Property tax relief is a subject that arises when the elderly or poor struggle to meet their property tax burdens. If they are long-term residents, they can be caught up when their neighborhood sees a dramatic increase in property values. There are sometimes mechanisms that governments use in order to provide relief.
Both tax credits and rebates can be used to help return some of the money paid or that is owing from eligible property owners, in order to help relieve from of the burden. This method is direct, and puts the money back into the hands of those who need it. However, this method relies on being able to determine who needs relief. People often have control over their financial situation so an inability to pay does not necessarily reflect somebody with a lack of opportunity to pay. It can be hard to qualify people for relief because of this.
Relief can also come from reduced rates, or a lower assessment. A discount on the assessment for long-term property owners can help to provide relief -- albeit not means-tested -- to the elderly and other long-term residents. This form of relief will grant relief even to wealthy seniors, but has the advantage of avoiding accusations of unfairness. Lower rates are a policy that most people understand and can support. However, there still to be some sort of line for people...
Again, such relief would almost seem arbitrary. There are also instances where property tax relief comes from the state.
I feel that the best way to deliver property tax relief is through a state-based program like Pennsylvania has, where individuals are qualified on the basis of specific, measurable criteria like being retired, or being disabled. Once qualified, there is an evaluation process and then the relief is processed. Payments are then made to the individual to offset a portion of the property tax paid. This solution allows for the relief situation to be less arbitrary and to ensure that it reaches all of the people for whom it is intended. The other methods might also work, but they have their flaws.
The state can also offer relief by diverting other revenues to the school system, reducing the overall property tax burden. The fewer property taxes are needed, the less wildly they are likely to fluctuate in response to school financing needs.
TLC. (2006). State roles in financing public school facilities. TLC Research Division. Retrieved November 29, 2012 from http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubspol/OnlineFinancePubSch.pdf
Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2012). Property tax reduction allocations. Retrieved November 29, 2012 from http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/property_tax_relief/7452/property_tax_reduction_allocations/510335
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