Options for retooling property taxation in Latin America

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There is growing recognition that expanded reliance on property taxation would facilitate the achievement of sustainable development goals, providing adequate funding of local services and access to credit for infrastructure. It would also generate more incentives for more accountable local governance. However, this instrument has a large and unexploited revenue potential in Latin America. Ambitions and reform policies are confronted with political and administration obstacles. Also Governments tend to worry about the political costs of taxing property. The paper suggests ways to improve the working of the tax and to avoid those features that make the tax disagreeable to taxpayers and unpopular for governments. The options include self-assessment of value by taxpayers and, in alternative depending of the circumstances of the country considered, the adoption of an area-based tax by specific localities with the participation of taxpayers to the determination of the tax base. The paper considers also the adoption of a banded system that serves to smooth the impact of tax base changes on the tax due.

Abstract

Introduction

1. Instruments ad models for property taxation

2. Performance of the property tax and its revenue potential in Latin American countries

3. What makes the tax unpopular?

4. Viable technical and political approaches for Latin America

5. Conclusions.


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