Maryland State Archives
Drafted by Karen A. Hare, 12 April 2002
Edited and expanded by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, 13 May 2002
With perhaps the exception of former Comptroller Goldstein, few tax professionals have ever gotten the respect they deserve. At best taxes are seen as a necessary evil, at worst, they are considered an ever increasing burden financing less and less public service. That, of course is not the fault of the assessor or the collector, but we find ourselves compelled to blame someone, despite the fact that we have one of the most innovative and demonstrably equitable Departments of Assessments and Taxation in the country. Your problem is trying to find an effective way to distance yourself from the manner in which the tax rate is set and by whom (governors and legislators long ago learned the thrill of spending the public purse whether there was anything in it or not). You need to find a way to keep reminding people that a just appraisal of what they possess speaks to the very fabric of what makes this country great, affording protection from those who would cheat the system, and a resource with which to improve it. One way you can accomplish this goal is by maintaining an accurate record of what you do, which in turn, as its legal and administrative value wanes, provides an historical legacy assisting us to understand who we once were, and what assets we once had to make our way in this world. Today, for example, from the tax records compiled before and immediately following the Civil War, we can trace the lives of generation after generation of human beings held in bondage in this State, who otherwise would be lost from sight and unconnected to their present day descendants.
Taxes have been levied in Maryland from the earliest days of settlement in order to wage wars, to raise money for public buildings, roads, schools, and hospitals; to pay interest on the public debt. Whether assessed at the local or the state level, on property or on persons, taxation has been an inevitability from which few Marylanders have escaped. As the State Tax Commissioner put it in 1881, Maryland very early established the principle that "every person in the State, or holding property therein, ought to contribute his proportion of public taxes for the support of the government, according to his actual worth in real and personal property."1
In colonial Maryland, heads of households paid taxes to support government based on the number of able-bodied workers in each household. Taxable labor included all white males sixteen and over and all black males and females sixteen and over. Members of the clergy, paupers, and those too elderly or disabled to work were exempt from taxation. The constables of each county drew up tax lists that included the name of the person paying the tax and the number of taxable persons in the household; some lists included the name of the each taxable person in the household or on the plantation quarter. Each householder's share of the provincial tax rate was determined by dividing the total county charge by the total number of taxables in the county to get the rate per household and then multiplying that rate by the number of taxables in each household. County and parish taxes were calculated in the same manner.2 No general assessments on real or personal property were made during the colonial era to support local government because the land and the right to tax the land (known as 'quit rents') were the private preserve of the Lords Baltimore. From the founding of the colony in 1634 to the confiscation of Lord Baltimore's property in 1781, including the period from 1689 to 1715 when Maryland was ruled by Royal governors, the Lords Baltimore collected an annual tax on the land amounting at first to 2 shillings per hundred acres, and then later to 4 shillings per hundred acres.3 Employees of Lord Baltimore compiled rent rolls organized by hundred and by property name for each of the counties, from which were derived debt books organized by owners' names and by which the quit rents were collected. By the end of the colonial period the Lords Baltimore and their illegitimate heir, Henry Harford, after whom Harford county is named, were making a tidy sum from an array of taxes on the land, ranging from fees paid every time property changed hands (known then as alienation fines), to the annual quit rents.
New taxes always created a stir. In the late 1750s when Catholics
in Maryland were faced with a double tax on their property to pay for defense
against the French and Indians (on the apparent assumption that good Catholics
in Maryland would be secret supporters of the Catholic French), Charles
Carroll of Annapolis became so angry that he declared he would go
"anywhere so long as there be freedom," yet paid the tax anyway.4
In fact, the first successful taxpayer's revolt in Maryland
occurred in 1765 when Parliament attempted to impose a stamp tax on all
the colonies to help pay for the French and Indian War. Cries of
'no taxation without representation,' were heard throughout the land.
Led in Maryland by the prominent attorney Daniel Dulany who wrote a persuasive
pamphlet on the evils of the tax,5 and
by Jonas Green the publisher of the Maryland Gazette, the colonists
burned the tax collector in effigy on a gallows erected near the Liberty
Tree on what is today St. John's College campus, and tore down his office.
