The British Government have let it be known that they intend to tax the view from your home if you live in a conservation area, next to an open space, or have a swimming pool or tennis court or enjoy full or partial views of the sea, hills, mountains, lakes or rivers.
Many many years ago (1696 to be precise), King William III introduced a window tax - all windows after the first six were taxed - the bigger the house, the more windows it had and the more taxes that house owner would have to pay. This explains the number of "bricked up" windows in large houses in the UK.
In 1851, the window tax was replaced by what was then called House Duty and is now called the Council Tax - here taxes were levied on the assessed value of the property.
What is now being proposed is that the basis of the valuation - currently the value of the property at sale - be changed to include aesthetic values (views, ambience, amenities, size) and the value of the property in use (tennis courts, pools, number of rooms etc). Using computer models and local valuations, the Government can produce a value for the property. Best estimates are that property taxes would rise by $500 - $1000 per household.
If you recognize just how serious the UK economic problems are, both for individuals (see October 27th entry in this blog) and for the Government, then it is not surprising that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the exchequer, is looking for new revenue sources.
Another tax they are considering is an individual carbon tax on gasoline. Everyone would have a carbon credit card which would entitle them to buy a certain amount of gas each month at the standard price. Once they had used up their "allowance", they could continue to buy gas but at a much higher price. Carbon credit trading between individuals would be allowed - I could transfer unused credits to a family member, friend or colleague or I could sell these credits. (Read more at http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewSpecialReports.asp?Page=\SpecialReports\archive\200506\SPE20050621a.html ). The creation of a natural market for carbon credits is part of the thinking here. It is also a key ingredient in any realistic plan for the UK to meet Kyoto - it would also spell electoral disaster.
What is interesting about these proposals is that they are appearing at the same time as the flat tax idea - one tax level for all, now allowances or tax credits - is gaining significant ground. So just as simplify and standardise is becoming a mantra for the flat taxers, public servants (and there are close to a million more of them in the UK since Blair came to power) are looking to complicate taxes and make them less understandable to the ordinary Jo or Joanna.
My prediction is that the individual carbon tax, recommended by The Sustainable Development Commission in the UK this last summer is a non starter politically, but stealth taxes for local government using a new basis for housing assessment will happen.
(To see the report and recommendations of the UK Sustainable Development Commission go to http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/news/resource_download.php?attach_id=AED2FRB-LR3M6GM-ODOEZWO-2MO4G9D )