International Handbook of Land and Property Taxation

International Handbook of Land and Property Taxation

Elgar original reference

Edited by Richard M. Bird and Enid Slack

This comprehensive Handbook explores case studies of land and property taxation in 25 countries (five in each of five regions – OECD, central and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America), and focuses on the potential contributions of the property tax to the revenues of urban and rural governments and to more efficient land use.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview

Richard M. Bird and Enid Slack

Subjects: economics and finance, public finance, public sector economics


Richard M. Bird and Enid Slack Taxes on land and property exist all over the world. In both principle and practice, these taxes can have important fiscal and non-fiscal effects. The revenue such taxes produce is often an important source of finance for local governments. In turn, the extent to which local governments have control over property taxes is often an important determinant of the extent to which they are able to make autonomous expenditure decisions. The level, design and control of property taxation are thus critical elements in effective decentralization policy in many countries. From a more general policy perspective, land and property taxes may be viewed as either equitable and efficient ways of raising revenue or regressive and undesirable forms of public finance, depending upon one’s assumptions, the environment and how exactly the taxes are designed and applied. Definitive conclusions on these matters do not emerge easily from an examination of the complex structure of property taxes around the world. Consider, for example, the case of Germany, in which two variants of land tax are imposed on (in effect) four different bases at five different ‘base rates’ which in turn are modified by locally determined ‘leverage factors.’ Other than noting that the revenues from this complex set of taxes are small and that reform has proved politically impossible so far, it is hard to say anything very definite about the effects of such a system. Germany is not alone in this respect. Taxes...