August 1, 1993

Property Taxes on the Rise Again Across Nation

Download Special Report No. 23


Special Report No. 23

Executive Summary In 1993, state and local governments across the United States will collect an estimated $193 billion in property taxes. The vast bulk of this, about $186 billion, will be collected by local government units including counties, cities, and school districts.

Property taxes in the United States have been rising steadily since 1980. While the tax revolts of the 1970s, led by California's landmark Proposition 13, caused property taxes to level out during that decade, total property taxes paid by Americans are now 62 percent higher, in after-inflation dollars, than they were in 1980. Due to rapidly rising property taxes, local taxes are now growing faster than state taxes, reversing a trend of faster state tax growth through the 1970s and early 1980s. From 1985 to 1991, local tax revenues rose 60 percent compared to 44 percent for state tax revenues.

Polls consistently show property taxes are the least liked form of taxation. Property taxes have often been poorly administered and subject to political influence, leading to unequal and unfair assessments. In addition, they can be imposed so as to have a regressive impact and they can produce serious economic dislocations such as urban blight.

Despite these problems, property taxes continue to be the primary source of tax revenue for local governments, providing 75 percent of local government tax revenue.