws to not change with it seems unreasonable. He’d be better off arguing the unreasonable difference in tax rates than the fact that he provoked a reclassification.

    However, I am confused that a parcel used for producing something that can be taxed upon the sale of it would be taxed less than a parcel simply owned for private use. It seems backwards to me. That would be like saying my front yard, if used to produce apples or corn would garner me a tax break, but keeping it as it is, a front yard, incurs a greater tax burden. I don’t get the rationale.

    • Marshall

      The guy used to run a farm so he was taxed as a farm. He no longer does any farming. Why should he still get the benefit of the farm rate? Can I just say I want that rate? Why not? I’m not running a farm and neither is he, what’s the difference?

      Its not that the town WANTS him to run a farm. Its just that they aren’t preventing him from doing so if he wants the farm rate.

      I’m not really seeing why he deserves the lower rate if he doesn’t meet the criteria.

  6. Don’t misunderstand. I think the guy has no argument by virtue of how taxing land works. It’s the way taxing land works that I find confusing.

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