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MICHIGAN FARMERS TAX GUIDE
BY R. WAYNE NEWTON, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
The levy and collection of taxes is entirely governed by law. The taxing officers of the State are required to levy taxes impartially and equally. However, their task, is so great and so difficult that a certain amount of inequality is likely to result in spite of their best efforts. Because of this fact, the law provides means by which aggrieved taxpayers may protest against any seeming injustice.
The failure of many taxpayers to take advantage of this right is no doubt due in part to their lack of knowledge of the law. Yet failure to make a protest at the proper time places the responsibility for excessive taxation upon the taxpayer himself. The Supreme Court of Michigan has ruled upon this point, as follows:
"Every owner of land is held to know the law. He knows that his land is subject to taxation; that he must pay his fair share of the public revenue and that if he fails to do so proceedings will be taken under the law against his land. It is his duty, therefore, to watch the proceedings provided for by the statute for the foreclosure of the lien and interpose any objections he may have to the validity of the tax."
The following pages have been prepared to serve as a guide to taxpayers, so that they may know their rights and privileges in regard to general taxation. The provisions of the law, as restated here, apply particularly to unincorporated places, and for this reason will be of greatest service to farmers and others living or owning property outside of cities and villages. The statement applies to cities and villages only in so far as the general or special laws or charters governing such places do not provide otherwise.
It should also be borne in mind that the full text of the law contains many provisions and clauses which do not have general application and which are not of such wide interest as to warrant their inclusion here. This statement is, therefore, a summary of the law and not a full and complete statement of it. The taxpayer who believes, after reading this publication, that he is entitled to take steps in regard to his assessment or taxes should consult with his attorney or with one of the following officials each of whom has been provided with a full copy of the General Tax Laws:
The township supervisor;
Taxpayers living in cities or villages may obtain information from city or village officials corresponding to those named for townships or from the county officials listed above.
Election of tax officers at annual township meeting.
Taxpayer to make a sworn statement of taxable property.
Assessment of Real and Personal Property A township supervisor and a member of the township board of review are elected at the annual township meeting, the first Monday in April. The township meeting is open to all qualified electors of the township.
The township supervisor is also the township assessor, and immediately after his election he begins the assessment of property in his township. The assessor is required to obtain from each person of full age and sound mind a statement of all taxable property which he owns or holds for the use of another. The law requires that this information be given in the form of a sworn statement. If the person denies that he has any taxable property, the assessor is also required to obtain a statement under oath to this effect. The assessor, however, is not bound to rely entirely upon the sworn statement of the taxpayer. His duty is to assess to the best of his ability all property at its cash value. He may raise or lower the figures given him by the taxpayer if he thinks this necessary in order to show the cash value of the property reported. He may also add, whenever he finds it, property not given in by the taxpayer.
Certain kinds of property are exempt from taxation, by law. The following exemptions are available to properly qualified taxpayers :
1. The real and personal property of persons who by reason of poverty are unable, in the opinion of the supervisor and board of review, to pay taxes may be exempted.
2. An exemption of $2,000 is allowed on the homesteads of veterans of the Spanish-American, Civil, or Mexican wars, or to the wives or widows of such veterans ; but this provision does not apply in case the total amount of taxable property owned by the person has a value of over $5,000.
3. Each person is entitled to deduct his debts from the value of the amounts, in the form of bills, owed to him by others.
4. Household furniture, provisions, and fuel are exempt up to $500 for each household.
5. The working tools of a mechanic are exempt up to $100. 6. All mules, horses, and cattle not over one year old,
and sheep and swine not over six months old are exempt.
7. Personal property owned by any householder and used in connection with his business is exempt up to a value of $200.
8. Bonds issued by any county, township, city, village, or school district within the State of Michigan are exempt.
Cut-over or wild lands which are purchased for the purpose of making a home are exempt, under certain conditious, from all taxes for five years if proper application is made to the supervisor at the time of assessment.
In addition to these exemptions, owners of tracts of not over Private 100 acres of land of which at least one-half is improved and devoted to agricultural purposes may set aside under the provisions of the Woodlot Tax Act of 1917 as much as one-fourth of the total area as a private forest reserve. Owners desiring to take advantage of this provision must file papers with the county treasurer of the county where the land is located, and must comply with certain regulations as to planting and caring for trees, replanting when trees are cut, and restricting the use of the land for pasture. When the law has been complied with in these and other respects, the supervisor is authorized to exempt the private forest reserve from taxation except on a valuation of one dollar per acre. However, all timber, except firewood and building material for the use of the owner or his tenant, cut from a private forest reserve, is subject to a tax of five per cent of its value at the time of cutting. With the exceptions noted above, no timber is to be removed from the land until a return of the measurement or count, and the variety and the value of the trees cut has been made to the assessor.
Commercial forest reserves may be established on certain cut- Commer-
The assessment of property must be completed by the super- Board of
. Any person may appear at this meeting and give informa-
On the second Monday in June and on the day following, the Board of
After the action of the board of review, and before the assess- Review of
assessment rolls by