# Property Tax Policy Questions Answered by an Indiana Household Model

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2 Home Value Less than \$10,000 \$10,000 to \$19,999 \$20,000 to \$34,999 Household income \$35,000 \$50,000 to to \$49,999 \$74,999 \$75,000 to \$99,999 \$100,000 or More Total Percent of Households \$100,000 to \$199,999 18,066 34,528 98, , , , , , % \$200,000 to \$249,999 2,204 3,622 7,939 13,332 26,615 30,723 47, , % \$250,000 to \$499,999 1,938 3,357 7,578 11,622 21,931 23,566 73, , % \$500,000 or More ,683 1,968 3,711 2,781 22,507 34, % Total 64, , , , , , ,409 1,756, % Total Renters 128, , , ,209 84,017 25,373 16, , % All Households 192, , , , , , ,623 2,435, % Percent of Households 7.9% 11.7% 18.8% 16.1% 20.8% 12.0% 12.8% 100.0% Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey The table shows the numbers of households in seven income categories and fifteen home value categories, plus renters. are 72 percent of the 2.4 million Indiana households; renters are 28 percent. Almost a third of households own homes valued between \$100,000 and \$200,000. The median home value is \$120,700. Median income for Indiana households is \$45,394. The median for homeowners is \$55,634, for renters, \$24,922. These marvelous new data are just what is needed for determining representative households. Indiana is now a market value state, so home values provide the starting point for calculating property tax payments. Household income is the starting point for calculating county, state and federal income taxes. That leaves sales and excise taxes, which are based on spending on taxable goods and (some) services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008) conducts an annual Consumer Expenditure Survey, which can be combined with the ACS data to measure spending. The expenditure survey shows average annual spending on 73 categories of goods and services, from alcoholic beverages to women s clothing. Data are not available by state, so national figures must be used. is the most important determinant of spending. Higher income households spend more. Household size is also important. Households with more people spend more. Since the average Indiana household has 2.6 people, all the households in the model are assumed to have 1 three: two adults and a child.f F The spending data for three-person households are matched to the income data from the ACS to estimate how 2 much each household spends on each category.f F Table 2 shows some of the resulting characteristics for five of the households in the model. Shown are the median homeowner, a renter in the most common ACS income category, and three homeowners with low, middle and high incomes. The home values associated with these homeowners are near the average home values for each income level, according to the ACS. After-tax income is calculated based on current tax law. Total expenditures and spending on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and motor fuel (which are needed for state and federal excise taxes) are based on the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The value of vehicles is the depreciated value of all vehicles owned. It is based on data from the Federal Reserve Board s Survey of Consumer Finances (Bucks, Kennickell and Moore 2006), which shows the national average values of assets (including vehicles) by family income level. This figure is needed for calculating local motor vehicle excise taxes. UTABLE 2: CHARACTERISTICS OF FIVE HOUSEHOLD TYPES Indicator Median Homeowner Low Renter Low Mid High Home Value \$120,700 n/a \$95,000 \$150,000 \$225,000 \$55,634 \$27,500 \$27,500 \$62,500 \$150,000 After Tax * \$48,774 \$27,801 \$26,872 \$53,963 \$117,911 Expenditures Total Expenditures \$46,270 \$33,624 \$33,199 \$49,222 \$84,340 1 I avoid using fractional people, because the model uses actual state and federal income tax schedules for deductions and credits. The tax codes count only whole people. 2 Consumption functions are estimated for each spending category. Average spending by income group is regressed on after-tax income, and the resulting equation is used to estimate spending by households at each income level in the model. 2

