For Americans across the nation, housing expenses are typically the largest costs of living. Not only is a house the biggest purchase in most Americans’ lives, but also monthly rent or mortgage payments often exceed what is spent on food, luxury, savings, and transportation combined. Similarly, property taxes make up the bulk of taxes paid each year by most people in the United States.
Property taxation is almost always done at the state and local level. A range of government bodies, including cities, counties, school boards, safety departments, and utility commissions, levy property taxes in a variety of ways.
Of the $3.1 trillion in taxes the federal government collected in fiscal 2014, more than two-thirds came from income and payroll taxes. Only 1% came from estate and trust taxes — levied on the exchange of property after death and perhaps the only federal tax that could be considered a property tax.
Using data from the Tax Foundation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed property taxes paid in each state as a percentage of home values. The effective property tax rate is as high as 2.38% in New Jersey, and as low as 0.28% in Hawaii.
Compared to sales, income, corporate, and other forms of taxation, property taxes make up the largest share of state and local tax collections in 26 states. In most cases this was due to the high effective tax rate. In a few states the absence of other major tax types could explain the disproportionate reliance on property taxation. Of the 25 states with the highest property tax rates, Delaware, Wyoming, Virginia, Montana, and Nevada residents do not pay at least one major tax whatsoever. Six of the 25 states levying the lowest property tax rates also do not have at least one major tax.
In 16 of the top 25 states, property taxes make up at least a third of state and local tax collections. In New Hampshire, more than two-thirds of state and local taxes come from property taxes. Of the 25 states collecting the lowest property tax rates, property taxes accounted for one-third or more of collections in only four states. General sales or other taxes tended to comprise the bulk of taxes collected by these states.
Home values are taken into consideration by state and local governments when determining property tax rates. Values can also often dictate how much revenue state and local governments collect in the form of property taxes. However, the states with the highest property tax rates do not necessarily have the most expensive housing markets, nor do low-tax states necessarily have relatively low home values.
New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York are each home to some of the highest property tax rates nationwide as well as some of the highest home values. Other states such as Wisconsin, Texas, and Nebraska, however, also have relatively high property tax rates but also below average home values.
Hawaii, where the typical owner-occupied housing unit is valued at $528,000 — the highest in the country — also has the lowest effective property tax rate of any state.
To identify the states with the highest and lowest property taxes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2013 average effective property tax rates on owner-occupied housing in each state from the Tax Foundation. Taxes paid by businesses, renters, and others were excluded from the Tax Foundation’s calculation. Total property tax collections per capita from 2006 through 2013, the sources of tax collections by tax type for 2012, and state and local tax burdens as a percentage of state income for each state in 2013 also came from the Tax Foundation. Property tax collections are based on the average property tax deduction taken on the Schedule A, per tax return, from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While this is not equivalent to the average property collections at the state level, this estimate is often used as an estimate. Cost of living figures in 2013 for each state came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Household median income, median home value, and poverty rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).
These are the states with the highest and lowest property tax rates.
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