Land value tax

The land's occupants benefit from improvements surrounding a site. Such improvements shift tenants' demand curve to the right (they will pay more). Landlords benefit from price competition among tenants; the only direct effect of LVT in this case is to reduce the amount of social benefit that is privately captured as land price by titleholders.

Several practical issues complicate LVT implementation. Most notably, it must be:

In this case, land is taxed at 100% of its value, eliminating the landowner surplus completely. The ownership of land becomes worthless except to those who value it higher than market rents.

The owner of a vacant lot in a thriving city must still pay a tax and would rationally perceive the property as a financial liability, encouraging them to put the land to use in order to cover the tax. LVT removes financial incentives to hold unused land solely for price appreciation, making more land available for productive uses. Land value tax creates an incentive to convert these sites to more intensive private uses or into public purposes.

Assuming constant demand, an increase in constructed space decreases the cost of improvements to land such as houses. Shifting property taxes from improvements to land encourages development. Infill of underutilized urban space is one common practice to reduce urban sprawl.

Ground-rents are a still more proper subject of taxation than the rent of houses. A tax upon ground-rents would not raise the rents of houses. It would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent, who acts always as a monopolist, and exacts the greatest rent which can be got for the use of his ground. More or less can be got for it according as the competitors happen to be richer or poorer, or can afford to gratify their fancy for a particular spot of ground at a greater or smaller expense. In every country the greatest number of rich competitors is in the capital, and it is there accordingly that the highest ground-rents are always to be found. As the wealth of those competitors would in no respect be increased by a tax upon ground-rents, they would not probably be disposed to pay more for the use of the ground. Whether the tax was to be advanced by the inhabitant, or by the owner of the ground, would be of little importance. The more the inhabitant was obliged to pay for the tax, the less he would incline to pay for the ground; so that the final payment of the tax would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent.

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter 2, Article I: Taxes upon the Rent of Houses

Paul Samuelson supported LVT. "Our ideal society finds it essential to put a rent on land as a way of maximizing the total consumption available to the society. ...Pure land rent is in the nature of a 'surplus' which can be taxed heavily without distorting production incentives or efficiency. A land value tax can be called 'the useful tax on measured land surplus'."

Land taxes in Australia are levied by the states. The exemption thresholds vary, as do tax rates and other rules.