The tax, which was to paid on all public documents and newspapers, led
Jonas Green to publish his paper as a supplement to the last issue before
the tax was imposed, thus technically avoiding the tax. The death's
head, up to that time reserved for labels pasted on bottles of poison,
was used effectively as a symbol of resistance to taxation. Parliament
retreated and the tax was removed.6
Yet the debt created by the war against France and the Indians, remained.
It was not long before Parliament and the King began taxing again.
This time resistance led to war and war inevitably led to taxes, but taxes
imposed by duly elected representatives of those taxed, not arbitrarily
and capriciously by a distant King and Parliament. It was a subtle difference
and even the most ardent of revolutionaries and signer of the Declaration
of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, feared that people would
only go so far. In August 1777 he wrote a friend:
If we can bear the expence of the war and Keep up the Credit of our paper money, I have little doubt of establishing our independance, but unless we can obtain loans in europe and unless the Courts of France and Spain will assist us in supporting the credit of our paper, all our efforts I fear will prove ineffectual. We must lay heavy taxes to defray the charges of our several civil establishments, and of the war; No Taxes have yet been collected; some of the New England States & this have begun to Tax, our Taxes in a moderate assessment of our property at the rate fixed by the legislature of 10s/ in every hundred pounds principal of real and personal Estate will I think bring annually into our Treasury £120,00. During the British domination you know our taxes were very moderate, I am apprehensive the comparison of the former with the present taxes may disgust and discourage our people, the bulk of mankind only judge by their feelings and cannot see into the remote consequences of measures not immediately attended with distress and Oppression, Our people had not felt any great share of Oppression under the British government, The duties collected were but trifling, but then the right of the British Legislature to tax and bind us in all cases being once admitted, every man of understanding foresaw that the most abject Slavery, and the deepest distress would, or might follow the admission of the Right; If they had used the Right with discretion, we should have owed this forebearance more to policy than to those securities which very free People ought for ever carefully to watch over and maintain, and to which all mankind are entitled by the law of nature--
Thus men of sense reasoned, the people saw the force of the reasoning, and all Ranks joined in opposition to the usurped claim of the British Parliament, but when they come to feel the weight of taxes, that reasoning which then appeared to them so just and forcible, may not make the same impression on their mind, and they may prefer present ease to distant evils, to the security of their liberties, to the happiness of their posterity.
It will be imprudent to tax the People to the extent of what even they can bear, ... 7
It was the poll tax, the colonial tax on labor, that was hated the most by those who supported revolution and it was abolished by the first State Constitution adopted in 1776, with a ringing declaration:
That the levying taxes by the poll is grievous and oppressive, and ought to be abolished; that paupers ought not to be assessed for the support of government, but every other person in the state ought to contribute his proportion of public taxes for the support of government according to his actual worth in real or personal property within this state; yet fines, duties or taxes may properly and justly be imposed or laid with a political view for the good government and benefit of the community.8It cost money to fight a war, to pay the principal officers of government, and to finish a new state house. The newly constituted legislature moved quickly to enact the first state-wide property tax in Maryland by chapter 21 of the acts of 1777. The act appointed assessors and five "commissioners of the tax" for each county, who would oversee the collection of the tax. All real and personal property in the state (excluding food, clothing, and tools) was originally assessed at a rate of ten shillings per 100 pounds; by 1780 the rate had risen dramatically to 25£ per 100 pounds due to wartime inflation. According to the 1777 law, assessors could take the sworn statements of landowners as the accurate value of their real property, but this provision was dropped the following year and by the final year of the tax in 1785, the assessor had to use the average values of land for each county that were fixed by law. Values of some items of personal property such as slaves and silver plate were also fixed by law so that they could be taxed uniformly. Actual collection of the taxes was entrusted to the County Sheriff who gave bond for the performance of his duties and who received a fee for his services. If, as was the case in difficult economic times immediately following the Revolutionary War, he was unable to collect what was expected of him, it was the sheriff who went bankrupt and to jail, not the property owner. In those days people with taxes in arrears simply moved out of state to start over again. Enforcement stopped at the border.9
Throughout the nineteenth century, general property assessments were few and far between and were generally made to raise taxes for special needs rather than to finance the state's general operating budget, which legislators preferred to fund through indirect taxation collected from sources such as license fees and investment dividends. Laws mandating general assessments were passed in 1812, 1841, 1852, 1866, 1876, 1896, and 1910, so that in the 100-year period from 1810 to 1910, only seven acts of general reassessment were passed in Maryland.10 Legislators were reluctant to pass laws taxing property and did so only in cases of dire necessity such as during the financial crisis of 1841 when the state was unable to pay interest on the huge debt it had accumulated by funding internal improvement projects that failed to produce anticipated revenues. Even when the Act of 1841 was passed taxing all real and personal property within the state, the tax rate was set so low (.20¢ per $100 of property), that property taxes alone were insufficient to meet the needs of the budget and other taxes were still required.11
