Progress Toward Value-Based Taxation of Real Property in Lithuania
The Republic of Lithuania, which declared its independence from the USSR in 1990, is the largest and the southernmost of the Baltic countries, with a total area of 65,300 sq. km. and a population of 3.5 million. Although the other Baltic countries introduced market value-based land taxes earlier, Lithuania anticipates that its up-to-date real property information system and administration network, managed by the State Land Cadastre and Register (SCLR), will speed its implementation. SLCR has been assigned the task of valuing property for taxation, and will utilize its computerized real property information system of land and building data for this purpose.
Tax systems in Lithuania, established early in the post-Soviet period, are gradually being reformed to accommodate development of democratic institutions and market economies, and to advance negotiations for entry into the European Union. The Lithuanian Governmental Action Program for 2001-2004 identified the introduction of market value-based taxes on land and buildings as a priority, contemplating an expanded tax base and a greater role for local government in fiscal decision-making.
Taxes on Land and Buildings
Currently there are two national taxes: a 1.5 percent land tax paid by landowners and 1.0 percent property tax on the value of property (excluding land) paid by corporations and other legal entities. The tax proceeds are returned to the municipalities, where in 2001 they provided on average just over 8 percent of municipal budgets. The revenue from the property tax was nearly 10 times higher than the revenue from the land tax, and has increased annually, representing 2.3 percent of national budget revenues. Neither tax has a market value base at present, although some market elements have been introduced gradually in the land tax base.
Development of the Mass Valuation System
Lithuania initiated development of computer-based real property data 10 years ago. Since establishment of the SLCR in 1997, a fully computerized Real Property Registration System links land parcels and buildings, and cadastre and register data into one unified system. The computer network covers the entire country and links counties and districts to the central databank, so that computerized registration of real property can take place in any branch office or client service bureau throughout the country. Analysis of the data permits monitoring of changes in the real property market, statistical analysis, and utilization of computer-assisted mass appraisal techniques. Figure 1 illustrates the current operation of the Real Property Register and flows of information on real property.
As of August 2002 nearly 4.7 million properties were registered, including more than 1 million land parcels, 615,000 buildings, 1.6 million auxiliary buildings, 950,000 flats and premises, and 395,000 engineering constructions. The central databank is expected eventually to register 6 million properties, including 2.3 million land parcels and 3.7 million buildings of different types.
The SLCR has been collecting real property sales information since 1998, and there are a sufficient number of transactions of flats, garages and land parcels to support mass valuation modeling based on market principles. The SLCR has created a databank of real property sales, and when a new real property unit is formed, it is inventoried and described in the Real Property Cadastre and all property rights are registered in the Real Property Register. At the conclusion of a transaction, a new owner registers the ownership in the register, but the data in the cadastre are not changed. When the transaction is registered the sale price indicated in the purchase-and-sale agreement is recorded into the database, allowing the price information to be supplemented by descriptive (cadastral) attributes. Table 1 shows the number of property sales registered during 1998-2001.
Mass Valuation Pilot Project
To prepare for the implementation of value-based real property taxation, the Ministry of Finance assigned to SLCR the task of undertaking a pilot project using mass valuation techniques. The results will be presented to the Ministry of Finance and other interested state institutions.
SLCR’s objectives are to complete the development of a real property mass valuation system to accomplish the following goals:
- introduce data analysis and mass valuation technologies into practice;
- prepare property mass valuation methods, corresponding to Lithuanian conditions;
- train specialists to carry out mass valuation; and
- propose improvements to the real property database and adaptations for purposes of mass valuation.
At the conclusion, SLCR will be able to analyze various possibilities for introducing a computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system in Lithuania, and to prepare proposals regarding ad valorem property tax administration and relevant institutional infrastructure development. The project involves 40 property valuers from both SLCR’s central and branch offices, who have been trained by specialists within SLCR and international experts, including the Lincoln Institute, Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD), Swedesurvey and the Finnish National Land Survey.
Progress of Project Implementation
Property valuations have been nearly completed in the 11 municipalities selected as demonstration projects, one located in the territory of each SLCR branch office. The experience gained from these pilot projects will be valuable in extending the valuation throughout the entire country. Table 2 summarizes the progress made by SLCR and the Ministry of Finance in completing various steps in the implementation of the mass appraisal system.
Kestutis Sabaliauskas is director general of the State Land Cadastre and Register (SLCR) of Lithuania and Albina Aleksiene is chief of the Market Data Analysis Group.
A History of SLCR and Lincoln Institute Collaboration
The Lincoln Institute and the Lithuanian State Land Cadastre and Register (SLCR) have been collaborating on a series of seminars and research studies since 1997, in preparation for the introduction of market value-based taxation of real property in this Baltic country. A May 2001 Land Lines article, “Market Value-Based Taxation of Real Property,” reported on a weeklong course presented in February 2001 at the Lincoln Institute for a group of senior-level public officials from Lithuania. Participants included representatives from Parliament, the Prime Minister's office and the Ministry of Finance; the United Nations Development Program provided financial support for the program. Their visit was important both in developing knowledge of real property taxation systems and in creating a working group of representatives from different governmental institutions who were eager to cooperate in establishing an up-to-date taxation system in Lithuania.
In November 2001, the Institute conducted a follow-up series of programs on market value-based taxation in Vilnius for representatives from institutions including the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, several ministries, the Tax Inspectorate, the Association of Municipalities, and the Lithuanian Association of Property Valuers. A second seminar, “Value-Based Taxation Of Real Property in the Baltic Countries: A Comparative Review,” drew participants from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to discuss the progress of property tax reforms and shared experiences in undertaking mass valuations. A third seminar, organized in cooperation with the Committee of Budget and Finance of the Lithuanian Parliament, attracted many members of Parliament and top-level governmental officials involved in shaping various aspects of tax policy: policy considerations in introducing a real property tax based on market value; the challenges and benefits of value-based taxation; and ways of implementing an efficient real property tax acceptable to the general public in Lithuania. Over 100 representatives of various institutions of Lithuania and the Baltic States attended one or more of these November seminars.
In May 2002 a faculty group organized and sponsored by the Lincoln Institute visited Lithuania for another series of meetings and briefings organized by SLCR to explore effective approaches to implementing value-based real property tax system. SLCR staff presented extensive information on its activities and readiness to perform mass valuations at central headquarters as well as local offices, where most property valuers work. One outcome of the May meetings is development of an educational program on mass valuation using Lithuania as a case study, which may be valuable to other countries in economic transition. This case will be presented during the next collaborative program to be held in Vilnius in 2003.
Lincoln Institute faculty participating in these programs are Joan Youngman, senior fellow and chairman of the Institute’s Department of Valuation and Taxation; Jane Malme, fellow of the Lincoln Institute; Richard Almy and Robert Gloudmans, partners in Almy, Gloudemans, Jacobs & Denne, Phoenix; and John Charman, consultant valuation surveyor, London.