Guest Post: Could Declining House Values Spark The Next Taxpayer Rebellion?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Could Declining House Values Spark the Next Taxpayer Rebellion?

You might think property taxes have declined 30%, paralleling declines in housing values. But nope--property tax revenues have shot up 27% just since 2006.

Something remarkable happened to property taxes in the U.S. while housing lost 31% of its value from 2006 to 2009: they went up by $100 billion (27%). Equally remarkably, as we can see from this U.S. Census Bureau data on state and local tax revenues, property taxes went up even when housing slumped in the early 1990s.

So though U.S. housing continues losing value--U.S. home prices declined in January, continuing a downward trend that began in August, with average U.S. home prices retreating to summer 2003 levels, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home-price indexes--property tax revenues continue their inexorable rise.

I've plotted out the total national property tax revenues on a chart of the Case-Shiller home-price index.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation measures, if property taxes had risen along with inflation, the total property tax revenues nationally would have risen from $210 billion in 1996--more or less about the start of housing's decade-long bubble--to $296 billion in 2011.

But property taxes totaled $476 billion in 2009, a solid 60% ($180 billion) above inflation.

So even as the net worth of property has fallen by a third, the property taxes collected from the owners have risen 27%. Exhibit A in this ceaseless rise of property tax revenues is the structural shortfalls in state and local government budgets between what was promised to various fiefdoms and constituencies at the apex of various bubbles, and what is sustainable in non-bubble times. Here is a chart of California's systemic gap between revenues and expenditures. Please note that the apparent alignment of revenues and expenditures in 2010-11 is entirely illusory: the budget gap is $26 billion or perhaps more, once the fantasy accounting is removed.

And here is a chart of house prices in a classic symmetrical post-bubble deflation. I've drawn a target which is drawn from the reversion-to-the-mean model that the majority of bubbles track: prices don't just retrace to the starting lift-off point, they overshoot to a level below that initial line.

As I reported in House Values Fall 30%, But Property Taxes Keep Rising  (December 22, 2010), the nation's state and local governments will collect an estimated $476 billion in property taxes in 2010--about 90% of state income tax revenues of $250 billion and sales tax revenues of $286 billion combined.

A decade ago, property taxes were roughly equivalent to sales taxes. In 2000, property taxes totaled $247 billion and sales taxes came in at $223 billion-- a differential of roughly 10%. Sales taxes have increased by 28% since 2000-- roughly in line with the rise in consumer prices.

State income taxes have risen nationally from $217 billion in 2000 to $250 billion in 2010, after peaking at $303 billion in 2008, just as the global financial meltdown began. That's a rise of $33 billion, or 15%--actually less than inflation (27% from 2000 to 2010).

Add all this up and we can see that local governments have become far more dependent on property tax revenues than they were in 2000. Thanks to stiff increases in junk fees and taxes of all kinds, state and local government revenue has climbed back to its pre-recession height of $1.29 trillion, roughly equal to the $1.32 trillion collected in 2008. In terms of total tax revenue, the recession is over--yet the gap between expenditures and revenues continues to widen in most states and local governments.

As their properties continue sliding in value, devastating their net worth, do you reckon the average homeowner might start resenting the rapid rise of the taxes they pay for the privilege of owning real estate?

Imagine if your income taxes rose by 27% even as your income declined by 30%.

The ultimate tax hostage is the property owner. The business owner can pull up stakes and leave, the wage earner can transfer or get another job elsewhere, and the consumer can restrict his/her consumption to lower the burden of sales taxes, but the property owner is the perfect tax donkey because the transaction costs of selling are so prohibitive.

With some 11 million homeowners owing more on their mortgage than their house is worth, i.e. they are underwater, then selling is no longer an option unless the bank accepts a short-sale--something the lenders are loathe to do.

Given that there's about 48 million mortgaged homes now, then those 11 million represent about 23% of all homeowners.

How long will property owners keep swallowing significantly higher property taxes even as the value of their real estate continues declining? It's an open question. I suspect the answer won't be known until some invisible breaking point is reached, and voters simply rebel against higher taxes while their own net worth and incomes stagnate.

Just because there is little visible resistance to sharply higher property taxes (and other taxes and junk fees as well, of course) doesn't mean resistance isn't building below the surface, unreported by a financial media obsessed with the S&P 500 as the only metric of wealth and prosperity and unnoticed by state and local governments obsessed with stripmining more tax revenues by any means at hand.

The tax donkey is already weighed down with a heavy load, and it won't take much more than a double-dip recession, higher prices for essentials and declining home values to snap the pack animal's weakened back.

The rising S&P 500 looks good as propaganda, but for most Americans, that's about as edible and nourishing as an iPad.

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cranky-old-geezer's picture

NEXT taxpayer rebellion???????

I haven't seen the first one, and really doubt there ever will be one. 

franzpick's picture

The RE tax rebellion is strong and growing.

Sudden Debt's picture

People should realize that this tax actually keeps the homeprices from dropping much harder and puts a brake on new constructions which could overheat the housing market even more.

