Distributional impacts of the property tax revolt

by Judith C. Fernandez, Dennis N. De Tray


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Tax limitation laws enacted in the late 1970s in California and New Jersey changed the mix of state and local taxes levied in the two states. This study estimates the distributional consequences of that change for residents of four cities in each state, using an allocation methodology incorporating an extension of the "new view" of property tax incidence. The methodology allows the authors to treat local property tax rates as deviations from a national average rate, and thus to distinguish changes in tax burdens that are subject to state and local control from changes due to national trends in property taxes. The results indicate that state and local taxes combined have moved in the direction of increased progressivity, a movement that has been masked to some extent by the effects of a declining national average property tax rate. The results were weaker for the New Jersey cities than for the California ones.

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