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twenty cents on the $100.00, is $443,859.43, and for 1883, at thirty cents on the $100.00, the State tax is $667,913.28, showing an increase of $224,053.85.
Total value of taxable property for 1883 is $222,637,873.00, while for 1884 it is $226,844,184.00, showing an incsease for 1884 over 1883 of $4,206,311.00. While there appears to be an increase in real estate, there is considerable decrease in the value of landsthe increase mainly consisting in value of town lots. The increase in personal property in 1884 over 1882 is $85,039.00. The value of all taxable property in the State has, for the year 1884, reached its highest point since 1876, and if the tax-payers will exercise conscientious care in listing and valuing their property for taxation, and the assessors would be more watchful and vigilant in the discharge of their duty, the rate of increase, as above indicated, would continue.
It is a mistaken idea that if A's house and lot is worth $10,000.00, he saves money by returning it for assessment at $5,000.00. To the contrary, the larger the value, of course the smaller the rate of taxation must be.
PRIVILEGE TAX. By referring to tables O 1, 2 and 3, and P 1, 2 and 3, you will see the amount of collections through county court clerks from. merchants, liquor dealers, etc., amounting, for the year 1883, to $321,416.57, and for the year 1884 to $334,870.04; increase in 1884 over 1883, $13,453.47.
TRUSTEES' STATE TAX, 1882 AND 1883. Particular attention is called to tables Q and R, which are a complete exhibit of Trustees' State tax for 1882 and 1883. It is gratifying to 'note the promptness with which all the county officers charged with the collection of revenue have reported and paid over same to this office, and of the unusual efforts made by trustees to settle their accounts as the law requires. There is but one account remaining unclosed for the year 1882, and out of a tax aggregate amounting to the sum of $443,859.43, there was collected and paid into the Treasury the sum of $401,377.11, after allowing all abatements, such as commissions, county court releases, land sales, etc., which is only a small fraction over nine per cent, as the cost of collection, when fifteen per cent. has heretofore been reckoned as an estimate.
Out of a tax aggregate for the year 1883 of $667,913.28, there has been collected and paid into the Treasury the sum of $598,995.00, after allowing all abatements, such as commissions, county court releases, land sales, etc., which is only about ten per cent. as the cost of collection, notwithstanding there are several thousand dollars yet due, the greater part of which will in all probability be paid prior to January 1, 1885, which would reduce the cost of collection for 1883 to even less than that of 1882.
RAILROADS. It affords me much pleasure to say that all the railroads in the State, liable for taxation, have been exceedingly prompt in regard to the payment of their taxes, with but one exception, that is the Tennessee and Sequatchie Valley Railroad Company.
DELINQUENTS. Your attention is called to tables V and W, giving a detailed statement of the amount due the State from delinquent revenue officers. On December 19, 1882, there was due the State from delinquents the sum of.........
$347,918 92 And on December 19, 1884, there is due the State from delinquents the sum of...
Showing a reduction in the last two years of....
of......... $ 31,576 52
Z-BACK TAXES. In table Z may be seen a full exhibit of the back taxes collected, by whom, and from what sources, during my term of office.
The large amount of delinquent revenue due the State, counties and towns furnishes a sufficient reason for the rigid enforcement of the revenue laws. It will appear from this exhibit how unequally the burdens of government have fallen upon the citizens of the State. It is unjust that so much property, not exempt by law, should escape taxation. It is evident, from an examination of the Comptrollers' reports, that an unjust proportion of the taxes are collected from the lands of the State. In 1882 the real estate in Tennessee was assessed at nearly $200,000,000.00, while the entire personal property was assessed at about $26,000,000.00, so that the great burden of taxation is placed upon the lands, which afford the least income, and the practical effect of the laws, as they have been executed, is to exempt from taxation the greater part of the personal property, such as bonds, stocks, notes, money, etc., and for the most part of that character of property which yields the greatest income-hence the complaint of land owners.
It has been an especial feature of this administration to impress upon those entrusted with collection of revenue, and particularly the delinquent revenue, to exercise all lawful means to bring to light every species of property which has heretofore unjustly escaped taxation, to the end that every citizen may be equally protected by the law, and be required to share his part of the public burden. In the discharge of these, not always agreeable, duties, the agents and attorneys representing the State have collected a very large amount from property not heretofore assessed for taxation, and the fruits of this work will be felt in future years, for it will increase the assessment roll. There are now pending suits of vital importance to the people of Tennessee. I deem it proper to refer to some of the suits pending, and which have been disposed of. Messrs. Champion & Head, J. B. Daniel, S. Watson and J. W. Baker commenced proceedings against the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company and its branches for the purpose of collecting taxes due the State prior to 1875, which finally resulted in a settlement by which the State received $76,000.00 in currency, less the commissions paid the clerk and master, and those of the attorneys in the case, which were ten per cent. of the amount collected, although the statute authorized the payment of fifteen per cent. in such cases.
