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Robert Murray Haig.

The exemption of improvements from taxation in Canada and the United States [electronic resource] : a report prepared for the Committee on Taxation of the City of New York online

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ture and how the balance has served to bolster up the General Revenue
Account are shown by the two statements which follow. Had it not been
for the higher water charges and the resulting profit from the water works
department, the city accounts would have shown an unfavorable balance
in 1905.

SUMMARY OF THE GENERAL REVENUE ACCOUNT



Income.



Expenditure.



Balance.



1905
1906
1907
1908
1909
1910
1911
1912
1913



$581,035 25
785,167 63
1,107,529 19
1,243,980 78
1,448,467 47
2,044,873 61
2,603,710 12
3,492,502 39
3,885,569 19



$596,593 33
729,117 85
1,089,776 54
1,240,898 10
1,447,509 33
1,942,227 26
2,580,596 04
3.479,912 50
4,189,189 66



Minus $15,558 08

56,049 78

17,752 65

3,082 68

958 14

102,646 35

23,114 08

12.589 89

Minus 303,620 47



SUMMARY OF THE WATER WORKS REVENUE ACCOUNT



Income.



Expenditure.



Balance.



1905
1906
1907
1908
1909
1910
1911
1912
1913



$115,297 92
130,981 08
173,117 05
203,192 67
247,238 15
321,645 10
410,220 18
516.259 91
500,957 08



$86,724 64
80,112 90
141,344 62
147,870 94
196,108 23
262,014 75
296,394 45
363,121 29
421,293 27



$28,573 28
50,868 18
31,772 43
55,321 73
51,129 92
59.630 35
113,825 73
153,138 62
79,663 81



The great decrease in the net earnings of the water works in 1913,
showing a reduction from $153,138.62 to $79,663.81, is due in some degree
to the decreased gross income, $500,957.08, as compared with $516,259.91 in



178

1912, but in a much greater degree to increased charges for maintenance

and sinking fund and interest. The item of " maintenance — city general "

increased approximately $23,000, while sinking fund and interest charges

increased about $51,000 during the year.

Vancouver's expenditures on " general revenue account " increased

$638,368.78 from 1910 to 1911, $899,316.46 from 1911 to 1912 and

$709,277.16 from 1912 to 1913. Nearly two-thirds of the increase from

1912 to 1913 was due to the increased cost of the debt service. Without

counting the increased expense of the water- works debt service mentioned

above which amounted to over $50,000, the expenses of caring for the city's

debt amounted to $459,458.17 more in 1913 than in 1912. This amount is

distributed as follows :

Interest and sinking fund charges for all expenses except school and

water $363,710.01

Interest and sinking fund for schools 42,525 . 80

Discounts and expenses on treasury bills 53,222.36

Total, except water $459,458. 17



In 1913 the total cost of the debt service in Vancouver, including water
works, was $1,502,242.37, approximately one-third of the total expenditure
from the Revenue and Water Works accounts.

A picture of the financial operations in Vancouver for 1913 is furnished
by the General Revenue Account statement slightly modified, which is repro-
duced below :

GENERAL REVENUE ACCOUNT FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31ST DECEMBER,

1913

Income.

General taxes, 1913, gross levy $3,221,650.55

Less rebates and adjustments 270,096.65

$2,951,553.90

Local Improvement taxes, 1913 —

Paving $126,579.14

Cement walks 37,891.37

Sewers 3,634.25

168,104.76

Street sprinkling taxes, 1913 $6,333.85

Ornamental lighting taxes, 1913 7,063 39

13,397.24

Government grants for schools 167,678.85

Sundry licenses $157,579.00

Sundry rentals 18,456.85

Sundry fees and receipts 397,043.09

573,078.94

Interest on commutations 98.50

School trustee's credits 10,780.00

Adjustment of unexpired insurance 877.00

$3,885,569.19
Balance, deficit carried to Revenue Surplus 303,620.47

$4,189,189.66



179

Expenditure.
General expenditure —

Finance committee $330,702.83

Fire and light committee 413,516.74

Police committee 397,928.59

Health committee 59,236.13

Parks committee 66,564.34

Library committee 38,987.55

School trustees, including sinking fund and interest on

school debentures 823,575.25

Board of Works 916,051.76

Market committee 13,545.27

Relief committee 31,203.62

Interest and sinking fund provision for debentures other

than those for water works and school purposes $1,044,655.22

Discounts and expenses on treasury bills (net) 53,222 . 36



$3,091,312.08



1,097,877.58

$4,189,189.66

■■(=====

The accompanying(l) table presents the chief items of interest in the
revenues and expenditures of Vancouver for the past nine years.

