Property Tax Fairness

From the Center for Municipal Finance
Interactive ReportsRelated Research
Property taxes represent the single largest source of own-source revenue for America’s local governments. Cities, counties, school districts, and special districts raise roughly $500 billion per year in property taxes, roughly 70 percent of local taxes. Whether residents rent or own, property taxes impact everyone.

In many cities, however, property taxes are also inequitable: low-value properties face higher tax assessments, relative to their actual market values, than do high-value properties. This tax regressivity disproportionately burdens lower-income residents.

To better understand these issues the Center for Municipal finance has reviewed millions of sales records for properties throughout the country. This site presents the results of these evaluations. 

Professor Berry discusses the impact of assessment inequity on NPR

Higher Property Taxes: Homeownership Costs More For Black Families, Sasha-Ann Simons, 1A, WAMU and NPR, July 2020

The Center’s Property Tax Project is cited in the New York Times

In a newly released study, the University of Chicago’s Center for Municipal Finance analyzed Detroit’s 2016-2018 assessment data. They find that — while the average home price was $35,600 — the majority of lower-valued homes (less than $19,000 sale price) were assessed in excess of the Michigan Constitution’s established limit. Due in large part to systematic overcharging, Detroit has one of the highest property tax foreclosure rates of any city since the Great Depression.

Data Scientist Eric Langowski presents the Center’s work at SatRday Chicago 2020

Langowski’s presentation regarding the Center’s R package and related code, and its use in our property tax evaluations, begins at minute 50:00.

Professor Berry speaks to activists seeking end to tax inequities

“Christopher Berry, academic director for the Center for Municipal Finance and one of the study’s authors, said it’s unfortunate that the reappraisal did not fix the overassessments.

‘After having studied a lot of jurisdictions around the country, Detroit is not the only place that has this problem. But it is one of the worst that I’ve seen,’ Berry said.”

Professor Chris Berry speaks on the impact of the Center’s work in Detroit

“A researcher cited in the lawsuit found that a quarter of Detroit’s lowest valued homes would now have gone into tax foreclosure had they been accurately assessed.”