If you’re a new or soon-to-be homeowner, you may be wondering about how property taxes work. Unlike the income tax and the sales tax you pay, the property tax is not based on how much money you earn or how much you spend. Instead, it is based solely on how much the property you own is worth. This is based on a comparison of the properties around you, as well as market factors.
The real property tax is an ad valorem tax, or a tax based on the value of the property. Ideally, the owners of property of equal value pay the same amount of property taxes, and the owners of more valuable property pay more in taxes than the owners of a less valuable property.
The tax is calculated using a variety of formulas and is based on a property’s assessed value — its full market value or a percentage thereof — and the tax rate of the taxing jurisdiction, minus any property tax exemptions, such as those offered for the elderly or veterans.
Property taxes are assessed by city and county governments to generate the bulk of their operating revenues. The taxes help pay for such public services as schools, libraries, roads, and police protection.
Re-valuations of the tax are often done periodically, although the time interval varies from state to state or, in some states, from town to town, and can range from annual reassessments to periods of ten years or more.