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Political Economy of Property Tax Reform: Hawaii's Experiment with Split‐Rate Property Taxation

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  • Sally Kwak
  • James Mak

Abstract

Economic theory suggests that switching from a general property tax to a split-rate tax increases land use efficiency and stimulates urban core development while preserving the environment and reducing urban sprawl. Under split‐rate property taxation, land is typically taxed at a significantly higher rate than improvements. Beginning in 1965 Hawaii experimented with a statewide split‐rate property tax system to encourage economic growth and effect land reform. The experiment was ended in 1977. Following the transfer of property taxing powers to the counties in 1978, some counties brought back the split‐rate property tax at times. Since 2006, Kauai County has adopted the unusual practice of taxing improvements at a higher rate than land for most property classes. This article chronicles and explains the rationale behind Hawaii's state and county experiments with split‐rate property taxation.

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  • Sally Kwak & James Mak, 2011. "Political Economy of Property Tax Reform: Hawaii's Experiment with Split‐Rate Property Taxation," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(1), pages 4-29, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:70:y:2011:i:1:p:4-29
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1536-7150.2010.00761.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. England, Richard W. & Zhao, Min Qiang, 2005. "Assessing the Distributive Impact of a Revenue–Neutral Shift From a Uniform Property Tax to a Two-Rate Property Tax With a Uniform Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 58(2), pages 247-260, June.
    2. Fry, Maxwell J & Mak, James, 1984. "Is Land Leasing a Solution to Unaffordable Housing? An Answer from Fee Simple versus Leasehold Property Price Differentials in Hawaii," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(4), pages 529-549, October.
    3. Oates, Wallace E. & Schwab, Robert M., 1997. "The Impact of Urban Land Taxation: The Pittsburgh Experience," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 50(1), pages 1-21, March.
    4. Bowman, John H. & Bell, Michael E., 2008. "Distributional Consequences of Converting the Property Tax to a Land Value Tax: Replication and Extension of England and Zhao," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 61(4), pages 593-607, December.
    5. James Mak, 2006. "Taxation of Travel and Tourism," Chapters,in: International Handbook on the Economics of Tourism, chapter 11 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Richard L. Pollock & Donald C. Shoup, 1977. "The Effect of Shifting the Property Tax Base from Improvement Value to Land Value: An Empirical Estimate," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(1), pages 67-77.
    7. Oates, Wallace E. & Schwab, Robert M., 1997. "The Impact of Urban Land Taxation: The Pittsburgh Experience," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 50(1), pages 1-21, March.
    8. Jeffrey P. Cohen & Cletus C. Coughlin, 2005. "An introduction to two-rate taxation of land and buildings," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 359-374.
    9. Plassmann, Florenz & Tideman, T. Nicolaus, 2000. "A Markov Chain Monte Carlo Analysis of the Effect of Two-Rate Property Taxes on Construction," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 216-247, March.
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