M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2012-10
The Tax Everyone Loves to Hate: Principles of Property Tax Reform
Jay K. Rosengard
Also appearing in Gary Cornia, William McCluskey, and Larry Walters, eds., A Primer on the Property Tax, (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell), 2012.
The dilemma is real and profound: most countries have a property tax, but few of their citizens like the tax. The property tax is the tax everyone loves to hate. Countries can seldom live with the tax as initially designed, yet neither can they live without the tax at all.
Thus, this chapter focuses on the reform of an existing system of property taxation rather than on the creation of an optimal property tax. Leaders seldom have the opportunity to design a property tax with a blank slate. There is usually already some sort of system of taxing land and buildings, with a variety of established special interests and a political, social, and historical context. The challenge is to make an existing property tax less taxing.