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Higher category: Law and Common law
Personal property is property that is movable. In common law systems, personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In civil law systems, personal property is often called movable property or movables – any property that can be moved from one location to another.
Movable property on land (larger livestock, for example) was not automatically sold with the land, it was "personal" to the owner and moved with the owner.
Personal property may be classified in a variety of ways.
Intangible personal property or "intangibles" refers to personal property that cannot actually be moved, touched or felt, but instead represents something of value such as negotiable instruments, securities, service (economics), and intangible assets including chose in action.
Tangible personal property refers to any type of property that can generally be moved (i.e., it is not attached to real property or land), touched or felt. These generally include items such as furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, writings, or household goods. In some cases, there can be formal title documents that show the ownership and transfer rights of that property after a person's death (for example, motor vehicles, boats, etc.) In many cases, however, tangible personal property will not be "titled" in an owner's name and is presumed to be whatever property he or she was in possession of at the time of his or her death.
Accountants also distinguish personal property from real property because personal property can be depreciated faster than improvements (while land is not depreciable at all). It is an owner's right to get tax benefits for chattel, and there are businesses that specialize in appraising personal property, or chattel.
The distinction between these types of property is significant for a variety of reasons. Usually one's rights on movables are more attenuated than one's rights on immovables (or real property). The statutes of limitations or prescriptive periods are usually shorter when dealing with personal or movable property. Real property rights are usually enforceable for a much longer period of time and in most jurisdictions real estate and immovables are registered in government-sanctioned land registers. In some jurisdictions, rights (such as a lien or other security interest) can be registered against personal or movable property.
In the common law it is possible to place a mortgage upon real property. Such mortgage requires payment or the owner of the mortgage can seek foreclosure. Personal property can often be secured with similar kind of device, variously called a chattel mortgage, trust receipt, or security interest. In the United States, Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code governs the creation and enforcement of security interests in most (but not all) types of personal property.
There is no similar institution to the mortgage in the civil law, however a hypothec is a device to secure real rights against property. These real rights follow the property along with the ownership. In the common law a lien also remains on the property and it is not extinguished by alienation of the property; liens may be real or equitable.
Many jurisdictions levy a personal property tax, an annual tax on the privilege of owning or possessing personal property within the boundaries of the jurisdiction. Automobile and boat registration fees are a subset of this tax. Most household goods are exempt as long as they are kept or used within the household; the tax usually becomes a problem when the taxing authority discovers that expensive personal property like art is being regularly stored outside of the household.
The distinction between tangible and intangible personal property is also significant in some of the jurisdictions which impose sales taxes. In Canada, for example, provincial and federal sales taxes were imposed primarily on sales of tangible personal property whereas sales of intangibles tended to be exempt. The move to value added taxes, under which almost all transactions are taxable, has diminished the significance of the distinction.
Personal versus private property
In political/economic theory, notably socialist, Marxist, and most anarchist philosophies, the distinction between private and personal property is extremely important. Which items of property constitute which is open to debate. In some economic systems, such as capitalism, private and personal property are considered to be exactly equivalent.
- Personal property or possessions includes "items intended for personal use" (e.g., one's toothbrush, clothes, homes, and vehicles, and sometimes money). It must be gained in a socially fair manner, and the owner has a distributive right to exclude others.
- Private property is a social relationship between the owner and persons deprived, i.e. not a relationship between person and thing. Private property may include artifacts, factories, mines, dams, infrastructure, natural vegetation, mountains, deserts and seas -- these generate capital for the owner without the owner having to perform any labour. Conversely, those who perform labour using somebody else's private property are deprived of the value of their work, and are instead given a salary that is disjointed from the value generated by the worker. Marxists consider it to be unfair that mere ownership of something should grant an individual free money and power over others.
- In Marxist theory, the term private property typically refers to capital or the means of production, while personal property refers to consumer and non-capital goods and services.
- Chattel house
- Communal property
- Jus relictae
- Secured transaction
- State property
- Trespass to chattels
- "Personal property". Sir Robert Harry Inglis Palgrave. Dictionary of political economy, Volume 3. 1908. p. 96
- Origin of chattel Archived 2009-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, accessed August 15, 2009
- Friedland, William H.; Rosberg, Carl G. (1965). African Socialism. Stanford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0804702034.
- "B.3 Why are anarchists against private property? - Anarchist Writers". anarchism.pageabode.com. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "End Private Property, Not Kenny Loggins". jacobinmag.com. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
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