Property taxes are the primary tool for financing local government and generate state-level revenue in some states as well. In fiscal year 2019, property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. es comprised 31 percent of total state and local taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. collections in the United States, more than any other source of tax revenue. In that same year, property taxes accounted for 72 percent of local tax collections and 27 percent of overall local government revenue.
Median property taxes paid vary widely across (and within) the 50 states. The lowest bills in the country are in eight counties or county equivalents with median property taxes of less than $200 a year:
- three in Alaska (Aleutians East Borough and the Kusivlak and Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Areas)
- four parishes in Louisiana (Allen, Bienville, East Feliciana, and Madison), and
- Alabama’s Choctaw County.
(Significant parts of Alaska have no property taxes, though most of these areas have such small populations that they are excluded from federal surveys.)
The next-lowest median property tax of $201 is found in Avoyelles Parish, near the middle of Louisiana, followed by $221 in McDowell County, West Virginia, at the southernmost part of the state.
The six counties with the highest median property tax payments all have bills exceeding $10,000—Bergen, Essex, and Union Counties in New Jersey, and Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester counties in New York. All six are near New York City, as is the next highest, Passaic County, New Jersey ($9,881).
Where Do People Pay the Most in Property Taxes?
Median Property Taxes Paid by County, 2019 (5-year estimate)
Note: Missing values are due to small sample sizes in low-population counties. This interactive map is more accessible when viewed on larger screens. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey dataset B25103.
Reliance on property taxes also varies within states. In Georgia, for example, where the median property tax bill is relatively low, median taxes range from $494 in Quitman County (near the Alabama border in the southern part of the state) to $3,060 in Fulton County (a suburb of Atlanta). This is typical among states; higher median payments tend to be concentrated in urban areas. This can be partially explained by the prevalence of above-average home prices in urban cities. Because property taxes are assessed as a percentage of home values, it follows that higher property taxes are paid in places with higher housing prices.
While no taxpayers in high-tax jurisdictions will be celebrating their yearly payments, it’s worth noting that property taxes are largely rooted in the “benefit principle” of government finance: the people paying the bills are most often the ones benefiting from the services.
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