The few property assessments that did take place during the nineteenth century continued to be directed locally rather than managed by the state. It was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that several far-reaching changes took place in the fiscal machinery of the state that began the process that would eventually result in the centralization of the property assessment process at the state level. Although the Comptroller of the Treasury was vested in 1852 with the authority to exercise "general superintendence of the fiscal affairs of the State [and to] superintend and enforce the prompt collection of all taxes and revenue," it soon became apparent that the same state officer responsible for collecting taxes could not and should not also be the one to assess the property values on which those taxes would be based.12 That power was given to the new State Tax Commissioner established in 1878, who also took over the function of assessing the value of corporate stock that had, until that time, been carried out locally by boards of county commissioners.13 Although the State Tax Commissioner was vested on paper with the power to reassess real property throughout the state, in practice the various commissioners chose to remain lax and exercised this aspect of the job only superficially.14 Plans put forward to revamp the tax code frequently included the proposal that real property assessments remain decentralized at the local level and that the resulting taxes be kept exclusively to support local governments. At the same time, the direct state tax that was paid to the state by the counties based on their property assessments would be abolished, thus theoretically removing the incentive for county officials to set artificially low property values as the money would remain at home to fund only local projects.15 State officials countered this argument by citing the fact that the property tax rate (between 16 and 32 cents on $100) was low compared to that of other states and that relatively few property-owners were subject to the tax.16
By the early twentieth century, Maryland's taxation legislation, which had been largely instituted in piecemeal fashion, had become cumbersome and difficult to administer. At a time of growing state budgets, greater demands for better roads and hospitals and the accompanying need for greater resources to finance new public service projects, Maryland's system of assessments and taxation was inefficient and outdated. Maryland's general operating budget was supported by four main sources: a tax on the gross receipts of public service corporations, collateral inheritance taxes (five percent of estates over $500), traders' license fees and the direct state tax that was based on the property assessments done at the local level.17 While the state relied on the direct tax as one of its main sources of revenue, there had been to this point no systematic revaluation of property and no central agency to supervise the reassessments that were periodically mandated by acts of the legislature. The result was that real and personal property remained at the same assessment value as was recorded at the last general assessment, whenever that happened to be. County officials also carried out their work with varying degrees of efficiency. Although the tax code (Art. 81, §204) gave full powers to the county commissioners to "value and assess all personal property and to revise all valuations and assessment of real property in their respective counties, and to lower or increase said assessments of real or personal property and take steps for the discovery of all unassessed property of every kind," county commissioners were failing to carry out this mission by neglecting to initiate reassessments at regular intervals.18 Many county commissioners preferred to leave the initiative to county assessors who were preoccupied with full-time jobs in other professions and who may or may not have been inclined to undertake such a complicated and time-consuming task.19
Several other serious and persistent problems with the assessment process included the failure of several counties to complete reassessments in a timely manner; inequality among the counties due to the wide variations in rates and methods of assessment used; and the tendency on the part of county officials to assess real property values as low as twenty percent below their true market values in order to decrease the amount of state taxes sent to Annapolis. In some instances, counties simply lacked the machinery to complete assessments in a timely manner. In 1910, four counties (Cecil, Garrett, Kent and Talbot) failed to complete their assessments by the time they were to supposed to start the next assessment process; yet Washington County, which had only one assessor for its 457 square miles, somehow managed to complete its assessment on time that year.20 Counties also had different conceptions of what constituted taxable property: Dorchester County was the only county to assess chickens (valued at .50¢ each), while St. Mary's County was the only county that did not assess automobiles.21 Household furniture was taxed in some counties and not in others.22 When it came to real property, county officials frequently assigned one value to a piece of property on which they based the state taxes, and a second higher value closer to the true market value of the property for local taxes. While properties were being increasingly undervalued at successive reassessments for state purposes (property values being continually revised downward rather than upward as their true market values would dictate), the ratios of assessment to value varied widely from county to county so as to contribute to the problem of inequality of taxation among the counties.23 Furthermore, not one Maryland county had the use of geological plats in their assessment process. By 1913, only Baltimore City had the necessary plats to properly classify and list the lands being assessed.24
