The tax on immovable property recently started to regain its former significance, but the tax yield still remains low, with slightly more than 1% of GDP and wide variation across countries. Against this background this paper surveys property tax policy in OECD countries and analyses the efficiency, distributional and stabilisation properties of property tax. Despite rising house prices, property tax revenues are modest, because tax values of property are set below market values; and because myriads of tax exemptions reduce the tax base and tax revenues further. While property taxes are considered the least harmful to growth, a pure land tax is preferable to a tax on investment. Property taxes can be anything from progressive to regressive, depending on tax incidence and the distribution of immovable property across income groups. Property taxes tend to stabilise house prices, although the effect is rather small. Finally, property taxes can underpin sustainable land use. Political economy factors largely explain resistance against property tax reform, which, among others, might include measures for poor and cash-strapped households. Property taxes are an overwhelmingly sub-national tax, and property tax reforms that include reforms of intergovernmental fiscal frameworks may turn out to be more successful.
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