Before 1905 the city accounts were kept in an entirely different man-
ner, and it is therefore impossible to carry back the table given above to
earlier years. However, the main items of receipts and expenditures for the
earlier years are presented below, even though they are not strictly com-
parable with the corresponding items for the later years.

RECEIPTS FROM SELECTED SOURCES, 1893-1904









Percentage


General


Frontage




Tax on


Taxes—


Taxes and


Poll Tax.


Street


Millage


Special




Railway


Rate.


Assessments.




Company.


$256,862 40


$5,124 85


$10,331 55




257,883 32


7,490 20


9,368 25




235,248 80


8,670 22


7,849 40




247,790 23


10,277 68


8,382 15




242,846 74


9,250 85


9,757 05




276,064 31


9.772 79


13,594 30


$50 00


279,919 84


13,556 39


12,087 1Z


895 61


257,059 94


16,873 32


14,470 20


874 55


367,406 98


22,174 53


14,081 75


1,371 99


306,527 51


22,234 26


278 22


3,019 83


358,810 68


26,398 71




3,721 08


368,093 41


21,466 30




5,556 n



1893.
1894.
1895.
1896.
1897.
1898.
1899.
1900.
1901.
1902.
1903.
1904.



(1) a. infra, pp. 180-181.



180



SELECTED ITEMS FROM THE CONSOLIDATED GENERAL



1905.



1906.



1907.



1908.



Income.

Taxation, general —

Millage rate for given ] f

year, net 1 $413,318,74 1 $532,662 89 $764,373 54 $839,309 30

Millage rate for given j 1

year outstanding. . J [ 46,785 62 94,172 75 105,182 85

Frontage taxes and special
assessments —

Paving 17,295 32 22,713 38 25,574 45 33,871 88

Cement walks 2,562 60 9,898 62 15,594 68 15,705 38

Sewers 1,342 62 1,352 11 1,34125 2,45145

Street sprinkling 1,040 42 1,084 60 1,058 32 1,058 32

Ornamental lighting

Percentage Tax on Street

Railway Company 6,957 10 10,163 38 16,366 96 23,182 43

Water Works —

Rates 115,297 92 130,981 08 172,490 81 202,637 48

Miscellaneous 626 24 555 19

Licenses 44,058 20 63,470 Zl 70,154 36 73,496 75

Fees, permits and sundry re-
ceipts 14,217 90 38,229 57

Subventions 62,443 22 57,779 65 67,218 65 79,761 45

Miscellaneous income 17,799 13 1,027 44 51,674 23 69,960 97

Deficit

Total $696,333 17 $916,148 71 $1,280,646 24 $1,447,173 45

ExPENDITtXRE.

Board of Works $80,574 99 $134,098 57 $215,587 74 $256,58161

Water works (except inter-
est and sinking fund) . . 35,367 05 25,072 18 60,556 17 63,06159

School trustees (except in-
terest and sinking fund). 124,487 67 140,820 31 188,612 14 216,771 79

Interest and sinking fund —

School 21,979 50 24,697 00 29,996 05 34,876 83

Water 51,357 59 55,040 72 80.788 45 84,809 35

• General 129,106 26 167,694 86 206,427 93 240,558 10

Miscellaneous expenditure.. 240,444 91 261,807 11 449,152 68 492,109 77

Balance 13,015 20 106,917 96 49,525 08 58,404 41

Total $696,333 17 $916,148 71 $1,280,646 24 $1,447,173 45



(a) The gross levy in 1911 of general taxes was $2,193,251.27. Deducting $197,-
137.95, the net levy, $1,996,113.32 is obtained, of which $1,812,398.43 was collected and
$183,714.89 was outstanding.

(b) Similarly in 1912, the gross levy was $3,076,857.21, of which $281,972,29 was de-
ducted for rebates and adjustments.

(c) In 1913 the general levy was $3,221,650.55. Rebates and adjustments amounted
to $270,096.65.



