THE TWO PER CENT TAX.

THE TWO PER CENT TAX.

Last week there was held in this city an important convention of fire underwriters. Over 150 companies sent representatives to participate in the proceedings, and to weep over the demoralized condition of the insurance business. Among other things complained of was the excessive and unjust taxation to which insurance companies are subjected in the various Slates. Not the least of the grievances complained of is the two per cent tax on gross premiums to which they are subjected for the support of Firemen’s Relief Associations. This was set forth as being a great hardship imposed upon the companies and unjust, because it constitutes a tax upon a special class. Resolutions were adopted condeming all taxation of this character, and a committee of fifteen was appointed to endeavor to secure the repeal of these laws. This convention organized itself into a permanent body, whose object it is to reform the evils from which the business of underwriting is suffering.

This action is of importance to all Firemen in those States where the two per cent law is in operation. We do not question but the underwriters will make a determined effort this coming Winter to have the law repealed. They argue that the law is unjusf, inasmuch as it imposes unequal taxation upon citizens, for, of course, whatever burden of taxation is laid upon the companies is at once charged back to the policyholders. Therefore, if a propertyowner, being prudent, insures his property, paying premiums to the amount of $100, he is assessed, (through the company) two per cent on this amount for the support of the Firemen’s Relief Fund. His neighbor, however, who owns property equally valuable, and receives equal fire protection, but who does not insure, escapes this two per cent tax. Therefore, the underwriters claim the tax is discriminating against the prudent and careful citizen in favor of the imprudent and reckless one. These underwriters are particularly solicitious about the rights of citizens ! They claim to have no interest in the matter, and to be actuated solely by a desire to see fair play between citizens. This is transparent bosh ! As a matter of fact, this two per cent tax does not effect insurance rates one iota. Policies are written for the same price in those States where this tax is levied as they are in States where it is not levied. Repeal the law and rates would not be lowered a single fraction of a cent. It is pure and unadulterated selfishness that induces the insurance companies to desire the repeal of this law. No taxpayer objects to it, no one has asked to be relieved from its operation. It is a source of great benefit to a deserving class of persons, and the money thus collected is expended mainly in relieving the necessities of the wide ws and orphans of men who spend years of their lives fighting fire in the interests of the insurance companies. That these companies, and no one else, should now seek to destroy these Relief Funds, and rob these widows aud orphans of the small amount each can receive from them, is a mean and paltry act that few men would care to father. If the law is unjust and unequal, it is unconstitutional, for the constitution declares that taxation must be equal. If it is unconstitutional, the companies have but to make a case, carry it to the courts and, if they are right, the courts will relieve them from the burdens imposed by it. That they do not contest it in the courts, is very good evidence that they do not regard it as so unrighteous as they pretend, and have little confidence in being able to have it set aside. They prefer to go to the various legislatures, where their influence is more potent, and there secure the repeal of a law which is most beneficient in its operations, and against which no protest, save their own, has been raised.

We warn the Firemen to be on the alert to circumvent any movement that may be made by the underwriters to rob them of their Relief Funds. They should call the attention of their members of legislatures in advance to the proposed action of the underwriters, and see that they intelligently comprehend the benefits that are secured by this law to the widows and orphans of Firemen. We know that the underwriters are a power in the land, but we also know that the Firemen are greater and more powerful than they if they choose to assert themselves. Every Fireman who is personally acquainted with a member of a legislature should direct his attention to this matter without delay.

THE TWO PER CENT TAX.

THE TWO PER CENT TAX.

At the late Conventions of the New York and New Jersey State Firemen’s Associations, much time was devoted to the discussion of the best means to be adopted for the collection of the two per cent tax from insurance companies for the benefit of Firemen’s Relief Funds. Where the premiums are collected by local agents of insurance companies, there is litttle difficulty in making the collection, as each agent is required by law to report to the fire authorities the amount so collected, and to pay to the treasurer of the local relief fund the two per cent tax on the same. But in cases where the owners of property in one place go to another—or even into another State—to get their property insured, the collection of the tax becomes a difficult matter. If, for instance, property owned in Jersey City is insured in New York, how are the Jersey City Firemen to get the tax ? As different States are here represented, we see noway out of the difficulty unless the Legislatures of those States agree upon reciprocal legislation to cover the point. But as regards places in the same State, there ought to be less difficulty. It occurs frequently that property owned in the interior of New’ York State is insured in New York City companies. The agents here include the premiums received from such property in their reports to the authorities here, and the tax is paid to the relief fund of this city, when it should go to the fund of the place where the property is located. This is a great injustice, anti should be remedied. It can be done by requiring the two per cent tax to be paid into a general fund, and each agent to report where his premiums were derived, and the fund could then be divided equitably among the different towns. With reciprocal legislation between the States. New York would, by this arrangement, pay to New Jersey Firemen what was their due, and New Jersey would return the compliment in a similar manner.

At the meeting of the New York Association at Canandaigua in September, the Law Committee was instructed to ask the State Superintendent of Insurance regarding the collection of the two per cent tax on railroad property, insured by what is termed a “ blanket policy ”—a policy covering the property of the company along its entire line. The following is the Superintendent’s reply :

INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, ALBANY, October 20, 1879.

R. S. CALKINS, ESQ., Chair matt Law Committee, Fire Association. A’ew York, Cohoes, A’. V’..

DEAR SIR:-I am in receipt of yours of the 13th instant, asking where taxes should be paid on a ” blanket policy” issued to a Railroad Company, and good at any point on the line ?

I believe the tax on said policy should be paid in the county where the policy is

issued. Very respectfully, yours.

JOHN F. SMYTH, Superintendent.

Under this decision, it remains for the treasurers of the various relief funds to find out what companies insure railroad property, and to collect from them the proportion of tax due them. This will be a difficult task. Suppose, for instance, thi New York Central Railroad has a “ blanket policy ’ in the Royal Insurance Company, covering its property all along the line, from New York to Buffalo, to (he amount of $5,000,000 ; the Royal re-insures this risk in various other companies, but is, of course, itself liable for the two per cent tax ; how are the New York, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Rochester, and Buffalo Firemen to ascertain what proportion ot the premium paid on this policy was for property located in those cities ? And if they succeed in dividing up the amounts pro rata, w’ho will pay the two per cent tax ? The way to get at it is to require the agent writing such a policy to report to the Insurance Superintendent the location and valuation of such property, and to pay to him in a lump the two per cent tax ; the Superintendent could distribute it to tr.ose entitled to it, whether they belong in New York or any other State. To accomplish this, the law will require amendment, compelling all insurance agents to report to the Supeiintendent not only the premiums received by them, but the location of the property insured, and make him, also, the custodian of the two per cent tax fund. It is only by the adoption of some such plan that the Firemen can receive the full benefit of the law enacted for the support of their relief fund.