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Neutral Property Taxation

Richard Arnott ()

Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2005, vol. 7, issue 1, 27-50

Abstract: A major difficulty in implementing land/site value taxation is imputing the land value of built-on sites. The literature has focused on two alternatives. The first, residual site value, measures postdevelopment site value as property value less structure value, with structure value measured as depreciated construction costs. Residual site value would be relatively easy to estimate, but a residual site value tax system, which taxes land value before development and residual site value after development at the same rate is distortionary, discouraging density. The second, raw site value, measures postdevelopment site value as "what the land would be worth were there no building on the site (though in fact there is)." Raw site value taxation is neutral (does not distort the timing and density of development), but the estimation of postdevelopment raw site value would be complex so that assessment would likely be less fair and more arbitrary, contentious, and prone to abuse. This paper asks the question: Is it not possible to design a property tax system (taxation of predevelopment land value, postdevelopment structure value, and postdevelopment site value at possibly different rates) that employs the administratively simpler residual definition of postdevelopment site value and achieves neutrality? Under restrictive assumptions and subject to an important qualification, the paper provides an affirmative answer, and characterizes the tax rates that achieve neutrality. It also briefly discusses issues of practical implementation. Copyright 2005 Blackwell Publishing Inc..

Date: 2005
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Working Paper: Neutral Property Taxation (2000) Downloads
Working Paper: Neutral Property Taxation (1998) Downloads
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