3 F Median Low Mid High Indicator Homeowner Renter Low Percent of After Tax 95% 121% 124% 91% 72% Spending on: Tobacco \$993 \$1,015 \$1,016 \$988 \$921 Alcoholic Beverages \$683 \$459 \$449 \$738 \$1,420 Motor Fuel \$2,242 \$1,855 \$1,838 \$2,338 \$3,518 Vehicles Value of Vehicles \$14,982 \$8,328 \$8,328 \$16,385 \$26,682 * Under current tax law The accuracy of the tax analysis depends on the accuracy of the household characteristics. Two curiosities stand out in Table 2. First, the low-income renter household has after-tax income larger than pre-tax income. This happens because this household is eligible for the federal earned income credit (EIC), which supports the incomes of low-income working people. The low-income homeowner also receives the EIC, but must pay property taxes, so after-tax income is slightly less than pre-tax income. Second, expenditures by the two low-income households exceed after-tax income. This implies that the households must be drawing on savings or going into debt. How, one wonders, do low-income households save out of their small incomes, and how are they managing to borrow? The Consumer Expenditure Survey does report total spending higher than after-tax income for a large number of households. All of the households with incomes less than \$40,000 spend more than their after-tax incomes, on average. One explanation is that some households with lower incomes have experienced a temporary reduction in their incomes unemployment or business losses, for example and have savings accumulated from their previous higher incomes. There is some evidence for this at the lowest household income level in the survey. Households with incomes under \$5,000 spend more than those with incomes of \$5,000 to \$15,000. Perhaps previous higher spending levels are being supported with savings, in anticipation that the current lower incomes are truly temporary. The Federal Reserve s Consumer Finance Survey provides further evidence. Of families with a median income of \$26,000, 44 percent save. Of those same families, 70 percent owe some kind of debt, including 40 percent who owe on installment loans and 43 percent who carry credit card balances. It seems possible, at least, that lower income households do spend more than their after-tax incomes, financed from savings and debt. This contributes to a pattern that plays a role in tax policy results: spending is a higher percentage of lower income household income than of upper income household income. Apparently, upper income households save a lot; lower income households save little, draw upon past savings, or take on debt. 1BTax Calculations The data on the property, income and spending of representative households are used to calculate tax payments for the various taxes. Included are property taxes, general sales taxes, state and county income taxes, state excise taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and motor fuel, local excise taxes on motor vehicles, federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, and federal excise taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and motor fuel. Here are brief descriptions of the calculation of each tax. Property Tax. Assessments are assumed to be accurate, so gross assessed values are set equal to home values. F 3 Deductions are subtracted, and then the gross tax bill is calculated using the state average property tax rate, available from the Legislative Services Agency s (2007) handbook. Property tax replacement credits and homestead credits are subtracted, again based on state average rates. The circuit breaker credit is then applied. 3 The 2005 statewide equalization study of Indiana assessments (Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, 2005) found that 91 percent of counties had median home assessments within 10 percent of selling price. On average, homes are assessed near their market values. Far fewer counties met the standard on dispersion, however, meaning that there are large variations around the average. 3

4 Sales Tax. Indiana taxes goods except most food with the sales tax. The tax also covers services such as utilities and product rentals. Each expenditure category from the Consumer Expenditure Survey is identified as taxable, not taxable, or partially taxable. Partially taxable spending is assumed to be half taxable, half not. The sum of taxable spending is multiplied by t/(1+t), where t is the tax rate. This is done because 4 average expenditures include sales taxes the Survey does not split out the part of the price that is tax.f F For the current 6 percent sales tax, this formula produces 5.66 percent. This percentage times taxable sales gives the sales tax payment on each expenditure category, and the sum is the total sales tax payment. State and County Taxes. The model replicates parts of the state income tax form. Adjusted gross income equals the household s total income. Indiana deductions and exemptions are subtracted. These include the renter s deduction, the property tax deduction (both with \$2,500 upper limits), the \$1,000 personal exemption and the \$1,500 additional dependent child exemption. The result is Indiana taxable 5 income. This is multiplied by the state s flat rate of 3.4 percent, and an assumed county rate of 1 percent.f F The Indiana earned income credit of 6 percent of the Federal EIC is then subtracted. A negative number means that part of the credit has been refunded. Federal Tax. As one might expect, modeling the federal income tax presents the greatest challenge. The federal tax is important for Indiana state and local tax policy because of the deductibility of the local