Bibb and Property Tax

In the Wednesday, September 23, 2015 issue of the Centreville Press, it was reported that “Bibb County has the second lowest property tax” in the United States, second only to Tunica, Mississippi. According to the study, using data from 2013, the average property tax payment in Bibb County is $228.

To some people, this will seem like bad news, since revenue from the property tax funds local public schools, as well as the county general fund. It is believed that the lower the property tax, the fewer funds will be available to maintenance the county and provide advancement for the schools.

However, to properly understand whether this is good or bad, we must first begin with a solid foundation, the Bible.

What is a property tax? A generally accepted definition would be, “Mandatory tax payments to civil authority based upon the assessed value of that property.” A more detailed explanation would be, that property tax “is a system of feudal tenure in which the State claims a percentage of the value of your property, yearly, in exchange for the privilege of living on land in its particular jurisdiction” (Joel McDurmon, Restoring America One County At A Time (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2012), p. 156).

In simple English, this is the county renting property to you for an annual fee (a “tax”), and telling you that you “own” it when in reality you do not.

To elaborate: property tax assumes, first, that the ultimate owner of any property is the state, the civil government. Thus, because the county (according to this understanding) fundamentally owns all property, the county (or state) has the inherent right to levy payments from the citizens. The citizens do not truly own the property, but are only stewards of it because of the civil government’s gracious nature. (For proof that the state gives permission to people to “own” its property, think about the concept of eminent domain.)

Second, because the county (civil government) has an overriding ownership of the land, it has the power to determine your property’s value, and thus the amount that you must pay to the local government. Thus, property tax: it is a tax on the property that you “own.”

What happens when you refuse to pay this property tax? Your “private property” is seized and auctioned to the highest bidder, in May of the following year (see www.revenue.alabama.gov/advalorem/faqs.cfm, accessed 12/8/15). You realize very quickly that you did not own the property, but were only paying rent to the state.

Now, to turn to Scripture, nowhere do we see God allowing for a land tax or property tax. Instead, God reserves fundamental ownership of the earth to Himself: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). This means that God owns the land, and not the county; and as such, the county has no God-given authority (or right) to levy taxes based on a man’s property, because the county does not own the land at all. God does.

One author writes:

Since Scripture declares repeatedly that “the earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ex. 9:29; Deut. 10:14; Ps. 24:1; I Cor. 10:25, etc.), a land tax is not lawful. A tax on the land is a tax against God and against His law-order. God Himself does not tax the land which He gives to men as a stewardship under Him… (R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973), p. 283)

Simply put: if a man were to hold at gunpoint another man, and demand the money from his wallet, we would call this theft. It is no different when politicians hold property owners at “gunpoint” through threat of jail or other punishment, and demand money from their wallets. As Rushdoony writes, “Unjust taxation is theft” (ibid.).

Because God forbids theft (Ex. 20:15), God forbids the property, or land, tax.

The way to progress is not through raising taxes to fund various social projects, but through obeying God’s Word in these areas, and this means abolishing the property tax. Disobedience to God will not lead to blessings, but judgment (Deut. 28). It is good that Bibb has the second-lowest property tax in the nation, but it will be better when that tax is $0, because then the property tax situation will be more reflective of God’s requirements.

Some may bewail this solution, citing loss of funding for schools and the county fund as reasons to keep the property tax. This is not a good reason for instituting theft. The appropriate solution is to privatize the county school systems, along with most other county functions.

As one man has stated, “If raising taxes is EVER the right answer, we are not asking the right questions.” Our question must be, “What does God require of us in this situation?” Not, “How do we sustain our current model?” Our model must change and be adapted to God’s Word, not vice-versa, and God’s Word is clear: property tax is stealing.

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).

Is there light in your taxation policies, or death?