Determined to remedy the flaws in the property assessment and taxation system, Maryland's Republican Governor Phillips Lee Goldsborough appointed a special commission to revise the state's tax system in 1913. Called the Commission for the Revision of the Taxation System of the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore, its recommendations were largely adopted by the legislature between 1914 and 1916, so that sweeping changes were made to Maryland's tax code during those years. Legislation established a three-member State Tax Commission to replace the single State Tax Commissioner with greater authority to supervise local assessments of real and personal property throughout the state, to standardize assessments throughout the state and to reassess property at regular five-year intervals. Members of the commission were to work closely with the Secretary of State, the Comptroller and the Treasurer in carrying out their duties. The three members of the commission, appointed by the legislature to varying terms ranging from two to four years, elected a secretary and three clerks and set up offices in the Union Trust Building in Baltimore. They appointed a supervisor of assessments in each county and in Baltimore City and provided for their salaries as well. One of their first acts was to establish a uniform date for corporations to file their property tax reports, set at March 1st for businesses taxed on their personal property, March 15th for banks taxed on the value of their shares (25¢ per $100 of their deposits in 1914), April 15th for corporations paying taxes on their gross receipts, and May 1st for corporations paying a franchise tax on their savings deposits.25 The original 1914 law did not allow the commission to collect a penalty for non-compliance, an oversight for which members of the first commission asked the legislature to correct in their first annual report.26
The establishment of the State Tax Commission in 1914 did not immediately solve all of the state's problems with property assessment and taxation. Although the law of 1914 gave the State Tax Commission the power and authority "to enforce and execute a continuing method of assessment, and to require that all property in the State be reviewed for assessment at least once in every five years," the act left the power of assessments with the county commissioners and provided the State Tax Commission with no machinery or finances with which to carry out its mandate.27 It was clear that the 1913 Commission for the Revision of the Taxation System had envisioned that the State Tax Commission would hire and train permanent assessors, but the 1914 law neglected to give the commission that authority. The new commission was also given no power to enforce its actions. When in 1915 it requested the various boards of county commissioners to appropriate funds for reassessment work, only 12 of the 23 counties complied and the commission was compelled to postpone the planned assessment until the legislature could pass a separate act mandating a local levy for the cost of reassessment. In early 1918, the State Tax Commission reported that it faced continued opposition to its work at the county level. Property assessments in Maryland continued to be a responsibility split between the state and the counties until 1973.28
In addition to finding solutions to those problems, members of the commission had to answer the continuing call for "equalization" of the assessment and taxation process among the counties. Equalization meant that each county would use the same ratio of assessment to value to calculate taxes, fixing a uniform percentage of a property's value on which to base taxes. Maryland had had laws in place from 1785 to 1841 that had fixed the average value of land per acre for each county and had required tax commissioners to value their lands according to that formula; but, for reasons that are unclear, the legislature failed to continue to mandate equalization after 1841.29 Calls to re-implement the practice arose during the 1870s and 1880s, with [Democratic Party?] platforms of 1879 and 1880 including the mandate for "equalization" of the property tax system.30 The issue was of such concern to State Tax Commissioner Oscar Leser in 1916 that he refused to sign the formal report issued by the other two commissioners and instead wrote his own separate report to the legislature urging the formation of a State Equalization Board similar to those found in 36 other states at the time.31 After several trying years of meetings with the county commissioners and the supervisors of assessments throughout the state, the members of the State Tax Commission were proud to report in their Second Biennial Report of the State Tax Commission of Maryland dated February 15, 1918 that, "for the first time in the history of Maryland, a uniform standard has been adopted for the valuation of land and improvements [and that] nothing of this kind or as comprehensive can be found in any State in the union."32 Not that the equalization problem was fully solved in 1918. Problems continued as indicated by the fact that a Maryland Tax Revision Commission was set up in 1939 that thoroughly studied the issue of equalization. The result was a 1943 law that aimed to make property assessment methods more uniform among all Maryland counties and Baltimore City. Chapter 717 of the Acts of 1943 created permanent boards of assessors in each of the counties that would work together to standardize their rates and methods.33
The second half of the twentieth century saw new and lasting developments in Maryland's assessments and taxation system. In 1959 the Department of Assessments and Taxation was established as a state office by an act of the legislature to replace the State Tax Commission. Headed by the director of assessments and taxation, the department was charged with administering and enforcing property assessments and tax laws in Maryland. At the same time, the Maryland Tax Court was created to take over the responsibility of hearing appeals to decisions made by the department. In addition to supervising the tax structure of the state, the new Department of Assessments and Taxation was constituted the legal custodian of corporate records and administrator of corporate taxes.
