Property Tax Law
In the United States, property taxes are generally levied by state or local governments. There is no federal property tax.
Real Property vs. Personal Property
As a general rule, real property taxes are imposed by municipal or county governments, with owners of property paying a percentage of the assessed value of the property. The assessed value customarily includes the value of the land and the value of any improvements on the land, including residences, businesses, outbuildings and other structures. The fair market value of the property is usually set by a municipal employee, known as an assessor, but property owners can always challenge the amount of the assessment. The assessed rates vary from municipality to municipality, with voters typically determining the percentage of a property tax.
Real property taxes are used across the United States to pay for a wide range of public services, including the costs of public schools, police and fire protection, road maintenance and other municipal services. Some communities provide waste removal and even community-wide Internet access. In most states, an unpaid tax creates a lien on the property. If the tax arrearage is not paid within a certain amount of time, the municipality may sell the property at a tax sale.
A number of states also impose taxes on the purchase or ownership of personal property.
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