Are Property Taxes Fair?

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Property tax is probably the fairest tax collected by municipalities. However, it is also probably the unfairest tax collected by municipalities.

The state where an individual lives determines how much they pay, which may be higher or lower. An individual’s economic status can also be a factor in how this type of tax impacts their pocketbook.

In fact when it comes to the decision on taxes and renting versus owning, this may be the only time renting is the best option. States collect property taxes on:

Land
Improvements to land such as additions to property
Man made objects that are not stationary structures
It is usually assessed by individual county tax collectors in each state. Land and property are mailed tax payment notices that are the result of appraisals of the property’s value. Notices of assessments can be disputed by contacting the tax collector in the land owner’s county, and the tax bill is typically paid from a homeowner’s escrow amount on their mortgage.

As mentioned, property taxes can disproportionately affect some homeowners. Increases in a state’s tax rate can often double or even triple a homeowner’s tax liability and often leave them with no option but to sail their residence or land.

Critics of this form of taxation have also decried the fact that it does address the situations of some individuals. Although it is ordinarily paid as part of an escrow account, increased property tax means they would have to pay more into escrow.

Senior citizens on a fixed income have been identified as a group sometimes hit hard by taxes on their property. Such individuals may have high taxes due to an increase in the value of their property, yet find themselves unable to pay because of a reduced income during retirement. This mandatory tax, in some cases, does not take into account factors that may impact someone’s ability to pay, such as personal tragedy or acts of nature.

Property tax has also been criticized because of the difference individuals must pay between states. Alabama has the lowest rate at 1.3 percent on property value, while New Hampshire has the largest at 4.9 percent. The average percentage among is somewhere in the range of 2.3 percent.

While Alabama has a tax rate of 1.3, which would seem to make it an attractive location for a home or business owner, someone with property a few feet away in neighboring Georgia would have to pay 2.6 percent, and more than double in Florida with a tax rate of 3.1 percent.

Just how to spend the revenue (or waste it, as is the case with many governments) generated by taxing property values is determined by state legislatures. A state’s legislature also has say over reducing or raising the tax rate along with determining how often it should be collected. Additionally, there may also set limits on how much increase, if any, there can be every year.

Property tax definitely helps states with revenue. But while much needed, property tax can also be a deciding factor in where an individual lives or their ability to retain the American Dream of owning land.