Property Tax Initiatives in the United States

By Sirmans, G. Stacy; Sirmans, C. Stace | Journal of Housing Research, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Property Tax Initiatives in the United States


Sirmans, G. Stacy, Sirmans, C. Stace, Journal of Housing Research


Abstract

This study reviews the history of property tax initiatives in the United States. Major initiatives include California's Proposition 13, Florida's Save Our Homes'' amendment, and Massachusetts' Proposition 21.2. Enacting some type of limitation is most appealing when taxpayers feel overtaxed and underserved. There is some evidence to show that tax and expenditure limitations do bring local governments more in line with voter preferences. Tax limitation initiatives are often funded by vested special interests and are not pure grassroots movements. Studies show that tax limitation initiatives have a negative effect on education through lower teacher salaries and lower student test scores. Studies also show that other public service areas such as fire protection are also negatively affected.

Almost every state in the United States has enacted some limitation on the taxing authority of local governments. A restriction on the collection of property taxes is the most common form of limitation. According to Brunori (2005), the politics of anti-taxation have been occurring since the late 1970s. Between then and now, the three major historic tax and expenditure limitation initiatives have been: (1) California's Proposition 13 (that limits taxes on all properties); (2) Florida's Save Our Homes Amendment (that limits assessed values on homestead properties); and (3) Massachusetts' Proposition 21.2 (that limits property tax rates). Also, in 2010, the Georgia legislature passed a bill requiring that taxpayers be given immediate access to the sales data used to determine property values.1 This bill was precipitated by the perception that tax assessors and property appraisers were not sufficiently adjusting property values downward within the recent historic collapse in real estate prices after 2006.

Tax and expenditure limitations most often appeal to homeowners who feel overtaxed and underserved or who feel that local governments are not efficient in providing services. Thus, tax and expenditure limitations are generally designed to bring local governments more in line with the preferences of voters. This paper presents the history of property tax limitation initiatives in the U.S. Studies show that, in some cases, tax and expenditure limitations have had negative effects, such as overall declines in the levels of education and fire protection, as well as significant differences in market value and assessed value of property.

Real Property Rights in the United States

When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, the concept of individual property rights prevailed over the concept of community ownership. The 14th amendment to the Constitution set forth the right of private property ownership with the safeguard that no person will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

By a grant of power from the states to the federal government in Article VI, the Constitution became the supreme law of the land. Among other things, the Constitution authorized Congress to levy and collect taxes.2 However, real property taxation was one of the rights that states withheld for themselves.

In the U.S., real property taxes account for about 85% of the tax revenues for local governments and finance about half of all local government expenditures [for an excellent discussion on tax collections and expenditures, see Jennings (2005)]. Although the tax on real property is considered vital for financing local government services, it is often disliked and demonized. Some reasons include: (1) taxes may have little relation to household income, (2) taxes have the potential of being inequitable (horizontally and/or vertically),3 and (3) there may be inefficiency between the collection of property taxes and the services provided. Because of these issues, limiting property taxes or tax increases is appealing to voters and is generally perceived as a way to force local governments to be more efficient.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Property Tax Initiatives in the United States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.