The Cycle of Property Tax Administrative Reform
|Cycle Stage||Characteristic Cycle Elements|
Minimize political stress by infrequent reassessment. Reappraise|
property of those lacking political access. Raise tax rates, rather
than assessed value.
Triggering event(s) calls attention to non-uniformities. Organized|
groups lobby, protest to legislature, and threaten legal action.
Legislation to improve administration and measures to ameliorate|
expected political stress adopted. Result is improved
administration. Attempts to ameliorate stress only partly
Aggrieved taxpayers lobby, threaten electoral retaliation, and|
Attempt to ameliorate stress by repealing some administrative|
reforms, further limiting property tax change, and changing
Gradual decline in political stress occurs. Some administrative|
improvements persist. Tendency to return to initial state.
Classification systems are evidence of de jure departures from the uniformity principle. The poor quality of assessment, described in other chapters of this volume, is evidence of de facto departures from uniformity. There are also a wide variety of statutory exemptions or special provisions with the announced purpose of encouraging economic growth. The effect of these provisions upon the taxation of business property is often the reverse of classification. Classification favors residential property because there are many voting homeowners. Economic development exemptions often favor business property because these exemptions are usually granted in a legislative setting in which lobbying power, rather than electoral strength, is important.
Does this broad general analysis of political systems and the history of the property tax have any utility to those concerned with the taxation of business property? I think it does. It warns that tax reform is a complicated matter. Demands upon the political system may produce changes that have far-reaching effects upon the political system itself and upon the environment that encompasses the political system.