181



REVENUE AND WATER WORKS REVENUE ACCOUNTS

1909. 1910. 1911. 1912. 1913.

$1,002,507 59 $1,424,526 65 $1,812,398 43 (a) $2,511,941 21 (b) $2,469,974 31 (c)

94,457 30 130,216 65 183,714 89 282,943 71 481,579 59

33,871 90 37,610 15 43,686 20 72,728 06 126,579 14

15,674 70 18,836 28 25,584 22 26,229 46 37,891 Zl

2,451 45 3,634 25 3,634 25 3,634 25 3,634 25

1,058 34 3,005 00 2,549 18 4,123 95 6,333 85

7,063 39

33,694 41 48,799 41 68,161 38 84,167 93 (d) 81,166 11 (d)

246,413 74 321,256 21 409,542 66 (e) 515,700 60 (f) 500,423 15 (g)

824 41 388 89 677 52 559 31 533 93

81,496 20 135,859 25 148,389 95 149,605 00 157,579 00

116,966 82 134,003 11 174,754 69 315,876 36

89,749 80 109,931 05 126,248 30 149,505 35 167,678 85

93,505 78 15,488 10 54,340 21 32,868 78 30,212 35

223,956 66

$1,695,705 62 $2,366,518 71 $3,013,930 30 $4,008,762 30 $4,610,482 9Z

$287,970 26 $464,012 63 $623,744 78 $861,040 63 $916,051 n

89,918 98 207,420 13 273,167 92 348,265 75 281,989 31

255,800 59 336,671 41 408,119 10 546,682 02 640,915 99

51,092 47 64,289 99 84,526 98 142,871 22 185,397 02

106,189 25 114,224 97 137,052 26 167,994 16 218,967 11

2,21,^2 70 397,952 54 505,337 69 680,945 21 1,044,655 22

524,783 31 619,670 34 845,041 16 1,095,234 80 1,322,505 86

52,088 06 162,276 70 136,939 81 165,728 51

$1,695,705 62 $2,366,518 71 $3,013,930 30 $4,008,762 30 $4,610,482 93 ,

(d) Nothing is given here for interurban percentages.

(e) The gross levy of water rates in 1911 was $491,674.61, discounts and allow-
ances, $82,131.95, leaving $409,542.66.

(f ) The gross levy of water rates in 1912 was $618,202.46.

(g) The gross levy of water rates in 1913 was $671,509.35.



182
RECEIPTS FROM SELECTED SOURCES, 189^1904— Continued



1893.
1894.
1895.
1896.
1897.
1898.
1899.
1900.
1901.
1902.
1903.
1904.





Subventions




Water


for Schools,




Works.


Fire Department
and Hospital.


Licenses.


$52,096 31


$12,809 54


$28,481 50


58,924 70


20,719 64


28,102 75


50,001 07


21,872 88


22,934 10


46,246 27


23,016 18


27,150 25


49,339 54


24,048 34


27,975 50


58,932 36


25,865 84


29,677 15


65,990 69


23,000 50


30,660 25


80,408 69


41,944 48


32,055 85


79,762 49


40,253 24


33,125 25


88,174 84


54,289 46


38,047 30


93,507 35


51,280 07


39,175 55


104,761 19


53,242 46


39,911 15



EXPENDITURES FOR SELECTED PURPOSES, 1893-1904













Water Works




Finance


School Trustees.

A


Works


Committee.

A






^


r


^




Committee.




Sinking


Committee.




Sinking






Current.


Fund.




Current.


Fund.


1893


. . . $92,482 85


$55,532 47




$75,184 08


$19,566 02


$38,805 58


1894


... 106,81136


47,537 33




69,013 45


14,385 60


38,650 38


1895


. . . 105,750 25


46,472 02




58,319 24


30,491 73


38,650 38


1896


. . . 107,422 65


48,162 87




41,269 73


17,951 23


38,650 38


1897


... 111,768 35


48,051 20




50,630 55


17,748 59


42,120 38


1898


. . . 122,624 51


53,089 82




76,531 77


29,467 13


42,120 38


1899


... 117,562 84


56,296 27




110,672 28


24,666 31


43,870 38


1900


. . . 116,484 60


66,184 62


$12,114 98


118,072 14


47,347 96


48,797 75


1901


. . . 129,135 57


78,542 18


14,864 00


108,851 85


20,903 38


48,797 75


1902


... 130,331 93


88,525 75


14,917 59


91,110 85


25,846 68


49,777 35


1903


. . . 137,027 42


91,430 90


14,407 35


100,455 32


49,527 25


50,017 45


1904


. . . 162,720 24


111,871 95


21,871 50


69,107 54


70,616 17


48,431 81



In 1894 Vancouver's debt was approximately two million dollars. Not
until 1905 did it pass the four million mark. The next ten-year period
shows a much more rapid increase. By 1908 the debt had doubled. By

