The property tax is the oldest major revenue source for state and local governments. At the beginning of the twentieth century, property taxes represented more than eighty percent of state and local tax revenue. While this share has diminished over time as states have introduced sales and income taxes, the property tax remains an important mechanism for funding education and other local services. This policy brief discusses why property is taxed and how property taxes are calculated.
The property tax is an important mechanism for funding education and other local services. But it is unpopular among many taxpayers, in large part because it affects low- and middle-income families more heavily than the wealthy. For example, the tax remains the same when a taxpayer’s income drops significantly due to job loss or retirement. ITEP’s property tax resources explain how property taxes work and evaluate a variety of policies to remedy the regressive nature of the tax.