The regressive era: Progressive Era tax reform and the National Tax Association--roots of the modern American tax structure. (Volumes I and II)
Ellis, Albert Luther, III
Stein, Robert M.
Doctor of Philosophy
The National Tax Association (1907) successfully led more well-known Progressive Era reform groups (National Municipal League, Civic Federation, Bar and Economics Associations and others) in advocating twenty-eight "classified" (discriminatory) taxes--examined in statutory detail, with debate. Supplanting constitutionally mandated, uniform-rate, shared state/local general property taxation and the federal tariff, NTA Model Laws with varying bases, rates, loopholes, methods of assessment, administration, and collection for separate levels of government supervised by newly-created "independent" State Tax Commissions reflected the NTA's classified tariff model, Republican roots, and business interests of its leadership. Classification produced the distributive tax politics imbedded in today's American tax "structure"--composed entirely of NTA reforms supported by its supply-side, class-based, European-generated rationales. NTA reformers used seven "tax incentive" arguments supporting selective tax relief, reflecting their restricted membership, procedures, and funding sources. Results show intangibles investors and businesses (banking, insurance, securities) and other "regulated" concentrated industries (public service corporations) benefitting from NTA reforms reducing intangibles and selected tangible tax burdens (timber industry) via relief from personal property taxation replaced by "net" earnings taxation and one-time recording or stumpage fees--in lieu of yearly personal property taxes based on total asset value. Highly competitive industries producing tangible goods (manufacturing, mining), their employees and consumers, farmers and small-lot owners suffered under NTA reforms--through comparatively regressive real estate levies and new taxes added to the general property tax--income, sales, excises and user fees, while absorbing excused intangible tax burdens. While NTA state success positively correlated with the presence of State Tax Associations, NTA leader-lobbyists, State Tax Commissions, pre-existing state classification leeway, and economic structure, and federal success with NTA co-affiliations, alternative hypotheses suggest NTA success related positively to powerful within-state interest groups (virtually identical to NTA reformers' interests), Republican governorships, governors with intangibles business ties, and states with diversified economies. The rise of State Tax Commissions and tax classification during competitive state/local electoral times suggests an alternative interpretation of realignment, and supports critics of anti-democratic Progressive Era municipal reform. Truly general (uniform) taxation is recommended.
Political science; Public administration; Economic history