Highest and Lowest Property Taxes by County

There's a huge difference between the highest and lowest property tax counties

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Property taxes are the bane of many homeowners, particularly those who live in certain areas of the Northeast—home to some of the highest property taxes in the United States.

An analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the median property tax bill for the entire country hovered at around $2,150 annually from 2011 through 2015. But this increased to a walloping $10,000 a year or more in some areas, including New Jersey, during that time period.

Fox Business has reported that the 10 most expensive counties for property taxes are all in New York or New Jersey.

The Highest Property Taxes by County

The two most expensive counties—Westchester and Nassau—are both in New York. Median taxes paid in Westchester County were $9,003 in 2017, followed by Nassau County at $8,711. Compare these figures with the national median for that year: $2,127.

It gets a little cheaper if you live in New Jersey, but not by much. The third most expensive county is Hunterdon in the Garden State at $8,523, followed by Bergen County at $8,489. Homeowners in Rockland County, New Jersey paid just a tad less: $8,268. 

Union ($7,443), Morris ($7,707) and Hudson ($6,426) Counties in New Jersey also make this dubious list.

Lowest Property Taxes by County

Head south if you want to pay less in property taxes. The median was less than a dollar a year in Tunica County, Mississippi in 2017. Yes, you read that right—$9,003 less than what residents paid in Westchester County, New York. But Mississippi isn't the state with the most number of counties on the least expensive top 10 list. That distinction goes to Alabama, with four: 

  • Bibb County: $210
  • Walker County: $232
  • Blount County: $352
  • St. Clair County: $391

Another three notably inexpensive counties are scattered about the south: Amelia County in Virginia at $691 a year, Fayette County in Tennessee at $746, and Meriwether County, Georgia at $710. Out west in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, residents pay $1,924 in median property taxes.

Butler County, Pennsylvania—ironically a state neighbor to New York and New Jersey—makes it onto the least expensive list, too, but being in the Northeast, residents here pay a bit more: a median of $2,035 in property taxes, but still much less than their neighboring homeowners over state lines. 

Why the Big Difference?

Property taxes are based on two separate components: a home’s assessed value and the county’s tax rate. When a county is home to a lot of high-priced real estate, it can affect median calculations because a median figure is one that falls right in the middle.

Additionally, tax rates are percentages of value, so even in a county with a reasonable .25 percent property tax rate, .25 percent of $1 million works out to a whole lot more than .25 percent of $100,000 if real estate is pricey there. Areas with steep real estate values naturally rank higher in annual property tax bills than those where moderately priced real estate is more the norm.

Combine this with the revenues needed by these counties to keep themselves up and running, which is commonly how tax rates are determined. Revenues raised from property taxes typically pay for things like schools, parks, libraries, transportation infrastructures, police departments, and fire departments. So you can blame the economy in your area, at least in part, if your county made the list of the most expensive.