Moore sees need to address regressive property tax system
Chicago Alderman Joe Moore thinks there’s a simpler way to deal with Cook County’s regressive tax system.
“The most equitable way is to have a graduated income tax where you are actually taxing people based on their ability to pay through their income instead of property wealth, which may not translate correctly," Moore told Chicago City Wire. “We need to address the inequity.”
The 49th Ward alderman’s concerns were sparked by a recent Brookings Institution report calling attention to a Chicago Tribune investigation that found a regressive property tax system has some Cook County homeowners from poorer neighborhoods paying more in property taxes than taxpayers residing in far more affluent areas.
Researchers for the Washington-based public-policy nonprofit also noted that under the county property tax assessment system as currently constituted, homes in low-income (and predominantly minority) areas of the city tend to be overvalued by 10 percent or more while homes in more affluent areas tend to be undervalued by that same percentage.
Researchers highlighted the bottom-line result can be stunning, leading to instances where the owner of a $100,000 home shelled out an effective tax rate of 1.6 percent over a four-year period beginning in 2011 while the owner of a $1 million home paid 1.1 percent.
With tax rates on the lesser valued home saddled with levies as high as 45 percent greater, researchers concluded the bulk of Cook County’s total $14 billion in annual property tax collections are being paid by those who can least afford it.
“We have to address inequity, rather we do some sort of graduated property tax is something that will require a little more study,” Moore said. “The property tax is inherently a regressive tax in that the value of the property owned may or may not bare relation to your own personal wealth.”
Still, Brookings researchers can’t understand why a mansion owner in Lincoln Park would pay the same rate as some struggling property owner in the Englewood or Hegewisch neighborhoods.
To Brookings, the answer to a fairer and more equitable system lies in the enactment of a new property tax assessment system that would result in more accurate, efficient, transparent assessments.
Meanwhile, Moore said in theory he supports the idea of wealthier people paying more, he just wants to make sure such a plan is done in the right way.
“We need to do what we can to address the huge gap in wealth that is tearing at our social fabric,” he said. “We just need to be careful. I’m thinking primarily of someone who owns property in a rapidly gentrified neighborhood. They benefit from property being valued higher, but can only reap the rewards of that if they sell or refinance their home.”