The Adoption and Repeal of the Two Rate Property Tax in Amsterdam, New York
The two rate form of the property tax, a tax in which buildings are taxed at a lower rate than land, is an existing form of the property tax proposed by Henry George. The two rate tax has been accepted by Pittsburgh and more than a dozen other communities in Pennsylvania. It was imported to New York and used in the city of Amsterdam, but was repealed during its first year. While political conflict in Amsterdam was the major cause for the repeal, the property tax law in New York is encumbered with numerous special provisions, several of which grant exemptions from property taxes for selected buildings for a limited number of years. These special provisions made implementation of the two rate tax difficult and, along with a city-wide re-assessment of property, confused local officials and tax payers. A description of the success and failure of the two rate tax in Amsterdam contains lessons that can be helpful for others attempting this important property tax reform.