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A Tale of Two Taxes

Property Tax Reform in Ontario

Richard M. Bird, Enid Slack, and Almos Tassonyi

February 2012, English

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

A Tale of Two Taxes reveals everything you need to know about Ontario's property tax in a comprehensive, meticulously researched, and lively volume. After reading it, you may not end up loving this most unpopular of all taxes, but you will respect the tax, understand why we need to keep it, and know how we might imrpove it. This book is of interest to all who care about the success of metropolitan areas.”

Anne Golden, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Conference Board of Canada 

This book examines the Canadian province of Ontario's 1998 attempt to reform its property tax laws and provides strategies—such as restructuring education finance and introducing a new form of business taxation, at both the provincial and local levels—to help policy makers design a better future.

About the Authors

Richard M. Bird is professor emeritus at the Rotman School of Management and senior fellow at the Institute for Municipal Finance and Governance at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. His research interests include tax policy and administration, local and regional finance, and intergovernmental fiscal relations.

Enid Slack is director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. She is recognized internationally for her research on property taxes and other aspects of municipal finance.

Almos Tassonyi is adjunct professor, Department of Economics, Ryerson University. Formerly senior economist, Provincial-Local Finance Division, Ontario Ministry of Finance, his research includes the economic history of local public finance, local taxation, and borrowing and budgeting policy.


This book changes the way we think about property tax reform, making it a must-read for everyone interested in improving government finance. The authors use an assessment of proprety tax reform in Ontario as an opportunity to glean lessons that apply both to the property tax and to any government reform. This insightful book is an excellent resource for scholars and government officials alike.”

William F. Fox, Chancellor's Professor and Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Tennessee

This excellent book is testimony to the economic and politcal difficulties of finding an efficient and fair system of properyt taxation for local governments. The case study of property tax reform in Ontario, Canada, is an important cautionary tale. What is unversally agreed to be a good idea—full market valuation of taxable property—opened the door to a range of additional reforms largely designed to minimize the distributional effects of fair assessment. In the end, local public finance became fully centralized provincial finance, much like California and its road to Proposition 13. The concluding chapter gets us on track with guidelines for how we should design local taxation.”

Robert P. Inman, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Finance, Economics, and Public Policy, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania 


Appraisal, Assessment, Economics, Land Value Taxation, Property Taxation, Tax Reform, Tax Revolts, Taxation, Value-Based Taxes