The Model Real Property Tax Collection Law
Roger J. Traynor
California Law Review
THE MODEL REAL PROPERTY TAX COLLECTION LAw.'-Municipalities, heavily burdened by the cumulative tax delinquency of the past decade, must find some way of lessening the strain that threatens to disrupt their credit. 2 Like the federal and state governments, they have assumed responsibility not merely for large emergency relief projects, but for a permanent enlargement of governmental equipment and services; meanwhile they have continued to depend for the bulk of their resources upon the rigid
... eral property tax,^ which contracts with deflated real estate values in times of greatest need. Both the uneconomic nature of this tax and the frequency of inequitable assessment valuations 4 have aggravated the critical state of municipal credit, but the major responsibility lies with inefficient collection, which has obstructed the receipt of taxes in good times as in bad. The lack of flexible arrangements for payments by taxpayers in real financial distress has frozen indefinitely their capacity to pay. At the same time inadequate penalties and lax enforcement against voluntary delinquency have demoralized the certainty and promptness of all tax receipts and vitiated efforts at tardy enforcement. While unpaid taxes have been recorded in municipal accounts as "assets," they have been refused as security for short-term loans to municipalities already burdened with a large floating indebtedness. Caught in a vicious circle, with indebtedness constantly leading receipts, local governments have resorted to costly financing methods, such as tax anticipation warrants, issuance of bonds at high interest charges and consumption of reserves. Meanwhile the effectiveness of any enforcement of liens by tax sales has been largely nullified by the traditional leniency of the courts toward such sales. Where the accumulated taxes amounted to more than could be realized from a tax sale, the government could resort to the dubious remedy of purchasing the property, thus removing it from its own tax rolls. In the case of voluntary delinquency it has frequently been under the necessity of accepting reduced cash payments from taxpayers who have meanwhile enjoyed I This analysis is based upon a paper read before the Special Committee on Municipal Law at the American Bar Association convention, July 17, 1935. 2 The tax delinquencies of certain representative cities had mounted to nearly 19% in 1932, whereas 15% is regarded as the maximum margin oi safety. Other evidence of mounting delinquency is cited in the compiehensive ;tudy Administration of Mfunicipal Credit (1934) 43 YALE L. J. 924, 925. Representative data for 1932-1933 indicated an avcrage delinquency of over 20%. Report on Tax Delinquency (1934) 27 PRoc. NAT. TAx Ass'N 319, 330. 3 The available statistics show that sixty to seventy per cent of local revenues are still derived from this tax. See Notes (1934) 43 YALE L. J. 924. 928: (1934) 27 Ponc. NAT. TAx Ass'N 356. 4 See Enslow, H. R., Tax Collection and Adjust ment Plans (1935) 13 TAX MAc. 531.