Property Tax Revenues Increase for 18th Straight Quarter

NAHB analysis of the Census Bureau’s quarterly tax data shows that $541 billion in taxes were paid by property owners over the four quarters ending in Q4 2016.[1] This represents a $23 billion—or 4.5%—increase over the previous trailing four quarters.  Although this growth rate declined for the first time in a year and a half, it remains robust relative to other sources of state and local government revenue (see below).

Property taxes accounted for 40.0% of state and local tax receipts, the largest share among major sources over the past four quarters, followed by individual income taxes (28.4%), sales taxes (27.7%), and corporate taxes (3.9%).

Prior to Q4 2016, property taxes as a share of state and local tax receipts had not reached 40% in nearly four years (Q1 2013). The increase is explained by the recent, five-quarter decline in corporate tax receipts coupled with a steady increase in property tax revenues.  Since the second quarter of 2015, property tax receipts as a share of the total have increased 1.0 percentage point while the share attributable to corporate income taxes has fallen by 0.5 percentage point. The ratio of property tax revenue to total tax revenue from the four aforementioned sources remains three percentage points above its pre-housing boom average of 37%.

The share of property tax receipts among the four major tax revenue sources naturally changes with fluctuations in non-property tax collections. Non-property tax receipts including individual income, corporate income, and sales tax revenues, by nature, are much more sensitive to fluctuations in the business cycle and the accompanying changes in consumer spending (affecting sales tax revenues) and job availability (affecting aggregate income).  In contrast, property tax collections have proven relatively stable, reflecting the long-run stability of tangible property values as well as the smoothing effects of lagging assessments and annual adjustments.  Property tax receipts are the least volatile revenue source, followed by sales taxes, individual income taxes, and corporate income taxes, in order of increasing volatility.[2]


[1] Census data for property tax collections include taxes paid for all real estate assets (as well as personal property), including owner-occupied homes, rental housing, commercial real estate, and agriculture. Owner-occupied and rental housing units combine to make housing’s share the largest among these subgroups.

[2] If the anomalous data from 2009-2010 are excluded, sales tax receipts are the least volatile, followed by receipts of property taxes, individual income taxes, and corporate income taxes.