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Rethinking local government reliance on the property tax

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  • Alm, James
  • Buschman, Robert D.
  • Sjoquist, David L.

Abstract

Historically, local governments in the United States have relied on the property tax as one of their main sources of own-source revenues. However, the recent collapse of housing prices and the resulting negative impact on local government budgets suggest that it may be opportune to rethink this strategy. In this paper we document the overall decline in property values in the United States in recent years, and we find that the impact is in the aggregate negative but that the impact varies significantly by state and by locality. We also examine the impact on local government revenues, and we again find substantial regional and local variation. Indeed, our data indicate that substantial numbers of local governments seem to have avoided the significant and negative budgetary impacts seen most clearly for state and federal governments, at least to date. We then focus specifically on the State of Georgia, in order to determine the ways in which local governments have responded to the economic recession. Our empirical analyses indicate that there are several factors causing changes in property tax revenues, but the dominant factor is changes in housing prices, with some significant lags. We conclude that local government reliance on the property tax has in fact been an advantage for many local governments in the current economic environment, and that such reliance is likely to - and should - continue in at least some form for the immediate future.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Regional Science and Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 41 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (July)
Pages: 320-331

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Handle: RePEc:eee:regeco:v:41:y:2011:i:4:p:320-331

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Keywords: Property tax State and local finance Tax limitations Assessment Tax base elasticity;

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References

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  1. Byron Lutz & Raven Molloy & Hui Shan, 2010. "The housing crisis and state and local government tax revenue: five channels," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-49, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Jian Chen & David H. Downs, 2013. "Property Tax and Tenure Choice: Implications for China," International Real Estate Review, Asian Real Estate Society, vol. 16(3), pages 323-343.
  2. Zodrow, George R., 2014. "Intrajurisdictional capitalization and the incidence of the property tax," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 57-66.
  3. James Alm & Robert D. Buschman & David L. Sjoquist, 2013. "How did foreclosures affect property values in Georgia School Districts?," Working Papers 1308, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  4. Razvan Vlaicu & Alexander Whalley, 2011. "Do housing bubbles generate fiscal bubbles?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(1), pages 89-108, October.
  5. Chernick, Howard & Langley, Adam & Reschovsky, Andrew, 2011. "The impact of the Great Recession and the housing crisis on the financing of America's largest cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 372-381, July.
  6. Doerner, William M. & Ihlanfeldt, Keith R., 2011. "House prices and city revenues," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 332-342, July.
  7. Anderson, Nathan B., 2012. "Market value assessment and idiosyncratic tax-price risk: Understanding the consequences of alternative definitions of the property tax base," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 545-560.

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