1912 it had reached the sum of twenty-two and one-half millions, and by

1913 nearly thirty-one millions. The total outstanding debentures by years,
together with the amounts issued for general purposes as distinguished from
those, issued for local improvement purposes, are given in the following
table :



183



OUTSTANDING DEBENTURE INDEBTEDNESS



General






Debentures


Local




and


Improvement


Total.


Registered


Debentures.




Stock.







1894(a) $1,815,351 20 $187,100 00 $2,002,451 20

1895 1,815,351 20 187,100 00 2,002,451 20

1896 1,808,451 20 187,100 00 1,995,551 20

1897 1,928,451 20 187,100 00 2,115,551 20

1898 1,938,451 20 281,000 00 2,219,451 20

1899 2,053,451 20 341,490 00 2,394,941 20

1900 2,235,451 20 347,490 00 2,582,941 20

1901 2,352,451 20 352,340 00 2,704,791 20

1902 2,458,951 20 373,090 00 2,832,041 20

1903 2,610,951 20 426,090 00 3,037,041 20

1904 3,109,951 20 467,936 00 3,577,887 20

1905 3,507,451 20 743,729 67 4,251,180 87

1906 4,018,351 20 743,729 67 4,762,080 87

1907 5,007,851 20 1,218,647 12 6.226,498 32

* 1908 7,585,851 20 1,243,647 12 8,829,498 32

1909 8,982,851 20 1,365,513 IZ 10,348,364 93

1910 11,190,751 20 1,617,514 75 12,808,265 95

1911 14,008,751 20 1,776,650 45 15,785,401 65

1912 20,426,351 20 2,084,401 01 22,510,752 21

1913 25,539,151 20 5,249,734 26 30,788,885 46

(a) On December 31st of each year.

A sinking fund system is used, annual payments being made from cur-
rent revenues for the purpose of providing for the eventual retirement of

the debentures. The facts for each year in regard to the condition of the
sinking fund, together with the manner of its investment, are presented in
the following table :

SINKING FUND ASSETS



Invested in
Vancouver
Debentures,



On
Deposit
in Bank.



Loans on

Farm
Properties.



Miscel-
laneous.



Total.



1895


none


$36,989 19


$89,734 99


$3,142 28


$129,866 46


1896


none


53,792 32


96,034 99


3,802 64


153,629 95


1897


$79,134 99


1,128 75


98,325 00


5,959 74


184,548 48



Loans on Real Estate,

Investments,

and Miscellaneous.



1898


116,134 99


700 ZZ


$104,044 13


220,879 45


1899


166,153 34


1,271 66


89,918 88


257.343 88


1900


221,718 34


504 59


79,319 95


301,542 88


1901


275,442 49


878 22


74,103 39


350,424 10



184





Invested in


On


Loans on Real Estate,






Vancouver


Deposit


Investments,


Total.




Debentures.


in Bank.


and Miscellaneous.




19Q2


$327,419 99


$1,891 26


$70,544 29


$399,855 54


1903


385,069 99


47 32


67,570 39


452,687 70


1904








514,668 98
587,587 43


1905....


425,585 59


104,298 84


57,703 00


1906


429,570 99


197.091 55


48,147 50


674,810 04


1907


554,560 61


222,299 54


39,086 55


815,946 70


1908


554,560 61


380,808 53


28,492 12


963,861 26


1909


676,427 22


447,908 14


19,001 55


1,143,336 91


1910


966,028 24


Z2,\,772, 24


15,759 OS


1,313,560 53


1911


1,125,163 94


406,280 46


10,959 05


1,542,403 45


1912


1,544,014 50


297,285 43


14,911 30


1,856,211 23


1913....


