How Much You’re Really Paying in Property Taxes

Find out how your home's value impacts your property tax.

Local governments collect property taxes to pay for community needs like public safety, education, infrastructure, street maintenance and recreation. Typically, property taxes are based on home values — and the tax rate varies among municipalities.

There’s no such thing as states with no property taxes. So whether you’re a new homeowner or have been paying taxes on your home for years, you should know how to properly calculate your property taxes by state and ways you can pay those taxes. In addition, make sure that if you’re buying a home, you take every tax deduction you can.

How Much Is Property Tax?

The Council of the District of Columbia establishes property tax rates, which can change from year to year. Here’s how to calculate yours:

  • You must pay tax on each $100 of your property’s assessed value.
  • To determine the amount of property tax due, divide your property’s assessed value by $100, then multiply that amount by the property tax rate.

For example, assume your tax rate is 0.85 percent and your house is assessed at $100,000. To determine the property tax, divide $100,000 by 100, which equals $1,000. Now multiply $1,000 by 0.85 — your annual property tax bill is $850. Keep in mind this amount excludes homestead or senior citizen deductions, trash services and any other credits.

10 Highest State Property Taxes

Following are the 10 states in which you’ll pay the highest property tax rates. These numbers reflect the average tax rates for each state — your effective tax rate will vary based on your property’s value. Here are 10 states with the highest property tax rates:

Highest State Property Taxes

State

Property Tax Rate

New Jersey2.38%
Illinois2.32%
New Hampshire2.15%
Connecticut1.98%
Wisconsin1.96%
Texas1.90%
Nebraska1.84%
Michigan1.78%
Vermont1.71%
Rhode Island1.67%

10 Lowest State Property Taxes

The 10 states with the lowest property taxes are spread all over the country. Hawaii is the wild card on the list — you probably wouldn’t expect a group of beautiful islands to offer the lowest property tax rates. Here are the 10 states with the lowest property taxes:

Lowest State Property Taxes

State

Property Tax Rate

Hawaii0.28%
Alabama0.43%
Louisiana0.51%
Delaware0.55%
District of Columbia0.57%
South Carolina0.57%
West Virginia0.59%
Colorado0.61%
Wyoming0.61%
Arkansas0.62%

 

Learn About: Ridiculous Tax Loopholes You Might Qualify for

Changes to Property Tax Laws

Changes to property tax laws occur on an individual state or local basis. In California, for example, Proposition 13 — passed in 1978 — states that a property’s assessed value must be based on the property’s purchase price at the time of acquisition.

With a few exceptions, the assessed value cannot go up by more than 2 percent per year, regardless of the California market value property, said Casey Fleming, author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.” New Mexico passed a similar law in 2001, which features a 3 percent annual cap.

Find Out: 6 Things Every Homeowner Should Know About Property Taxes

When Are Property Taxes Due?

Many people pay property taxes to their lenders with their monthly mortgage payments. Your lender adds your monthly tax amount — 1/12 of your annual amount — to your mortgage payment. Your payments go into an escrow account, which the lender uses to pay your tax bill on your behalf. Keep in mind, however, that lenders collect extra money for the escrow account to use as a cushion in case you fall behind on payments.

If you end up paying more property taxes than you owe, you’ll receive a property tax refund. If you underpay your property taxes, you’ll have to make an additional payment. To explore your property tax information, look at your mortgage bill to see your monthly escrow account payments.

You can opt to pay your property taxes directly to your county or taxing authority. Property tax payment due dates generally occur twice per fiscal year. If you go this route, make sure you save enough to pay your taxes each year. If you don’t have enough money to pay them your lender could eventually foreclose on your property.

How to Pay Property Tax Online

Many county tax offices give you the option to make a property tax online payment. The easiest way to find out if your county offers this is to call your local tax authority. You can check your county’s tax website by searching the name of the county you live in with the words “tax office” after it.

Once you locate the portal to pay property taxes, follow the specific instructions. You will need to enter basic information and a form of payment. Instructions, forms of payment and surcharges will vary for each county’s tax office.

Up Next: The True Price Tag of a New Home

Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.