Maryland pioneered in having the process of property assessment centralized at the state level.34 This allows taxable property to be assessed uniformly state-wide, and the department must establish a method of assessment that can be applied across all counties and Baltimore City alike. The department not only assesses the value of real estate property, but also business personal property such as franchises, public utilities, and railroads. The Taxpayer Services Division also serves as custodian of domestic charters for Maryland corporations and collects fees based on the personal property of such corporations. The Division also maintains registrations for limited partnerships and foreign corporations as well as administers franchise taxes applicable to savings and loan associations and public service corporations.
Perhaps of greatest interest to the general public today is the assessment of real estate property. You know your recent history and the resulting responsibilities well. There is no need for me to repeat them here. Suffice it to say that
[Real property is currently reassessed on a three-year cycle by the Real Property Valuation Division of the Department of Assessments and Taxation so that every year, one-third of all real estate property in Maryland is reassessed. The Real Property Valuation Division maintains an office in each county and in Baltimore City headed by a supervisor of assessments. Local supervisors of assessments are appointed by the director of assessments and taxation from nominations put forward by the mayor of Baltimore City, the various county commissioners and county councils, or the county executive with approval of the county council. Beginning in July 2001, the system of real property assessment was based on 100 percent of the market value of the property. The system was simplified so that Maryland real estate can be better compared to that in other states which tax property on its full value. The results of the department's assessments are available to the general public on its website constituting the Real Property Database: http://sdatcert3.resiusa.org/rp_rewrite/.]
The responsibilities of state tax assessors have grown over the years
and the scope and extent of assessment and taxation in Maryland today are
much greater than those born in the eighteenth century of wartime necessity.
Today's assessors may not be required to value silver plate or chickens
in their triennial assessments, but the basic process of property assessment
remains fundamentally the same now as then. The challenges to remove
elements of subjectivity from the process and to maintain uniform standards
in order to keep assessments "equalized" across the state remain crucial,
and Maryland taxpayers continue to place their confidence in DAT officials
to meet those goals successfully.
Of all the records that are generated by the taxing of real, personal, and corporate property, what then is worth keeping and how should we go about it?
In the first place, let me begin by suggesting that you should not have any records on hand in your offices older than a decade. Anything else of permanent, legal, administrative, or historical value should be at the Archives.
The first step is to determine what records should be kept for any length of time and why, using the records retention and schedules as means to that end. Anything that must be kept more than 10 years for legal or administrative purposes, is by definition permanent and periodically should be transferred to the Archives in a form that will ensure its preservation. In the modern world, paper is simply too voluminous and cumbersome to be the principal media on which permanent records from DAT are maintained, but the alternatives need to be considered carefully. For example, much of what in recent years has been transferred to the Archives as security copies on microfiche and film is in the form of thermal print film which deteriorates on its own, a process that is accelerated by exposure to to light, and instead of retaining the computer tapes that generated the assessment rolls, vast amounts of heavily used printouts in terrible shape have been transferred to us as the 'archival record.' Having service bureaus such as DGS Records Management create cds of electronic data and sending them on to us for storage is o.k., but only as long as there is quality control over the product and there is a clear understanding of what the data does and does not contain, and instructions (plus necessary software) to access it.
In today's electronic world we need to focus our attention on appraising what of the electronic data gathering ought to be moved into a security archival setting and how that ought to be accomplished in order to maintain as inexpensively as possible a permanent electronic record that is publicly accessible.
Slices in time of the web sites need to be preserved for historical purposes, much as the 1782 tax assessment rolls have been preserved on paper. That means periodically saving a slice in time of the CAMAS (Computer assisted Mass Appraisal System) with its 146 fields of information. That means saving a historical record of Property view, and any surviving early tax maps.
