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As we “celebrate” the traditional IRS deadline to file our income tax returns today, our hearts turn to the taxing situation surrounding our owned properties.
Property taxes continue to rise as Central Pennsylvania school districts attempt to close yawning budget gaps — ditto for county and municipality property tax bills. For property owners, tax day does indeed come more than once a year.
The ongoing debate over the property tax has shown no signs of abating; across the nation, states are taking up bills attempting to reform the system and even abolish it, as in North Dakota this June. Here in Pennsylvania, two parallel bills were introduced into the House and Senate just a few weeks ago: HB 1776 and SB 1400, dubbed the “property tax independence act.”
This issue of how to tax — or whether to even tax at all — privately owned property is one with broad support for change of some kind.
Beyond the usual interest in just paying less, there are those who question the entire taxing (no pun intended, I think) process including the whole “tax sale” debacle where you hear stories of little old ladies turned out of their lifelong homes over a $1,000 unpaid property tax. Beyond the hyperbole and grandstanding, however, it’s my opinion that there are legitimate questions over whether taxing real property is the best way to raise money for local schools. I think the proposed alternatives make some sense: leveraging a use tax such as the sales tax as an example.
As property owners, we contribute a massive amount of money to the local and state economy via our property taxes. Here in Lancaster County I’ve seen tax bills up to $15,000 per year for just one home. Most of us will pay far less today on Tax Day to the government for our annual income tax. Something to think about.
Jeff Geoghan is vice president of marketing and communications for Coldwell Banker Select Professionals and Select Services, based in Lancaster City, with 10 offices in eight Central Pennsylvania counties. Jeff lives in East Petersburg where he also serves as mayor. Jeff has been actively involved in local government and business and has been used as a source by local, regional and national publications.