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International Handbook of Land and Property Taxation

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.
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Chapter 23: Real Estate Tax in Latvia

Richard M. Bird


1 Richard M. Bird Latvia has a population of 2.4 million, of whom 69 percent live in urban areas. Unlike the other Baltic States, Latvia has several layers of subnational government – rural municipalities and towns, local urban governments (called Republican or big cities), and regional governments. In 2000, there were 486 rural municipalities, 70 town municipalities and 7 city municipalities. In addition, there are 26 rajon or district-level governments as well as, again, the seven cities, which perform both regional and municipal functions. Regions have their own budgets, and indirectly elected councils, but financially they are almost entirely dependent upon transfers. Rural municipalities govern less developed areas and have fewer functions than their urban counterparts. As in a number of other countries in Eastern Europe, among the earliest laws introduced in Latvia after achieving independence were several on local governments introduced in 1990 and intended to replace the old Soviet-type municipalities, which were essentially parts of the central government, with local elected self-governments. The many small municipalities created – the average size of a rural municipality was less than 2000 people – could not really organize and provide many public services, however, so a further reform in 1998 (Law on Administrative Territorial Reform) provided for amalgamations of small municipalities into more sustainable units, on a voluntary basis through 2003, after which the central government will take over the process. The intention is apparently to end up with about 100 municipalities, but little has yet been accomplished in this direction in part because...

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