It is our role to document your history which we do in part by bringing the historical collection of your annual reports live and on the web through the Archives of Maryland On Line (aomol.net). We also offer good advice on how to preserve that which is worth saving among your records, but good advice does not come cheap. The Archives is not a fully funded state agency. In fact we must earn nearly 50% of what it costs us to keep our doors open, and to maintain a competent staff. To accomplish our archival goals we need to partner with State Agencies who in turn help pay for mutually beneficial services. Indeed there probably should be a Department of Assessments and Taxation Records Improvement Fund into which ad revenue from the website, and specifically designated portions of tax revenue are deposited in part for the long term care and preservation of your record legacy by the Archives, as well as for any future improvements in your record keeping systems. Your department would control the use of the resource, but we would hope that you would find it prudent to share it with us. As the Potomac River Case and a more recent Tax Court case have shown, tax assessment records from the 1960s and the 1980s are a legal necessity to maintain, not to mention their long-term historical value. The courts want to know if assessors did their job properly within the law, and demand to know what evidence there is to prove it. Those questions in court may require documentation going back twenty or forty years. Just recently in a dispute over the right to regulate the use of the waters of the Potomac the staff of the Archives spent a considerable amount of time documenting the taxing and regulating of casinos on wharves extending from the Virginia shore in the 1940s, 50s and 60s in an effort convince the Supreme Court that Maryland should continue to exercise regulatory powers that came imbedded in our original charter of 1632. You should not be in the business of having to maintain the records for such non-routine demands, but we would like to think that you would see it as a reasonable request that you help us find the resources to do so on your behalf.
By using the electronic services of the Archives for back up and off site security storage of your records, whether it be for a slice in time of your pioneering website at Towson University, or for the interactive system with the State Data Center which Don Lee and others have developed for the on-line appraisal process, you can help yourselves and us directly in the furtherance of our mutual legal and historical responsibilities. Prospectively, we have developed ways of producing inexpensive on line access to electronic records retired to the Archives that are far less expensive than trying to maintain database management systems forever of record keeping systems constantly in flux and transition. Retrospectively we have a problem with the medium on which records have been and to some extent are still being transferred to us. We need to reduce the bulk of what we have or what might be yet to come of the paper records in your office through effective appraisal. Deteriorating film needs to be scanned and maintained electronically. Here we could use your help in obtaining funds for preservation and conversion, funds that are generally easier for the agency creating the records in the first place to obtain, and then contract with us to do the work.
In conclusion permit me to turn to those specific questions raised by Ron Wineholt when he invited me to meet with you this afternoon which I have not yet addressed directly:
1) What assessment records does the Archives currently have, and in what media are they maintained?
The records that we have relating to assessment and taxation are too voluminous to explain in any great detail this afternoon. Permit me to direct you to our web site, mdsa.net, where you will find a comprehensive guide to the government records in our care. From the web site you can see that we maintain a variety of records relating to the work of the assessment offices in addition to the basic assessment rolls. It is a considerable and diverse collection. Our best estimates are that we have 10,000 cubic feet of SDAT records, the third largest holding of executive branch records at the Archives.
2) What are the criteria for transferring records to the Archives?
Generally the criteria are set by the records retention and disposal schedules, but no assessment office should maintain more than 10 years of records on site, with anything older than that transferred to the Archives, preferably in a generic, easy to maintain and access, electronic form.
3) There are old assessment books in areas of county buildings that predate the State takeover in 1973. Do the counties retain ownership of these records? Should the Department give these records any attention?
To answer the last question first, yes. Under state law and our rules, records and the responsibility for them go with function and successor agencies assume the burden of responsibility for the records of agencies that preceded them. What remains today has historical, administrative, and legal value. Anything older than 10 years should be transferred to the Archives, but with the caveat that as partners, together we must find adequate funding to properly house and care for them.
4) What is the relationship between the Archives and the State Records Management warehouse?
Any series of records deemed temporary and disposable should go the Records Management warehouse which is run by the Department of General Services. There you will have to pay rent for the privilege of storing your records. All permanent records should go directly to the Archives, where we would also like to find mutually beneficial sources of revenue to provide for their proper care.
5) For what purposes are the assessment records at the Archives typically used by the public?
Genealogy, title searching, smart growth planning (in conjunction with Property View), UCC filings which we distribute for you to Lexis and to credit rating companies, and for which we developed some simple programs that made the data extracted from your files useful, and perhaps most importantly, for purposes of the Social, Administrative, and Economic history of the State.
