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A Good Tax

Legal and Policy Issues for the Property Tax in the United States

Joan Youngman

March 2016, English

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

This book makes clear, cogent arguments in support of the property tax, emphasizing transparency and the need for autonomous funding for local government, while dispelling myths about regressivity and dealing with complex policy issues….The illustrative case studies from around the United States make this a one-of-a-kind significant resource.”

Alan S. Dornfest, Property Tax Policy Supervisor, Idaho State Tax Commission

The property tax has great strengths, particularly as an independent source of nearly half of all general revenue for local governments. However, it is undermined by inaccurate valuations, preferences that reduce the tax base and raise tax rates, and exaggerated rhetorical attacks. Addressing this situation requires attention to policy, administration, and communication. Tax expert Joan Youngman skillfully considers how to improve the operation of the tax and supply the information missing in public debate. The author analyzes the legal, administrative, and political challenges to the property tax in the United States and offers recommendations for its improvement. The book is accessibly written for policy analysts and public officials who are dealing with specific property tax issues and for those concerned with property tax issues in general.

About the Author

Joan Youngman is senior fellow and chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.


In this marvelous book, Joan Youngman makes a spirited case for a vibrant local property tax. She provides a wise and penetrating discussion of the difficult legal, economic, and valuation challenges in implementing market value taxation and outlines direction for reform.”

Steven Sheffrin, Professor of Economics, Tulane University

Youngman presents a crisp and balanced review of the complex administrative and political challenges posed by the assessment and collection of the annual property tax. She carefully guides the reader through the tangled history of efforts to create more user-friendly taxes.”

David Godschalk, Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

The term ‘good tax’ may raise eyebrows outside the tax community, but Joan Youngman’s well-written and jargon-free book, A Good Tax: Legal and Policy Issues for the Property Tax in the Untied States, may convince even non-practitioners of the property tax’s merits.”

Bree Ermentrout in American Bar Association Tax Times

The marketplace for books written on the property tax does not much resemble the balance of views on the property tax. Youngman’s A Good Tax might single-handedly remedy this deficit by providing an infectiously enthusiastic perspective on the property tax. Written using a clear storytelling format, the book is accessible to students in public finance, economics, and law at the undergraduate level. . . . Every scholar of local government or property taxation will find benefit from reading A Good Tax.”

Justin Ross in National Tax Journal

“Joan Youngman does an excellent job defending the property tax, an often attacked bastion of our federalist system. Drawing on her encyclopedic knowledge of the property tax, she clearly explains both the pros and cons of the tax and, more importantly, lays out potential solutions to the policy challenges inherent in administration. An invaluable resource for public finance researchers, this book should be required reading for any politician considering new property tax limits.”

Kim Rueben, Senior Fellow, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center


Appraisal, Assessment, Conservation Easements, Easements, Economics, Farm Land, Land Value, Land Value Taxation, Legal Issues, Local Government, Municipal Fiscal Health, Open Space, Property Taxation, Public Finance, Tax Increment Financing, Tax Reform, Tax Revolts, Taxation, Valuation, Value-Based Taxes