The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) celebrated its 80th annual conference in Sacramento, California August 24-27, and the Lincoln Institute’s Valuation and Taxation Department once again had a big presence.
Senior fellow Joan Youngman addressed the subject of “The Nationwide Impact of Proposition 13: Lessons and Challenges” in a plenary session on the legacy of Proposition 13, that also included Larry Stone, Assessor of Santa Clara County, California; Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation; and professor Terri A. Sexton of California State University, Sacramento. From the reaction of the audience it was clear that California’s shift from a market-based property valuation system to an acquisition-based valuation system evokes strong feelings, both positive and negative. In her talk, Youngman compared California’s Proposition 13 with Massachusetts’ Proposition 2 ½. She concluded that property tax stability in California has been achieved at a heavy price in horizontal equity or the distribution of the tax burden across properties of equivalent value. She noted that Massachusetts’ levy limit was accomplished without moving away from a market-based valuation system.
Lincoln Institute Fellows Daphne Kenyon and Sally Powers organized an education session on “Reducing Reliance on the Personal Property Tax: Pros and Cons.” In recent years several states have eliminated property taxes on business tangible personal property, and others have adopted or increased exemptions. This session included national experts on tax policy and tax administration: Joseph Henchman, vice president, Legal and State Projects, Tax Foundation; William Fox, professor of economics and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee; Ronald W. Rakow, Commissioner of Assessing, City of Boston; Robert W. Wassmer, professor in the department of public policy and administration, California State University, Sacramento; and Alan Dornfest, bureau chief of the Property Tax Policy Section at the Idaho Tax Commission. The panelists discussed such topics as the revenue implications of reductions in personal property taxes, the special nature of a tax on movable property and its effect on business location, challenges in distinguishing personal property from real property, and methods of reducing the record-keeping and reporting burdens on taxpayers and tax administrators.