property and motor vehicle excise tax, and either the state and local income or state sales taxes. Changes in state and local taxes cause changes in the federal tax payment. Federal adjusted gross income is assumed to be the household s total income. Exemptions and deductions are subtracted, including the personal exemption, and, for itemizers, the local property, local motor vehicle excise, and income or sales tax deductions, the mortgage interest deduction, and the charitable contributions deduction. If the household lowers its tax bill by using the standard deduction, it is assumed to do so. The result is taxable income. The graduated tax rates are applied in six tax brackets. The additional child tax credit is subtracted. The federal earned income credit is calculated, and subtracted. The result is the federal income tax payment. A negative number indicates a refundable EIC. Social Security Tax. The federal Social Security payroll tax is calculated at 6.2 percent of income up to \$97,500. The Medicare payroll tax is 1.45 percent of total income.. Excise Taxes. Excise taxes present a difficulty because they are based on unit sales, not a percentage of price. The Indiana cigarette tax, for example, is currently 99.5 cents per pack, while the Consumer Expenditure data show only total tobacco spending. Estimated prices per pack for cigarettes, per gallon for alcoholic beverages, and per gallon for gasoline were acquired. Spending divided by these prices gives the units purchased. The excise tax rate times the number of units shows the taxes paid. This method is used for both state and federal excise taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and motor fuel. The Indiana local motor vehicle excise tax presents a greater difficulty. The tax is applied with an elaborate rate schedule based on purchase price and vehicle age. The Consumer Expenditure Survey shows the average number of vehicles owned, but not their value or age. Knowing something of the history of this tax provides a solution. The motor vehicle excise tax replaced the property tax on vehicles in The property tax was calculated at the depreciated value of the vehicle times each jurisdiction s flat rate. The excise tax rate schedule mimics this calculation at a statewide rate. The decreasing tax by age represents depreciation, and the tax on new vehicles is near 1.3 percent for most vehicle values. The tax can be approximated as 1.3 percent of the depreciated value of the household s vehicles. But what s the depreciated value of the household s vehicles? The Federal Reserve s Consumer Finance Survey again comes to the rescue, by providing the estimated value of family vehicles by family income level. These vehicle values are associated with income levels, and multiplied by 1.3 percent to estimate the motor vehicle excise taxes paid. F 6 2BTesting the Basic Results Do the tax payments implied by all these calculations make sense? One test is to add up the tax payments for households and compare them to total tax collections in Indiana. Tax calculations are made for 60 households based on the income and home value categories from the ACS in Table 1. The tax payments by each household are then multiplied by the number of households in each category, and the result compared to the state totals. 4 Total expenditures (E) are the sum of the list price (P) and sales tax, which is the sales tax rate times the list price (tp). E = (1+t)P, so P = E/(1+t), and the sales tax paid is tp = E[ t/(1+t)]. 5 The median county income tax rate is greater than 1 percent, but the average rate is less than 1 percent, primarily because Lake County is without an income tax. The 1 percent rate in the model splits the difference. 6 As with spending categories, vehicle values are regressed on incomes, and the resulting equation used to estimate vehicle values for each income level in the model. 4

6 UTABLE 3: TAX PAYMENT ESTIMATES FOR FIVE HOUSEHOLD TYPES Indicator Median Homeowner Low Renter Low Mid High \$55,634 \$27,500 \$27,500 \$62,500 \$150,000 Home Value \$120,700 Renter \$95,000 \$150,000 \$225,000 State and Local Taxes Property \$1,326 n/a \$857 \$1,860 \$3,227 Sales \$1,200 \$918 \$927 \$1,265 \$2,065 County/State \$2,192 \$828 \$900 \$2,470 \$6,292 Tobacco \$262 \$268 \$268 \$261 \$243 Alcoholic Beverage \$16 \$11 \$11 \$18 \$34 Motor Fuel \$233 \$192 \$191 \$242 \$365 Motor Vehicle Excise \$195 \$108 \$108 \$213 \$347 Total Indiana Taxes \$5,423 \$2,326 \$3,262 \$6,329 \$12,573 Percent of 9.70% 8.50% 11.90% 10.10% 8.40% Federal Taxes Federal \$3,149 \$1,237 \$1,237 \$3,994 \$22,223 Social Security \$4,256 \$2,104 \$2,104 \$4,781 \$8,220 Federal Tobacco \$90 \$92 \$92 \$89 \$83 Federal Alcoholic Beverage \$77 \$52 \$51 \$84 \$161 Federal Motor Fuel \$238 \$197 \$195 \$248 \$373 Total Federal Taxes \$7,809 \$1,207 \$1,204 \$9,196 \$31,060 Percent of 14.00% 4.40% 4.40% 14.70% 20.70% Total Taxes \$13,232 \$3,533 \$4,466 \$15,525 \$43,633 Percent of 23.80% 12.80% 16.20% 24.80% 29.10% Source: Author, using U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data Table 4 shows the individual taxes as shares of income. These results are useful in measuring progressivity and regressivity. Progressivity means that higher income households pay a higher percentage of their incomes to a tax than do lower income households. Regressivity means that higher income households pay a lower percentage of their incomes to a tax than do lower income households. The property tax appears to be regressive. Upper income households pay less as a percentage of income. This is because home values do not rise proportionally as incomes rise. The lower income homeowner owns a home worth three-and-a-half times its income. The upper income homeowner owns a home worth only one-and-a-half times its income. This is the pattern that exists in Indiana, according to the American Community Survey results. Select a lower value home for the lower income household, and a higher value home for the higher income household, however, and the property tax will appear progressive. The property tax is less regressive than it could be because the existing homestead deduction is a fixed \$45,000 up to 50 percent of assessed value. This is a much larger percentage of low-valued homes than high-valued homes, so the percentage reduction in taxes on lowvalued homes is greater. The property tax will appear more regressive if we count the property tax that renters pay as part of their rents. Renters have much lower incomes than homeowners, so counting even a part of the property tax their landlords pay will produce a high percentage of income. UTABLE 4: TAX PAYMENT ESTIMATES FOR FIVE HOUSEHOLDS AS A PERCENT OF INCOME Median Homeowner Low Renter Low Mid High \$55,634 \$27,500 \$27,500 \$62,500 \$150,000 Home Value \$120,700 Renter \$95,000 \$150,000 \$225,000 6

7 State and Local Taxes Median Homeowner Low Renter Low Mid High Property 2.4% n/a 3.1% 3.0% 2.2% Sales 2.2% 3.3% 3.4% 2.0% 1.4% County/State 3.9% 3.0% 3.3% 4.0% 4.2% Tobacco 0.5% 1.0% 1.0% 0.4% 0.2% Alcoholic Beverage 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% Motor Fuel 0.4% 0.7% 0.7% 0.4% 0.2% Motor Vehicle Excise 0.4% 0.4% 0.4% 0.3% 0.2% Total Indiana Taxes 9.7% 8.5% 11.9% 10.1% 8.4% Federal Taxes Federal 5.7% 4.5% 4.5% 6.4% 14.8% Social Security 7.7% 7.7% 7.7% 7.7% 5.5% Federal Tobacco 0.2% 0.3% 0.3% 0.1% 0.1% Federal Alcoholic Beverage 0.1% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% Federal Motor Fuel 0.4% 0.7% 0.7% 0.4% 0.2% Total Federal Taxes 14.0% 4.4% 4.4% 14.7% 20.7% Total Taxes 23.8% 12.8% 16.2% 24.8% 29.1% Source: Author, using U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data The sales tax is a regressive tax. The low income homeowner in Table 4 pays 3.4 percent of its income in sales taxes, while the upper income homeowner pays only 1.4 percent. As can be seen in Table 2, this is because upper income households save a large share of their 9 incomes, so it is not touched by the sales tax.f The state and county income taxes have flat rates, yet they are progressive. This is because of the fixed personal exemptions, which exempt a larger share of lower income households income. Federal income taxes are steeply progressive (compared to any other existing tax, at least), with higher income households paying substantially higher shares of income. The negative number for the lowest income household results from the federal earned income credit. The Social Security tax is regressive at the highest income level because of the \$97,500 cap on taxable income. All of the excise taxes are regressive. Like the sales tax, this results from the fact that upper income households save more and spend less as a share of income. The results in Tables 3 and 4 partially mask the importance of the state tobacco tax. Tobacco expenditures in the model are the average of spending by smokers and non-smokers. According to the Center for Disease Control, 27.3 percent of Indiana residents over age 18 smoke (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2008, table 193). If tobacco taxes paid by non-smokers are zero, tobacco taxes paid by smokers must average nearly four times the figures in Table 3. The median homeowner s tobacco tax would be almost \$1,000. Indiana taxes in total are regressive across the three homeowner households chosen here. The lower income homeowner pays 11.9 percent of its income to Indiana taxes; the middle income homeowner 10.1 percent, and the upper income homeowner 8.4 percent. The regressivity of the property, sales and excise taxes more than offset the progressivity of the state and county income taxes. The lower income renter pays less than the lower income homeowner, 8.5 percent, because no property taxes are counted, and because the renter s deduction is more valuable to the renter than the property tax deduction is to the homeowner. Again, the renter household s percentage would be higher if it was assumed to pay some of its landlord s property taxes. 9 Of course, eventually savings are spent, and subject to sales taxes. This spending may not take place for many years, however, and may even pass to other households through inheritance before it is spent. 7

