Letter: Don't sell the Family's silver

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The Independent Online
Your report on the possible privatisation of Crown properties reveals a worryingly irresponsible attitude towards the nation's assets ("Regent Street for sale", Business, 13 July).

Because land values are generally buoyant in the long term and rise faster than inflation, the Crown properties have provided a useful contribution to the exchequer. It would be foolish to throw away future benefits for the sake of a one-off receipt to cover a current shortfall in public revenue. This is not just selling off the family silver - it is disposing of the family estate.

The rental value of land is especially suitable as a source of public revenue since values are created and sustained by the presence and activities of the community. This was one of the factors in the success of Hong Kong, where income from Crown Leases provided the government with a basic income while allowing taxes to stay low.

If there is a lesson here it is that the Government ought to be looking for ways of capturing land value generally through reform of the tax system. Individuals and businesses would then be able to enjoy low - and diminishing - rates of tax on what they earn and spend.

D Mills

Brentwood, Essex

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