Property taxes serve as a vital revenue source for local governments. The revenues derived from the property tax function as the primary funding source for a variety of critical local public service systems. Property tax appeal systems serve as quasi-administrative-judicial mechanisms intended to assure the public that property tax assessments are correct, fair, and equitable. Despite these important functions, there is a paucity of empirical research related to property tax appeal systems.
This study contributes to property tax literature by identifying who participates in the property tax appeal process and examining their motivations for participation. In addition, the study sought to determine whether patterns of use and success in appeal systems affected the distribution of the tax burden. Data were collected by means of a survey distributed to single-family property owners from two Florida counties. In addition, state and county documents were analyzed to determine appeal patterns and examine the impact on assessment uniformity, over a three-year period.
The survey data provided contextual evidence that single-family property owners are not as troubled by property taxes as they are by the conduct of local government officials. The analyses of the decision to appeal indicated that more expensive properties and properties excluded from initial uniformity analyses were more likely to be appealed, while properties with homestead exemptions were less likely to be appealed.
The value change analyses indicated that appeals are clustered in certain geographical areas; however, these areas do not always experience a greater percentage of the value changes. Interestingly, professional representation did not increase the probability of obtaining a reduction in value. Other relationships between the variables were discovered, but often with weak predictive ability.
Findings from the assessment uniformity analyses were also interesting. The results indicated that the appeals mechanisms in both counties improved assessment uniformity. On average, appealed properties exhibited greater horizontal and vertical inequities, as compared to non-appealed properties, prior to the appeals process. After, the appeal process was completed; the indicators of horizontal and vertical equity were largely improved. However, there were some indications of regressivity in the final year of the study.