Thursday, October 16, 2008

As housing market falls, property taxes unlikely to follow

From CNNMoney:
Housing prices have plummeted, but property tax bills probably won't budge.

This January, local tax authorities will begin to send out property assessments for 2009, telling homeowners what their property is valued at, and how much their tax bill is.

But many assessments won't reflect any of the steep home price declines that have been making headlines for the last year or so.

And even if property assessments do drop, property tax bills won't necessarily be any lower. ...

Property taxes climbed relentlessly earlier this decade as home prices rose, according to Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. This year Americans will pay more than $400 billion in property taxes, up about 25% from levels in 2004 and double what they paid ten years ago. ...

But even if local prices are way down, taxpayers may not win a lower assessment, because there can be a big lag time between when the home sales used to calculate them take place and when the assessment is actually issued.

To calculate 2009 assessments, for example, assessors will use home sale prices from 2008 or even earlier, according to Sepp. Usually this works to taxpayers's advantage, since price increases take a while before they are fully reflected in assessments. ...

There's another reason why homeowners are unlikely to see any decrease in property tax bills. In some states, such as California, Washington State, Massachusetts and Idaho, taxes are based on the last resale price of the house. Even a home worth $500,000 in California may be taxed based on the sale price when it was bought 10 years earlier for $200,000. ...

Even if citizens do receive a lower assessment ... their property tax bill may not shrink at all.

Tax collectors often raise tax rates to offset lower assessments to meet their budgets, which will be very strained this year. Assessments go down but rates go up so that the tax collections stay roughly the same.

"State and local governments depend very heavily on real estate taxes and they are reeling from a loss of revenues from sales taxes and other sources," said Bruce Hahn.


  1. All around the world get this problem

    Auto Parts

  2. In Maryland the homestead tax credit limits the taxable part of the assesment for owner-occupied housing to a 10%/year increase. So anyone (like me) who bought pre-bubble will see their taxes continue to increase for years.