How Governments Cheat You On Property Taxes

Here’s an interesting story from the Gray Lady:

Homeowners have long complained about inequitable assessments, and past studies have documented problems in particular cities. A new nationwide analysis led by Christopher Berry of the University of Chicago reveals that the inequities in tax assessments are both very large and very common.

For example, in Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, 1,015 homes were sold for exactly $100,000 from 2007 to 2016. Their average assessed value before the sale was $151,585. During the same decade, 149 homes sold for exactly $1 million. Their average presale assessed value: $647,030.

These distortions in assessed values carry through directly to tax bills. Nationwide, from 2007 to 2016, homes in the bottom 10 percent of property values in a given county were taxed, on average, at an effective rate that was twice as high as the rate for homes in the top 10 percent of property values.

Say it ain’t so!

If it happens in El Paso (and why shouldn’t it?) we’ll probably never know for sure, because in Texas, home sales prices aren’t reported.

There is, however, an equally, or possibly more, egregious abuse of property taxes in El Paso.

In an effort to lure businesses, or reward existing businesses, the City of El Paso routinely offers tax abatements to property owners.

Like that WestStar Tower at Hunt Plaza, the new skyscraper downtown? $10 million tax abatement.

Just about all that “progress” in downtown has been subsidized by the taxpayers through tax abatements.

Don’t thank the developers and philanthropists for all those beautiful buildings. Thank your neighbors. Your neighbors are the ones giving without any expectation of return. Not that they had a choice.

Even without those inducements, the property taxes on those buildings were never going to go into the City’s General Fund, because Downtown El Paso is covered by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #5, which means that any increase in property taxes in downtown stays downtown.

And yet the City keeps pouring a lot of resources into Dwntwn, while the rest of El Paso picks up the tab.

It’s a sweet gig if you can get it. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, it’s a closed game, and we don’t have a seat at the table.


  1. The only resource they don’t pour into DwnTwn is support for night-time bus service. For any evening event you have to drive and pay to park, or call Uber/Lyft when you’re ready to go. No other major city is so devoid of such service.

    But once that Re-Imagine I-10 project starts you might not be able to figure out how to get DwnTwn anyway, so….

  2. Just got my appraisal yesterday and it went up 10%. This for a 1300 ft sq 2BR 2BA townhome. Not luxury digs by any standard.

  3. Got ours the same day. Valuation is up by about ten grand, but it is difficult to know what the tax bill will be because they only show the amounts due to the separate entities that get a piece of our pie, and no total. Any way you look at it, though, this is going to cost us retirees more money than last year. And, while I’m thinking about this, why does the CAD put out their new figures in the early part of the year, instead of at the end? This means that the escrow for those of us who have mortgages will be short, and we will have to come up with the difference at the same time that we have to adjust to a higher monthly payment.

  4. My taxes last year are more than it cost me to rent a brick home for one year 25 years ago. The only thing I get for these taxes is the privilege of paying for the richest El Paso families’ stadium for their hobby minor league baseball team. I guess also for no one to visit downtown museums. That’s always a plus.

    We have a rental property where half the income goes to pay taxes. The city gets more income from that property than we do when considering our investment and the amount of money and work involved to maintain, rent, etc.

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