Americans love to hate property taxes despite the fact that local governments depend upon this levy to provide services and programs to local residents.
What is the fundamental issue?
Real property taxes, along with other state and local taxes paid, are deductible for federal income tax purposes. According to the IRS, the average property tax deduction claimed in 2013 was $4,610. Without the deduction, taxpayers would be paying federal tax on funds already paid to state or local governments, which would be double taxation.
Members of Congress in both Houses and both parties are seriously talking about tax reform that would broaden the base and lower rates. Some House Republican leaders have expressed a goal of reducing the top tax rate for individuals to 25% on a revenue-neutral basis. This means that to “pay for” the lower rates, Congress would need to limit or repeal widely-utilized deductions, which could include state and local tax deductions. So far there has been no bipartisan legislation introduced that would reduce or eliminate state and local tax deductions.
I am a real estate professional. What does this mean for my business?
If the deduction for state and local taxes paid were repealed or limited, the costs of homeownership would rise.
NAR strongly supports deductibility of state and local real estate taxes, as well as other state and local taxes paid.Legislative/Regulatory Status/Outlook
As part of its budgets for the past several years, the Obama Administration has proposed reducing the value of all itemized deductions (including the state and local tax deductions) for upper income taxpayers. This would be done by limiting the value of itemized deductions to 28% for taxpayers who are in tax brackets higher than 28%. Thus, individuals who are in the 33%, 35%, or the 39.6% tax brackets would find their itemized deductions worth less under this proposal. In other words, an individual in the 35% tax bracket currently gets 35 cents of benefit for every dollar of deduction, where under the Administration proposal, the deduction would be worth only 28 cents per dollar. Individuals with incomes below about $180,000 would generally not be directly affected by this proposal.
Most members of Congress have opposed the President’s budget proposal. To date, limits on itemized deductions have not been part of the legislative agenda. In the current deficit environment, many in Congress say that "everything is on the table," but no bipartisan bill has been introduced repealing the state and local tax deduction. However, a tax reform bill authored by former House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) in early 2014 would have repealed the deduction of taxes paid by individuals. State and local taxes paid by businesses would remain as a deductible expense.
The Camp plan did not garner any significant support from even House Republicans. Moreover, Camp has now retired from the House and the focus of tax reform in 2015 and so far in 2016 has been on business tax reform, and not on the individual side. However, many of the ideas in the Camp plan might be resurrected by other policymakers in future years, including limits to the deductibility of state and local taxes. In addition, in the summer of 2016, House Republicans released at tax reform "blueprint" that calls for the repeal of the deduction of state and local taxes paid. Therefore, NAR continues to watch this issue very closely.
Federal Taxation Committee
State and Local Issues Policy Committee
We've already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.
Understanding Property Taxes
50-state property tax comparison study, (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Financial Excellence, June 2016)
Tempted to flee high taxes? You may miss what they pay for, (realtor.com, June 22, 2016)
Property tax collections increase, (National Association of Home Builders, Sept. 22, 2015)
Learn to love the property tax—it’s not so bad, (Forbes, May 11, 2015)
8 reasons your property taxes are so damn high, (Money, Apr. 20, 2015)
A guide to understanding your property tax, (Huffington Post, Apr. 8, 2015)
Property tax basics, (US Tax Center/Internal Revenue Service, Oct. 8, 2013)
Impact on Property Values
3 different values for 3 homes baffle Kirkland neighbors, (The Seattle Times, July 5, 2016)
Miami-Dade property values surge 9 percent, higher than expected, (Miami Herald, July 1, 2016)
Will Detroit’s new city dwellers split when property tax breaks expire?, (Deadline Detroit, June 23, 2016)
Fayette landowners face billion dollar bump in property values, (Lexington Herald Leader, Apr. 14, 2016)
The property tax factor, (REALTOR® Magazine, Dec. 2015)
The effect of property taxes on home values (Journal of Real Estate Literature, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2000) E
The connection between house price appreciation and property tax revenues (National Tax Journal, Sept. 2008) E
Homeowners, renters, and the political economy of property taxation, (University of Connecticut - Department of Economics Working Paper Series, Oct. 2013)
Challenging Your Property Tax Bill
How to Reduce Your Property Taxes, (Kiplinger, Mar. 2014)
How to Lower Your Property Taxes, and When Not to Try It, (Huffington Post, Dec. 12, 2013)
How to Cut Your Property Taxes, (Credit.com, Oct. 8, 2013)
Appraisal Institute Provides Homeowners With Property Tax Appeal Tips, (The Appraisal Institute, Mar. 21, 2013)
Significant Features of the Property Tax, (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy)
Property Tax Data by County, (Tax Foundation)
Quarterly Summary of State & Local Tax Revenue, (U. S. Census Bureau)
eBooks & Other Resources
The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:
Make Money in Real Estate Tax Liens (Kindle, eBook)
Real Estate Advantages (Audiobook)
Books, Videos, Research Reports & More
The resources below are available for loan through Information Services. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Services at 800-874-6500 for assistance.
Property Taxes in Illinois—What is the Effect of Rapid Increases and Large Drops in House Prices on Property Taxes?, (University of Illinois, 2011) [pdf link]
Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of the Property Tax, (Hollis, NH: Puritan Press, 2010) HJ 4120 B14
How to Reduce Your Property Taxes, (Genesis Press, 1995) HJ 3241 Ad5
Reduce Your Property Taxes, (Crisp Publications, 1992) HJ 4120 T97
The Worst Tax? A History of the Property Tax in America, (University of Kansas Press, 1996) HJ 4120 F57
Field Guides & More
These reference pages may also be of interest:
Have an idea for a real estate topic? Send us your suggestions.
The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this page complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.