Editorial

How much do you hate property taxes?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Many people in my hometown have been freaking out over their property tax appraisals, so it was timely that I discovered a Motley Fool article titled “Why Property Taxes Are The Most Hated Levy In America.”

First, a couple of disclaimers. Since I have a child in public school, I have not felt particularly overwhelmed by my own tax bill. And I’m truly appreciative of a conscientious county employee who got two worthless buildings removed from my mother’s tax appraisal.

Still, I can see why a survey conducted by Gallup, CNN and USA Today a decade ago declared the property tax to be the most despised tax by more than a two-to-one margin.

It is hard to wrap your mind around the logic of some taxes. Sure, “sin taxes” indulge our Puritanical heritage of discouraging antisocial behaviors. And fuel taxes defray the costs of infrastructure. But income taxes punish us for working and investing. And property taxes punish us for (a) keeping realtors busy or (b) upgrading the appearance of our existing property.

It’s fortunate that marriages don’t follow the same logic. (“You cleaned up the garage, remembered my birthday and brought me roses? Your sorry rear end is spending the night in the dog house, and you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”)

Theoretically, adding a room to your house, constructing a tool shed or remedying an eyesore does place an additional strain on county/city resources; but surely the magnitude is exaggerated. (“That darned Houlihan added a hummingbird feeder to his gazebo. Now we’ll have to add a second shift of cops to watch for gang activity.”)

It’s creepy the way the municipalities use drive-by viewings and even drones to guess at your property’s value. Creepy and juvenile. It’s like operating government with a big game of “I spy with my little eye.” What’s next? The sales tax people use a lively game of hopscotch to set rates?

True, many tax assessors have a heart; but others can be quite unsympathetic. (“Well, your great-great grandfather should have THOUGHT about the city someday needing a new meth treatment clinic with 500-channel satellite dishes before he bought this property.”)

Many tax assessors live in the mythical land of “IF.” You know, like “IF you sold your land for a subdivision, it would be worth a jillion dollars.” Of course, the response should be something like, “IF your dog was dropped from a plane wearing a nuclear bomb, it would wipe out a lot of ISIS tunnels. Should I call the Pentagon, or shall we just agree to disagree???”

Granted, tax assessors have a thankless job, carrying out someone else’s master plan. Someone else’s IDIOTIC master plan. Hitting someone with a big bill AFTER they’ve tied up their money in a mortgage and property insurance? I can imagine government geniuses saying, “I notice you’ve fired every bit of ammunition in your pistol. How would you like to be my personal bodyguard?”

Scrutinize your assessment for errors. Other than that, I can’t help you. Even if you try to stay under the radar, your assessment may rise simply because your neighbors threw caution to the wind and made the neighborhood, as a whole, more valuable. Whatever you do, don’t let the Neil Sedaka lyrics “I’m living right next door to an angel” blare from your house. Your assessment could soar to high heaven.

©2017 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.