The Property Tax and Local Finance

By C. Lowell Harriss | Go to book overview

Improving the Administration of
the Property Tax
PAUL V. CORUSYThe property tax, which generated over $82 billion in 1982, is the single greatest source of local revenue. That is why good assessment administration must be the rule rather than the exception. Property-tax administration and assessments are a source of many local political and fiscal problems. Inequitable assessments generate taxpayer objection. Fiscal management is affected by inequitable assessments. Shifts in the share of the property taxes borne by homeowners, industry, business, and farmers following infrequent reassessments generate taxpayer unrest. As a result, reforming real-property assessment practices can help avoid or resolve these controversies.There is a link between a local government's fiscal health and accurate real‐ property assessments. Accurate, up-to-date assessments can strengthen the fiscal health of local government by accomplishing the following goals:
Provide maximum property-tax revenues. Poor assessment practices would generate less revenue.
Allow for increased borrowing capacity. Poor assessment practice would reduce the total tax base, which would reduce the borrowing potential of a local government.
Provide for the proper amount of intergovernmental aid. Poor assessment practice would deny local government its fair share of intergovernmental aid. 1 It is therefore in the best interest of local government that proper assessment and administration be practiced, if the fiscal goals of local government are to be met.

Each state has its own property-tax statutes, and without exception these statutes require the equitable distribution of the property-tax load. A market‐ value standard is the usual basis for valuation, but unfortunately many of the

____________________
1
International Association of Assessing Officers, Understanding Real Property Assessment: An Executive Summary for Local Government Officials (Chicago, 1979). Summarized from p. 4.

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