Indeed it is from the records of taxation the we learn much of what we once were and with what resources we came to be what we are. What we can learn from tax records about the value placed upon the land and the improvements men and women have made upon it is critical to not only the individual seeking his or her roots, but also to a better understanding of the very fabric of our material existence. Let us work together to see that your record legacy proves as durable and as useful to the understanding of the past as the 1782 assessment lists of your predecessors, or the clay tablets of the tax collectors of Sumeria are to our knowledge of biblical times. Let us ensure that the good work that you do every day to keep us honest, and aware of the personal and corporate assets that we hold, gets the permanent and long lasting respect that it deserves.
1. STATE TAX COMMISSIONER (Biennial Report), 1881, January 1882, MdHR 793327, 2/4/8/13, p. x. For the history of quitrents and the proprietary land tax see Clarence Gould, The Land System in Maryland 1720-1765 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1913), and Elisabeth Hartsook and Gust Skordas, Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968).
2. MARYLAND STATE ARCHIVES Tax Lists and Early
3. See Gould, The Land System in Maryland; Hartsook and Skordas, Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland; Charles Albro Barker, Background of the Revolution in Maryland (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1967), and Newton D. Mereness, Maryland as a Proprietary Province (New York: MacMillan Co., 1901).
4. The phrase is the motto on the Carroll family bookplate. See Ann C. Van Devanter, ed. "Anywhere So Long As There Be Freedom:" Charles Carroll of Carrollton, His Family and His Maryland - An Exhibition (Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1975).
5. The Maryland Gazette, 10 October 1765, see ad on p. 2.
6. See http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/stagser/s1259/121/5906/html/0000.html, user name aaco, password aaco#.
7. Charles Carroll, Dear Papa, Dear Charley: The Peregrinations of a Revolutionary Aristocrat, as told by Charles Carroll of Carrollton and his Father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, with Sundry Observations on Bastardy, Child-rearing, Romance, Matrimony, Commerce, Tobacco, Slavery, and Revolutionary America, Vol. 2 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001), pp. 1033-1036.
8. Proceedings of the Conventions of the Province of Maryland, held at the City of Annapolis, in 1774, 1775 & 1776 (Baltimore and Annapolis: James Lucas & E. K. Deaver, Jonas Green, 1836). p. 312.
9. Hugh Sission Hanna, "A Financial History of
Maryland (1789-1848)," Johns Hopkins University Studies In Historical
and Political Science 25
(1907), pp. 363-366, 370-371.
10. STATE TAX COMMISSIONER (Fifth Biennial Report) January 1924, 2/4/8/14, pp. 3-4.
11. 1841 Md. Laws ch. 23; Hanna, p. 105.
12. MD CONST. of 1851, art. VI § 2; 1881 Biennial Report of the State Tax Commissioner, p. xvi.
13. Allen C. Girdwood, Taxation in Maryland With a Discussion of the Changes Made in 1914 (n.pl. n.d.), p. 5. As the tax system evolved, the comptroller administered some taxes while the State Tax Commission administered others. Clark S. Hobbs made a case for centralization in "Divided Tax Authority: Our Unsystematic Tax System," The Baltimore Evening Sun, 15 December 1943, by pointing out the illogical division of responsibility between the comptroller and the State Tax Commission. The comptroller "administer[ed] taxes on admissions, gasoline, net income, liquor and the gross receipts of one railroad," while the State Tax Commission "administer[ed] bonus and franchise taxes, taxes on corporate shares, distilled spirits, gross receipts (excepting those of one railroad), personal property of most--not all--corporations, and on savings bank deposits."
14. Girdwood, p. 5.
15. COMMISSION FOR THE REVISION OF THE TAXATION
SYSTEM OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND AND THE CITY OF BALTIMORE
(Report) Manuscript, c. 1913, MdHR 811471, 2/3/6/17, p. 1.
16. Ibid., p. A-2; Girdwood, p. 3.
17. 1913 Taxation Revision Commission report, p. A-3; Girdwood, pp. 3-4.
18. STATE TAX COMMISSION (Supplementary Report) Separate Report of Oscar Leser, Member of Commission, February 1916, MdHR 793307, 2/4/8/13, p. 5.