The same attorneys prosecuted through the Supreme Court a similar claim against the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway for assessed taxes due from the Northwestern Branch from 1871 to 1883, inclusive. This suit was instituted under the direction of my predecessor in office, J. N. Nolan, but the Court held that the charter of exemption from taxation passed by the sale under the decree of the Court, so that nothing was received in this case.
Said attorneys also commenced proceedings, by mandamus, to subject the shares of stock in the hands of the shareholders of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Company and of the Nashville & Decatur Railroad Company to taxation. These suits were removed by the defendants to the Federal courts, and are now pending in the Supreme Court of the United States, under the adverse decision of the United States Circuit Court.
There are also two suits pending in the Supreme Court of the United States, in which the State is represented by T. E. Matthews and Champion & Head, to test the liability of sleeping-car companies to pay the privilege tax levied by the act of 1877, and carried into subsequent acts. These are suits of great importance, involving the liability to taxation of property worth many millions of dollars, and, in my opinion, these cases do not come within the meaning of the act passed in regard to delinquent revenue, and the attorneys have never received any compensation for services rendered in any of these suits except the one as above stated, and I therefore recommend that an appropriation of sufficient amount be made to pay the expenses made necessary in the preparation of these causes, and a reasonable compensation for services rendered and to be rendered, in order to test these in portant questions. I desire, in this connection to call your attention to the fact that the compensation now allowed by law (ten per cent. of the amount col. lected) is inadequate to secure the collection of taxes due upon lands which have been sold and bought in by the State. In order to prevent confusion, and secure prompt action on the part of the officers of the State, I recommend that the act passed March 7, 1879, as amended by the act of March 27, 1883, be so amended that a reasonable time may be fixed as a limit within which the collectors of taxes may assess for taxation property which has improperly escaped taxation.
In order to secure the free alienation of real estate, and prevent injustice in individual cases, I recommend that such legislation be had as will limit to six years—the lien created upon assessed property, and thereafter the unpaid taxes to remain a personal obligation of the person against whom the taxes were assessed.
By referring to table“ ZZ,” you will find a statement of the bonds funded under the act of March 15, 1883, and the number of bonds outstanding, including estimated interest. Under this head I would first recommend that the “certificates” outstanding, which were issued under the funding act of 1882, be taken up and bonds issued for the same when presented in sums of $100. Second, that detached coupons also be taken up and bonds issued for the same
when presented in sums of $100. Third, that
bonds, amounting to several millions of dollars, which were printed for the issuance of the 100_3 bonds, and are in the hands of the Franklin Bank Note Company, New York, should be listed and destroyed, and also that the various plates used for the printing of said bonds and are in the hands of said company, shall be taken in charge by the State and destroyed or be put in some place for safe keeping. It
appears from the certified transcript of the Fourth National Bank, New York, that certain bonds were funded in August, 1869, in which were included two bonds known as white “A” bonds due January 1, 1870. It also appears that from the funding on Novem. ber 4, 1882, that these two bonds, together with others, entered into the funding of 1882, and compromise bonds were issued for them, among the number, No. 6,352. Upon the presentation of this bond, No. 6,352, the funding board refused to fund it, as it occurred to them that bonds had been issued twice for the same bonds. I would therefore recommend that you cause such investigation as you may deem proper in this matter.
I also desire to report that bond No. 5,804, green “F,” has been taken np and cancelled in book 2, page 147; also January, 1876, subsequent coupons in settlement of a judgment against Chambers & Foley, securities of Phillip Garvin, revenue collector of Shelby county, 1866–7, as per agreement of J. L. Gaines and M. T. Polk, under House Joint Resolution No. 73, page 328, acts 1875.
I also desire to report that I cancelled and returned bond No. 325, blue “ B," upon which the State was endorser for the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, and delivered to them bond No. 5,414 of said railroad, which had been left as collateral security by act of Legislature 1847–8, chap. 169, page 272.
The duties of this office are laborious and responsible. I have sought to perform them with diligence and fidelity, with a purpose devoted to the interest of the State and the rights of the people. How far I have succeeded is a question to be answered by the public voice. My conduct in the discharge of my official duties is open to inspection.
I cannot conclude, without tendering to your Excellency my profound thanks for the courtesy extended me during my official