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Property Taxes

Subcategory for Resource Justice articles and content.

Who Says You Can’t Have a State Property Tax?

Well, okay. Lots of people. One of the crowning strategies to rouse the rabble is to ream the property tax. Fair enough. But in some states like New Jersey, the property tax is unpopular, likely because the property tax is just as high as the state income, business, and sales taxes.

But some states have a lifeline for tax efficiency, equity, and progressivity. Yet because we live in strange times, state governments get the shakes regarding property tax. So instead, they throw themselves upon regressive, volatile, or inefficient taxes. Not surprisingly, these taxes hit parts of society that are powerless or don’t vote.

The property tax can trace its unpopularity to simple (and fixable) quirks in most states: the bill comes due once a year. There are legitimate concerns over what happens to people on a fixed income. The house’s value may go up, but there’s no cash flow to pay for a tax bill that goes up.

Bias in Property Assessments: Sources and Solutions

So we’re left with these dual realities: the premise of property taxes is sound, but the execution is inequitable. And for us at the Center for Property Tax Reform this brings two questions immediately to mind: First, where does bias in property assessments come from? (After all, professional assessors’ primary objective is to create valuations that are “fair and equitable,” not for some property owners, but for all of them.) And second, recognizing that many current assessments fall short of meeting the fair and equitable standard, what can we do to fix them?

It was with these questions in mind that we created our “Bias in Assessments Handbook.” The Handbook combines an extensive literature review with data gathered through one-on-one interviews with professional assessors in some of the nation’s largest jurisdictions – assessors who have personally and professionally dedicated themselves to identifying and remedying regressivity and inequities in their jurisdictions’ assessments and can speak with authority about how to do it right.

Tax Exemption in Roanoke, Virginia

“Statutorily exempt” is the term used to describe owners of land and buildings who, by virtue of their identities, are not required to pay property taxes. Their holdings are still assessed like everyone else’s but no bill is ever generated, despite the fact that they benefit from the same tax-funded amenities (like schools, roads, and public services) as everyone else. So while an organization’s tax exempt status may feel like a foregone conclusion, their savings aren’t actually free. As part of its commitment to transparency in taxation, CPTR explores the specific implications of tax exemptions for cities and towns across the country. This report is focused on the City of Roanoke, VA.

In the State of Virginia, statutorily exempt owners include religious institutions; federal, state, and city entities; public parks and libraries; charities; and more. Using the City’s 2021 tax data, it’s possible to understand exactly how this plays out in Roanoke.