A Tale of Two Cities: Learning from Oregon’s Property Tax Administration
12 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2014 Last revised: 5 Dec 2014
Date Written: November 3, 2014
We describe the evolution of Oregon’s one-off property tax system, which emphasizes stable growth in tax payments and inter-jurisdictional uniformity in tax rates. We contrast its outcomes in two sections of Portland, which had the best, most fairly administered property tax system in the state under the old regime, – the more affluent neighborhoods on the west side of the Willamette River and the relatively poorer ones on the east side (the two cities of our title). We find assessment quality to be slowly, but steadily deteriorating under the current regime and the gap between the sections of the city gradually widening. Consequently, we find that taxes are more highly correlated with market values on the west side, where homes also face higher average effective-tax rates, than on the east. Overall, however, inter-jurisdictional tax burdens undoubtedly and intra-jurisdictional burdens, even in Portland, probably still correlate better with property values than under the old tax system.
Keywords: property taxes, tax administration, dispersion equity, Oregon, Portland
JEL Classification: E62, H2, H22, H71, H79, I22, K34, O18, R14, R21, R51
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