. 1,697,347 75


518,343 ZZ


3,852 50


2,219,543 58



Even if the policy of liberal borrowing should be immediately discon-
tinued, it would be some years before relief from heavy debt charges could
be secured. Only small numbers of the general bonds fall due before 1923.
The city has already curtailed very greatly the construction of local improve-
ments. There is now under way some expensive viaduct construction,
and the city is face to face with a serious problem in connection with the
disposal of its sewage. General observation in Vancouver tends to create
the impression that there is no lack of objects for which money might well
be spent. On the whole, the immediate financial outlook is not bright. A
much higher tax rate or a change in the tax system seems to be the alterna-
tive which is before the citizens of Vancouver.



THE TAX SYSTEM



Dominion and Provincial Taxes



The citizens of Vancouver are, to a greater extent than is the case of
the prairie cities, subject to the taxation by higher governmental authorities.
Not only do the provincial customs and excise rates apply, but the province
adds to the city taxes important direct charges on property.

The province leaves real estate entirely to the city for tax purposes,
but it retains for its own purposes the taxation of the income and the
personal property of the residents of the city. The items of personal
property which are levied upon for provincial purposes are, in the main,
automobiles, movable boilers and machinery, stock-in-trade and ships and
watercraft. Such important items of personal property as mortgages, house-
hold furniture and eflfects and wearing apparel are exempt. Until recently
a poll tax was levied by the province, the proceeds of which were given to
the city to be used for school purposes.

All income received by residents of the city is taxable except that which
is covered by the $1,000 initial exemption and that which may be offset by



$109,411 20

21,084 75

9,063 80

9,144 91

21,523 88

82,737 17


$121,530 53
28,016 92
11,370 60
11,566 38
29,440 94
126,807 20


$174,866 95
34,217 18
12,527 80
10,027 32
27,924 32
136,846 90


143,554 51


207,202 04


221,543 52


252,965 71


328,732 57


396,410 47


25,288 62
• 227,677 09


32,863 23
295,869 34


39,629 23
356,781 24



185

the tax on personal property under the arrangement outlined in the section
of the revenue law already quoted.(l)

The following table shows the provincial receipts from the tax on prop-
erty and income in the Vancouver assessment district for the past three
years :

VANCOUVER ASSESSMENT DISTRICT
RECEIPTS FROM TAX ON PROPERTY AND INCOME

1912^ 1913^ 1914(a).

Income —

Personal property

Class A (taxed at 1 per cent.) . .

Class B (1% per cent.)

Class C 0/2 per cent.)

Class D (2 per cent.)

Class E (2^^ per cent.)

Total receipts from incomes

Total receipts from taxes on personal
property and income

Discounts (b)

Total net receipts

(a) Figures for period ending June 30, 1914.

(b) A ten per cent, discount is allowed on provincial taxes if paid before June 30th.

The assessment officials believe that much income and personal prop-
erty could be added to the assessment rolls if funds were granted them for
additional aid on their stafif. They frankly admit that they are not entirely
successful in their assessments, particularly of income. This is in spite of
the fact that they have the power, seldom exercised, to compel property
owners to swear to the correctness of their returns and to compel employers
to submit a list of their employees who receive a larger salary than one
thousand dollars a year.

Sources of City Revenue

The tax on land yields the great bulk of the revenue of the city of
Vancouver. In 1913, when the revenue account showed total receipts of
$4,386,526.27, the income from the taxes on land amounted to $2,951,553.90,
or two-thirds of the total. Of the remaining amount, the income from the
water works supplied about one-third ($500,957.08). The next largest
amount was the receipts from local improvement taxes, $168,104.76. Over
half of the revenue collected by the provincial government through income
and personal property taxes was returned to the city in 1913 in the form of
a government subvention for schools ($167,678.85). Licenses brought in
$157,579, of which $101,610 came from the liquor licenses, $11,191.80 from
licenses on pool and billiard tables, $6,920 from theater licenses and the
remainder from miscellaneous charges. The only other source which pro-

(1) R. S., B. C, 1911, c. 222, s. 11; 1913, c. 71. Cf. supra, p. 164.



186

duced more than $100,000 was interest on deposits and advances which
yielded $134,929.37. A percentage on the receipts of the British Columbia
Electric Railway Company netted the treasury $81,166.73.

