The Property Tax as “A Good Tax”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – March 31, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — The property tax, a mainstay of local government, is the subject of continual controversy, with numerous ballot measure to place caps on it, or even in some cases proposals to eliminate it completely. But in fact it is a fair, democratic, stable and efficient source local revenue, attorney and property tax expert Joan Youngman argues in “A Good Tax: Legal and Policy Issues for the Property Tax in the United States,” published this month by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The property tax generates some $472 billion per year in local revenue in the United States, making it a critical source of funding for schools, police and fire protection, and other public services. It is also a highly transparent tax, holding local governments accountable to citizens, who can see clearly how their tax dollars are spent.

However, a series of populist revolts, beginning with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, have weakened the property tax and led to unintended consequences.

“Ironically, many property tax limitations enacted in the name of fairness have actually distorted the tax base and introduced inequities,” Youngman said. “I hope this book will serve as a roadmap for a new path forward, helping policymakers strengthen the property tax as a fair, stable and efficient source local revenue and autonomy.”

Through a detailed analysis of the legislative and administrative issues facing policymakers, Youngman outlines ways in which state and local governments can provide taxpayer relief, when necessary, while preserving crucial provisions of the property tax, such as the accurate assessment of every property based on the fair market value.
“At a time when many governments are facing fiscal difficulties and the need to address delayed or deferred financial obligations of all types, an effective property tax can be a valuable instrument for the common good,” Youngman writes.

The comprehensive assessment of the current state of the property tax covers the following topics:

— Progressivity, Regressivity, and Fairness
— Values and Valuation
— Property Taxes and School Finance
— Tax Increment Financing
— Classification and Differential Taxation
— Open Space and Conservation Easements
— Farmland Assessment and Current Use Taxation
— The Valuation of Federally Subsidized Low-Income Housing
— Exemptions and Payments in Lieu of Taxes
— Tax Restrictions and Assessment Limits
— Tax Limitations and Accurate Assessments: The Massachusetts Experience

Praise for A Good Tax:

“In this marvelous book, Joan Youngman makes a spirited case for a vibrant local property tax. She provides a wise and penetrating discussion of the difficult legal, economic, and valuation challenges in implementing market value taxation and outlines directions for reform.”
— Steven Sheffrin, Professor of Economics
Tulane University

“This book makes clear, cogent arguments in support of the property tax, emphasizing transparency and the need for autonomous funding for local government, while dispelling myths about regressivity and dealing with complex policy issues. The author’s carefully reasoned perspective, coupled with useful, illustrative case studies from around the United States, make this a one-of-a-kind document that will be a significant resource for years to come.”
— Alan S. Dornfest, Property Tax Policy Supervisor
Idaho State Tax Commission

“Joan Youngman does an excellent job defending the property tax, an often attacked bastion of our federalist system. Drawing on her encyclopedic knowledge of the property tax, she clearly explains both the pros and cons of the tax and, more importantly, lays out potential solutions to the policy challenges inherent in administration. An invaluable resource for public finance researchers, this book should be required reading of any politician considering new property tax limits.”
— Kim Reuben, Senior Fellow, Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center

About the author

Joan Youngman is a senior fellow and chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation at the Lincoln Institute. She is an attorney and author of numerous articles concerning the taxation of land and buildings. She is the author of Legal Issues in Property Valuation and Taxation: Cases and Materials (2006), a co-author of State and Local Taxation: Cases and Materials (10th edition, 2014), and coeditor of Erosion of the Property Tax Base (2009), Making the Property Tax Work – Experiences in Developing and Transitional Countries (2008), and The Development of Property Taxation in Economies in Transition: Case Studies from Central and Eastern Europe (2001).

About the book

The Property Tax: Legal and Policy Issues for the Property Tax in the United States
By Joan Youngman
Published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
Paperback |$30.00
Publication Date: March __, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55844-342-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-55844-345-7

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is an independent, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help solve global economic, social, and environmental challenges to improve the quality of life through creative approaches to the use, taxation, and stewardship of land.

Contact: Anthony Flint 617-503-2116
Will Jason 617-503-2254

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