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N.J. got it right: We hate property taxes

Which tax do you hate the most? And no, "all of them" is not an option.

According to a compilation of various public opinion polls by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), we Americans really, really detest getting our annual property tax bills.

"Surveys suggest that the local property tax is now seen as more onerous than the federal income tax," reports AEI in Public Opinion on Taxes. "Thirty-six percent in February-March 2003 told Kaiser/NPR/Harvard that local property tax was the tax they disliked the most, followed by 29 percent who chose the income tax. Gallup shows a substantial jump since the late 1980s in the proportion of people mentioning the local property tax as the worst or least fair tax. In their April 2005 poll, 42 percent gave that response."

Yep, property tax collectors are more disliked than the IRS. At least right now. Talk to me again in April.

Heck, talk to me again in October as anti-federal-tax rhetoric reaches a boiling point in advance of the November midterm election day.

As I note in We hate property taxes, my post today for my Bankrate Taxes Blog, the bursting of the housing bubble likely has contributed to our loathing of this local levy.

Lower tax cap for N.J.: So it's no surprise that today New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie just signed into law a bill capping the Garden State's property tax increases at 2 percent a year.

That's half the current limit.

The measure is a nice mixture of the political and practical.

Although the new law whacked the current property tax cap, it contains enough exceptions to give the local governments and school districts that depend on property tax money plenty of room to maneuver.

The cap can be busted if there's need to cover pension and health insurance costs, increased school enrollment, debt payments and states of emergency.

Or voters can go to the polls and allow more taxes to be levied. That will really be news!

And Christie even said he's not ruling out more exemptions as long as they don't violate his "core principles."

It's all well and good to try to make the voters happy. But will they stay happy when there's no money for other, non-excepted services?

A local hero of a tax: From a local legislator's point of view, says Kim Rueben at the Tax Policy Center's TaxVox blog, the property tax is an unsung hero.

"How can that be," writes Rueben, "if so much of the economic mess was caused by a collapse of a housing bubble?"


Nationally, property tax revenues have yet to fall (see the TaxVox graph below) because it takes a while for assessed values to catch up with reality on both the upside and the downside of housing, says Rueben.

Plus, local governments can raise rates … unless they're capped like is now the case in New Jersey.

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Giles L Crane

See PrincetonFairTaxReval.org
for an attempt to roll back
a revaluation gone awry.

The second part helping NJ residents
to stay in their homes is to limit
the percent of revaluation to, say,
plus or minus 15% or less.
Some of the 2010 revaluation increases
were more than 100% for houses
of all ranges of "values".

We need an improvement in the property
tax formula which gives weight
to long time residents and protects
our homes.

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