9 Median Homeowner Low Renter Low Mid High Property \$415 \$0 \$276 \$574 \$981 Sales \$192 \$143 \$148 \$204 \$332 State/County \$18 \$0 \$12 \$25 \$11 Federal \$60 \$0 \$0 \$82 \$243 All Other \$1 \$0 \$1 \$1 \$1 Total Tax Payment \$145 \$143 \$115 \$262 \$394 Percent Changes Taxable Assessed Value 36.4% n/a 37.20% 36.0% 35.6% Taxable Sales 0.3% 0.0% 0.4% 0.5% 0.4% Taxable 0.8% 0.0% 1.2% 1.0% 0.2% Type of Tax Property 31.3% n/a 32.2% 30.9% 30.4% Sales 16.0% 15.6% 16.0% 16.1% 16.1% State/County 0.8% 0.0% 1.3% 1.0% 0.2% Federal 1.9% 0.0% 0.0% 2.1% 1.1% All Other 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% Total Tax Payment 1.1% 4.0% 2.6% 1.7% 0.9% Source: Author, using U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data Other taxes increase. The median homeowner pays an added \$192 in sales taxes, a 16 percent increase, caused by the sales tax rate hike. The household is an itemizer on its federal income taxes. The drop in property tax payments reduces deductions, increases taxable income, and so increases the federal income tax bill, by \$60. The state and county income tax bills rise by \$18 for the same reason. Other taxes rise by a dollar, because a tax cut raises after-tax income, which increases spending on items subject to excise taxes. The tax cuts are larger for upper income homeowners than for lower income homeowners in dollar terms, but smaller in percentage terms. The lower percentage change occurs because the lower income household does not see a federal income tax increase. This household is eligible for the federal earned income credit, and receives the same refund before and after the state policy change. The middle and upper income homeowners have smaller property tax deductions, which raise their taxable income. This is more costly to the upper income homeowner because it is in a higher federal tax bracket. 10 Renters do not benefit directly from the property tax cut.f F They pay the added one percent sales tax. The representative low income renter in Table 5 sees a \$143 increase in total tax payments. With the information from the ACS in Table 1, on the numbers of households in many income and home value categories, it is possible to estimate how many households would see tax increases and tax cuts under these policy changes. Table 6 shows a grid of 60 households based on the ACS categories in Table 1. The figures are the dollar changes in total local, state and federal taxes. UTABLE 6: TAX CHANGES IN DOLLARS FOR 60 REPRESENTATIVE HOUSEHOLDS* Household \$15,000 \$27,500 \$42,500 \$62,500 \$87,500 \$150,000 Home Value Renter \$123 \$143 \$165 \$197 \$235 \$319 \$15,000 \$84 \$103 \$126 \$164 \$203 \$294 \$40,000 \$19 \$39 \$62 \$109 \$149 \$246 \$60,000 \$32 \$12 \$10 \$66 \$105 \$208 \$75,000 \$70 \$51 \$28 \$33 \$72 \$179 \$85,000 \$96 \$76 \$54 \$11 \$51 \$159 \$95,000 \$135 \$115 \$93 \$22 \$18 \$ They may benefit from their landlords property tax cuts, as discussed in a later section. 9

13 9BSources Bucks, B.K., Kennickell, A.B., and Moore, K.B. (2006) Recent Changes in U.S. Family Finances: Evidence from the 2001 and 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, Federal Reserve Bulletin 92 (March 22), pp. A1-A38. [ Carroll, R.J. and Yinger, J. (1994) Is the property tax a benefit tax? The case of rental housing, National Tax Journal 47, pp DeBoer, Larry (2007). The Shares of Indiana Taxes Paid by Businesses and Individuals: An Update for [ Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute (2005). Statewide Property Tax Equalization Study Policy Report. (October). [ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2007). Handbook of Taxes, Revenues and Appropriations, Fiscal Year [ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2008a). Estimated Impact on Net Property Tax, HB1001 (2008) as Introduced. (January 14). Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2008b). Potential Circuit Breaker Tax Credits, HB1001 (Introduced). (January 14). Ring, R.J. (1999) Producers share and consumers share of the general sales tax. National Tax Journal 52, pp U.S. Bureau of Labor Statististics. (2008) Consumer Expenditure Survey. [ U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2007) Quick Guide to the 2006 American Community Survey Products in American FactFinder. [ U.S. Bureau of the Census (2008). The 2008 Statistical Abstract. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Census. [ U.S. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (2008). Statistics of, [ 13

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