Highest and Lowest Property Taxes in 2019, by State and County
There's a Huge Difference Between Highest and Lowest Property Tax Areas
Property taxes are an important revenue source for state and local governments, and many couldn't thrive without them. In the U.S., property taxes make up 31.5% of all tax collected—which is more than any other tax revenue source—and it accounts for 27% of all local government revenue.
Unfortunately, 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. New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts make up the five states with the highest property taxes.
The Highest Property Taxes by County
New York is home to the two counties with the highest property taxes in the U.S. Westchester County leads the way at $17,392 per year, followed by Rockland County at $12,925 per year. California has the eighth-highest property taxes, but its Marin County is the third most expensive at $12,242 per year. Essex County and Bergen County in New Jersey round out the list of the top five most expensive counties for property taxes at $12,161 and $11,771 per year, respectively.
Lowest Property Taxes by County
Head south if you want to pay less in property taxes. In 2019, the median was less than a dollar a year in Tunica County, Mississippi—$17,391 less than what residents pay in Westchester County, New York. However, Mississippi isn't the state with the greatest number of counties on the least expensive 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, Virginia at $691 a year, Fayette County, Tennessee at $746, and Meriwether County, Georgia, at $710. Out west in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, residents pay $479 in median property taxes.
Property Tax Rates by State
Another way to look at this is to consider the median property tax rates per state. As of 2020, the highest state rates ranked like this:
- New Jersey: 1.89%
- New Hampshire: 1.86%
- Texas: 1.81%
- Nebraska: 1.76%
- Wisconsin: 1.76%
New York is notably absent from this list at a state-wide median tax rate of 1.23%, most likely because other, much less expensive counties balance out those near New York City with their sky-high taxes. The five states with the lowest tax rates include:
- District of Columbia: 0.46%
- Delaware: 0.43%
- Alabama: 0.33%
- Hawaii: 0.26%
- Louisiana: 0.18%
Causes for the Differences
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 0.25% property tax rate, 0.25% of $1 million works out to a lot more than 0.25% of $100,000.
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.
Although some states have very low property taxes, they tend to make up for this lack of revenue in different ways, such as higher personal income tax or sales tax. So you can blame the economy in your area, at least in part, if your county or state made the list of the most expensive.
How the Taxes Are Used
Property taxes are used for five primary reasons: schools, infrastructure, safety, public places, and sanitation. Many public schools receive a large portion of their funding from property taxes, though some wonder if that's the best method considering the disproportionate funding of schools. A city's infrastructure fund also relies heavily on property taxes for road and bridge construction and maintenance. Police offers, firefighters, and EMTs receive their salaries from property taxes, which also covers their pensions throughout retirement.
Legal payouts from the city for things such as misconduct or injury are paid with property taxes.
U.S. Census Bureau. "American Community Survey." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau. "State and Local Government Tax Collections," Download "State Government Tax Collections." Accessed Feb. 14, 2020.