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single tax

single tax, any levy that serves as the government's only source of revenue. Generally, however, it is understood to mean a tax derived from economic rent and used as the sole source of public receipts. As such, it is based on the doctrine that land and the natural resources are the source of all wealth, and it corresponds substantially to the impôt unique of the 18th-century physiocrats. Basic to the theory is the belief that the land and its wealth belong to all. The most effective advocate of the single tax was Henry George, who held that economic rent tends to enrich the owner at the expense of the community and is thus the cause of poverty; he believed that by appropriating all (or nearly all) economic rent governments could wipe out social distress and even acquire a surplus without recourse to any other taxes. George's theories have had some influence on land taxation in Britain, several of the former dominions, the W United States, and several European nations.

See H. George, Progress and Poverty (1879).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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