Earlier this year, NAHB released 2017 property taxes by state as a blog post and as a longer special study. However, in light of changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), further refining the statistics by congressional district is instructive to both members of Congress as well as their constituents.
Property Tax Payments, Effective Tax Rates, and Intrastate Comparisons
The highest average property tax bill was $11,389, paid by home owners residing in New York’s 17th district (Rockland County and portions of Westchester County). The smallest average annual real estate tax bill was $425, paid by home owners in Alabama’s fourth district (Franklin, Colbert, Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Walker, Winston, Cullman, Lawrence, Marshall, Etowah, and DeKalb Counties). The congressional districts in which homeowners pay the 20 largest and 20 smallest annual property tax bills are shown in Figure 1.
It is not surprising that many of the districts with the highest property tax rates are in states that impose the highest average property tax rates. Figure 2 illustrates the geographic concentration of high- and low-tax congressional districts.
For example, 17 of the 20 congressional districts with the highest property tax rates are in three states: New Jersey, New York, and Illinois (Figure 3).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey
Congressional districts in New York State exhibited the most variability of effective property tax rates – equal to the percentage of the property value paid in taxes each year (see Figure 4). The difference between rates in the 25th and 13th districts was 2.43 percentage points in 2017, the largest such difference within a state. The average property tax rate in the 25th district (2.79%) is more than six times greater than that in the 13th (0.36%). The smallest differential within a state with five or congressional districts was in Washington, where the highest effective property tax rate is 1.04% (WA-10) and the lowest is 0.75% (WA-7).
Property Taxes and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
The state and local tax (SALT) deduction decreases federal tax liability by allowing taxpayers to deduct the total of property tax payments plus either sales or income taxes paid to state and local governments during the year. Under prior law, this deduction was uncapped but disallowed for taxpayers forced to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT). However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) capped home owners’ SALT deduction at $10,000 per year (through 2025).
The value of a tax deduction is determined by the amount deducted from taxable income and the taxpayer’s top marginal tax rate at which the income would have been taxed. Thus, under prior law, a taxpayer in the top tax bracket (39.6%) who paid $10,000 in state income taxes and $10,000 in property taxes could have decreased their federal tax liability by $7,920 [39.6% x ($10,000+$10,000)].
Until the TCJA-made change expires in 2026, that amount would be reduced to $3,700 (equal to the $10,000 cap multiplied by the new, top marginal tax rate of 37%). The effect of this change on after-tax income is obvious in certain high-tax congressional districts. For example, the average yearly bill for property taxes alone exceeded $10,000 in six districts in 2017 (NY-17, NY-3, NJ-11, NJ-7, NY-4, and NJ-5).
But as AMT status affects a taxpayer’s possible SALT deduction, one must bear in mind the significant changes made to the AMT by the TCJA. The most impactful of these changes was the increase of the income threshold at which the AMT exemption begins to phase out. For a married couple filing jointly, the phaseout threshold went from $160,900 to $1 million in 2018.
As a result, the number of AMT-affected taxpayers is expected to fall 90%–from five million to 500,000—between tax years 2017 and 2018. The taxpayers who no longer face the AMT may now be able to claim a $10,000 deduction that was previously unavailable to them, lowering their tax liability.