Land tax once served the country well and could do so again

Sir, The letters from Andrew Smith and Jeremy Newsum (June 16) criticising Martin Wolf for proposing a land value tax follow the usual pattern of saying that it is all right in theory but will never work in practice in the UK.

In fact, the land tax was put into practice in the 1690s as part of this country’s so-called Financial Revolution. However, after serving this country well during its period of industrial and imperial expansion, by 1871 and the onset of economic difficulties, Charles Bradlaugh, later Radical MP for Northampton, was complaining: “Out of the taxation in this country, less than one one seventy-seventh portion of the burden falls on land . . .” although “before the accession of the House of Brunswick, land paid nearly two thirds of imperial taxes” (“The Land, the People and the Coming Struggle”, 1871). His proposal to restore a tax on land values to its former pre-eminence by a graduated tax aimed principally at the estates of the landed gentry remains one politically practicable method of beginning to redress the macroeconomic balance so heavily tilted by inflated land values.

DBC Reed
Labour Land Campaign

Sir, Do Andrew Smith and Jeremy Newsum realise that we could scrap council tax, council tax benefit, stamp duty land tax, inheritance tax, the TV licence fee and capital gains tax and replace them with a simple land value tax, calculated as 1 per cent of the market value of your home after deducting a nil rate band of £70,000?

The total tax raised and the total amount payable by any household would be broadly the same as under the current system.

Mark Wadsworth
Chartered Tax Adviser