Special Assessments and Frontage Taxes

Frontage taxes and special assessments are levied to pay the cost of
opening and improving streets, of special street lighting and of sprinkhng.
These are not used to construct sewers and water mains. The city from
general funds pays the cost of improving street intersections and gives
special aid to the owners of corner lots. It pays for a fifteen foot strip of
street pavement on streets where car tracks are laid and gives special
assistance when streets are more than sixty-six feet in width.

Building materials are very inexpensive in Vancouver and payments are
spread over a long period of years. But on the other hand both the streets
and the lots are wide. The cost of local improvements to property owners
is higher, on the whole, here than in some of the other cities, the annual
charge to the owner of a thirty-three foot lot fully improved being estimated
at $42.24.

It is the testimony of a number of citizens that the local improvement
charges are bearing heavily upon the property owners at the present time.

History of the Real Estate Tax

The first charter of the city of Vancouver was granted in 1886. An
examination of the charter as it stood in 1891 shows that at this early date
it provided that land and improvements should be assessed separately and
granted full power to the council to exempt improvements, wholly or in part,
from taxation. In 1895 the city council took advantage of the power given
it in the charter and reduced the assessment on buildings fifty per cent.
This resulted in a reduction of the tax base from $18,301,084 to $15,988,554,
but no increase was made in the tax rate. The receipts from taxation
dropped from $257,883.32 in 1894 to $235,248.80 in 1895. In 1905 an unsuc-
cessful attempt was made to reduce the assessment on buildings from fifty
per cent, to forty per cent. The vote defeating the motion stood eight to
three. (1) In discussing the question in the council the argument was used
that this system would reach the non-resident owner of vacant land who
should be taxed heavily because he was benefiting by the industry of others.
Moreover, the vacant land, it was pointed out, was a menace partly because it
served as a shelter for criminals. The following year, 1906, a proposal to
reduce the assessment on buildings to twenty-five per cent, of their value was
carried by a large majority of the council. It was urged at the council meet-
ing(2) that such a tax would put a premium on building, and this was de-
sirable because the city contained too many vacant lots. Those who opposed
the measure pointed out that it would favor unduly the man who could afford

(1) The Single Tax Review, May- June, 1911, p. 65, et seq.

(2) Ihid., p. 66 et seq.



187

to build large buildings, that buildings should be taxed at least enough to pay
for fire and police protection, and that the exemption of buildings might
mean a higher tax rate. In spite of the reduction in the assessed value of
buildings the assessment base in 1906 showed an increase of approximately
$6,000,000 ($28,623,670, as compared with $22,641,765 for 1905). The
fears of those who had anticipated an increased tax rate, however, proved
not to be groundless, for in spite of this increase in the tax base, the net tax
rate was increased two mills. So large an increase was evidently unneces-
sary, for at the end of 1906 the city accounts showed a cash balance of
$106,917.96, as compared with the cash balance of the preceding year,
$13,015.20. In addition, at the end of the year, the sum of $46,785.62 was
outstanding in unpaid taxes.

Buildings continued to be assessed at twenty-five per cent, of their value
until 1910, when the city council decided to exempt improvements entirely
from taxation. The proposal to untax buildings entirely was one of the
planks in the platform of Mr. L. D. Taylor, who was elected mayor for the
year 1910. This issue was not particularly emphasized in the campaign, so
that the election of Mayor Taylor cannot be said, strictly speaking, to have
been a distinct victory for the single tax proposal. In fact, there has never
been in Vancouver a direct expression of popular sentiment on the question,
though in the 1910 campaign the plank to exempt buildings from taxation
was made something of an issue in several of the aldermanic contests. No
increase in the tax rate was necessary in 1910, the tax base increasing nearly
one-third in spite of the lower assessment of buildings.

Since 1910 the council has each year decided to continue the plan of
entirely exempting buildings from taxation. (1)

Charter Provisions

The city of Vancouver operates to-day under the 1886 charter as amended
at various times. (2) This charter provides that " it shall be the duty of the
assessor or the assessors annually to make an assessment of all the rateable
property in the city, and to report the same with such particulars as the
council may require." " All rateable property shall be estimated at its actual



Online LibraryRobert Murray HaigThe exemption of improvements from taxation in Canada and the United States [electronic resource] : a report prepared for the Committee on Taxation of the City of New York → online text (page 19 of 31)