19. Permanent boards of assessors made up of salaried experts were not established in the counties until 1944 by chapter 717 of the acts of 1943.
20. Leser, p. 10.
21. Chapter 551 of the acts of 1966 granted a 100% exemption at the state, county and city level to all poultry. Chapter 99 of the acts of 1947 abolished the property tax on passenger cars and motorcycles.
22. Household furniture was subject to property tax until the legislature passed chapter 770 of the Acts of 1941 enabling any county and Baltimore City to exempt it. By 1944, nine counties and Baltimore City had completely exempted household furniture, and the remaining counties had exemptions that only taxed furniture in excess of $100 or in some cases $500. Two additional counties exempted furniture in 1949, but by 1955 there were still six counties taxing household furniture valued over $100: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, and Queen Anne's. Frederick County was the last to grant a 100% exemption for household furniture and effects, by Chapter 551 of the Acts of 1966.
23. State Tax Commissioner Frank T. Shaw noted
in his report of 1892, "Whilst the reassessment of 1876 increased the taxable
basis for the succeeding year by $49,355,610, the increase was not long
maintained, as in the following year there was a decrease of $14,042,238."
STATE TAX COMMISSIONER
(Biennial Report) 1891, January 1892, MdHR 793316, 2/4/8/13, p. ix.
24. 1913 Taxation Revision Commission report, pp. D-16 and D-17; Leser, p. 11. It was not until 1961 that the State Department of Assessments and Taxation was able to report that work on adequate tax maps was "substantially complete." See STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION (Biennial Report) 23rd, January 1961, 2/4/8/14, p. 9.
25. Girdwood, p. 9; STATE TAX COMMISSION (Biennial Report) 1st, 15 January 1916, MdHR 793308, 2/4/8/14, p. 7.
26. First Biennial Report of the State Tax Commission, 1916, pp. 8-9. The state comptroller collected corporate income taxes after they were enacted in 1937. In 1945, the State Tax Commission recommended taking over this function from the comptroller because it assessed practically all other corporate taxes anyway and they thought it would simplify matters. STATE TAX COMMISSION (Biennial Report) 15th, January 1945, 2/4/8/14, p. 21.
27. 1914 Md. Laws ch. 841. 1943 Md. Laws ch. 717 provided for a "continuous assessment" process that assessed one-fifth of each county every year rather than the whole of every county every five years. 1954 Md. Laws ch. 69 changed this to a three-year continuing plan of assessment. That law was repealed in 1956 and replaced with a one-year continuing plan of assessment. Currently, real property is reassessed on a three-year continuous cycle.
28. Although the Maryland Tax Revision Commission of 1939 recommended that all of the state's property assessments be administered by a central agency and removed from the hands of the county commissioners, it was not until 1973 that the process was fully centralized at the state level. 1973 Md. Laws ch. 784 directed the Department of Assessments and Taxation to assume the full cost and supervision of property assessments throughout the state. The supervisors of the 23 counties and Baltimore City became state employees on July 1, 1973. On July 1, 1974, the local assessors became state employees, and the following July 1, the local clerical staffs joined state service. The 1973 legislation also established the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Boards, replacing the Appeal Tax Courts and the county commissioners as the final authorities hearing appeals. See STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION (Biennial Reports) 30th, January 1974, 2/4/8/14, p. 5.
29. Leser, p. 16.
30. 1881 Biennial Report of the State Tax Commissioner, p. xix.
31. Leser, p. 15.
32. STATE TAX COMMISSION (Biennial Report) 2nd, 15 February 1918, MdHR 793306, 2/4/8/14, p. 3.
33. Clark S. Hobbs, "Property Tax Equalization:
A Fresh Start Toward The Goal," The Baltimore Evening Sun, 14 December
1943. In 1962 the state began conducting biennial assessment ratio
surveys and then annual surveys after 1970 in order to study the assessment
ratios of residential, agricultural, and commercial-industrial properties
in each county and to assess the degree of intra-county uniformity between
them and within the different classes.
See STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION (Biennial Report) 25th, January 1965, p. 12 and STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION (Biennial Report) 31st, January 1975, p. 11. Equalization has been more of a challenge in areas where property values have changed rapidly. See STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION (Biennial Report) 27th, January 1969, p. 14.
34. Maryland Manual On-Line. "State
Department of Assessments and Taxation: Origins and Functions"