Property Taxes are Dangerous / by kevin murray

When you are born, you pretty much own yourself, although recent nanny state activities, have wreak havoc on this most fundamental of our rights.  Do you remember the Beatles song, the Taxman, it goes like this:


                If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
                If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat,
                If you get too cold , I’ll tax the heat,
                If you take a walk , I’ll tax your feet.


Yes, the taxman is something to fear.  You work hard for the money and according to, as of 2013, 64.5% of Americans own their own home, but only 29% own their own home free and clear and without any encumbrances (e.g. mortgage).   Still, let's take that higher number of 64.5% that own their own homes and recognize that when you own your home, you are, in theory, the master of your own castle.


However, ownership of your own home does not mean that there aren't still expenses involved and here I'm not referring to the upkeep of your own property but the property taxes that you are compelled by law to pay.  For instance, despite your ownership of your residence, if you fail to pay your property taxes you will be subject eventually to forfeiture of the actual property itself, so paying property taxes is a mandatory expense that must be paid.


The next question is how are property taxes assessed?  This does vary from state-to-state, in which some states have property taxes that are well under 1% of the value of the residence, such as Louisiana (mainly because of the $75,000 homestead exemption) and then there are states such as New Jersey with property tax rates of nearly 2%.  Before you look at these numbers and simply conclude that this is just the cost of doing business you would be wise to recognize that property taxes are not static.  On the good side, property taxes can be re-assessed and go down as they did for most property owners after the housing crash of 2008.  On the other hand, in most states, property taxes have historically gone up for re-assessments based on perceived market value of your home on a year by year basis.


Now all of the above assumes that the formula that creates the property tax bill year after year will remain the same.  That is to say, the property value, which often consists of the land value, the structure value, exemptions, millage rate, and perhaps other miscellaneous items depending on your county, will be consistent.  But in fact, there is no guarantee that that will be the case for future events.  Because property taxes are utilized for schools, roads, fire departments, police, public employees, pensions, and the like, they are the essential source of county revenue and the county commissioners have the power to change the millage rate and formula for assessing property taxes.  Consequently, a rapid and unexpected increase in property taxes in your community would have the dual negative effect of lowering your property value and increasing your property expenses. 


Property taxes are dangerous because it is not you that have control of that expense, but bureaucrats who may find it expedient to tax you beyond your limit.  Additionally, think of it in another way, when you buy a television, it is yours, there aren't any more additional taxes, but this is not the case with your home.  You own it, but do you really own it?