In this case, "tax rebellion" is not in place and now is a good thing.


Dr_Dazed's picture

So high taxes support housing prices?  How does that work?  You also say that the housing market is "overheated"?

Which planet are we talking about Mr. Spock?

Jay Gould Esq.'s picture

As Beldar Conehead once said, "We're from France."

Or, in S-D's case, Belgium. Same difference.

famousamos's picture

"We went to the moon, we can surely balance the budget!" ~ Some talking head on FOX last night

"Man... on the moon... HAHAHAHAHA!!!" ~ Mr Conehead

TBT or not TBT's picture

Public employee unions and their bought and paid for legislators are the problem driving up state and local taxes (and debt).   Bills to simply prevent automatic deduction of unions dues from public employee pay are causing them to go the mats and entire democratic caucuses to flee their states to avoid votes.    

Now in Wisconsin a liberal judge has stopped the law that would prevent this, while lefty statist assholes militate for getting a judge to the state bench who'll put things back to normal..i.e. your taxes going directy into democrats campaign funds.

writingsonthewall's picture

" lefty statist assholes"

Glad you put so much effort into your analysis - did you think that up all by yourself or did you get help from your 'carer'?

Good thing the average republican understands fuck all about economics - otherwise the Government would never get away with their robbery of the taxpayer.


No bend over and stop complaining - you're about to get royally screwed you schmuck.

markelshark's picture

I smell bullshit. It doesn't matter who is in office: Democrats or Republicans. Both parties have spent us into this hole.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Let's see, public employee unions send just about all campaign contributions to Democrats, and Democrats expanded benefits and pay of public employee unions, as well as their numbers.    That's uni-partisan there, markelshark.

As to deficit spending, compare any deficit under Obama to the very worst deficit year under Bush.    The Pelosi-Reid Congress in power two years before Owebama descended to the throne also has something to do with it.     The Democrats are the Government Party, beholden to public and private unions' economy crushing featherbedding.

lostintheflood's picture

junked you for watching faux entertainment and then repeating their bullshit.

percolator's picture

And what have the Republicans done about it?

Demoncrats and Rethuglicans, they're both the same other than their views on wedge issues which make it appear to the sheeple that there's a difference between these 2 corrupt parties.

Auric Goldfinger's picture

Junked you for elevating the discourse. 

Golden monkey's picture

I think there will be rebellion in the US, but not related to housing price.

The reason for that is simple : owning a house (especially using mortgage) is an act resulting of social conformity. (Owning silver bullions for the first time in 2010-11 in an act of rebellion, though).

That kind of sheeple will hesitate before joining the rebellion. 

The (housing) tax is like a hook on the balls of those sheeple. Maybe tax will add an extra 5% rioters. Because when you squeeze a chicken by the neck and you make the grip tighter, the chiken could become suddently very mad...

SheepDog-One's picture

The only possibility of any type of 'rebellion' in this country seems to be if McDonalds should run out of Chickin McNuggets. 

Infinite QE's picture

And if the homies get their welfare cards cutoff!

Alcoholic Native American's picture

Or if the McMansion monkeys have to actually start paying their mortgage.

Get it? McMansion Monkeys?  A play off of Porch Monkeys, I made that up myself.

Sudden Debt's picture

Word like that could cause a Run on the McDonalds and triggering a shortage of McNuggets which could lead to a world depression.

Better be carefull what you say!



I Am The Unknown Comic's picture

Official Fed Chief Clown Benold McBernakold press release:  "The fundamentals of the Micky D economy are sound.  The issues with the sub-prime BBQ dipsauce should be contained and should not affect other, better dipsauces such as Sweet-N-Sour and Honey, nor should it affect the broader McNugget market."


Loose-Tools's picture

But... if in the future you ever need to hoard, you could store them in the open air at room temperature and they would never spoil!

Head for the Hills's picture

Taxpayer rebellion is simple.

Convert all assets to gold and bury it in the country. 

Apply for foodstamps, disability and welfare.

Declare victory and never pay another net dollar in taxes.


Alcoholic Native American's picture

What if you don't have any assets? Is it still rebelling if you apply for food stamps disability and welfare?

I'm in!  Let's do this guys.

On a serious note, a lot of people here in Georgia if they have a lot of property they simply build a church on it and they get tax cuts!

CitizenPete's picture

Georgia?... now I understand how you got Iraq and Israel confused in your previous comment about 9/11. Too much vitamin J.

Popo's picture

People are finally realizing that housing is not only a terrible investment, it's exposure to infinite taxation.   Buy real estate and you are officially a serf:  bound to the land.

Besides, there's no such thing as real estate ownership in the USA.   All real estate is rented from the government.   Go ahead and try to stop paying your rent (sure, call it "taxes" if it makes you feel better), and the actual 'owner' will show up and kick you out.




Alcoholic Native American's picture


fuck this so called "ownership society" that was pushed during the dark years when Iraq was blowing up the world trade towers.

Rents are going up too though, good thing im locked in in my non adjustable rate 225 dollar rent.

The cost of living is going up in America.  I guess that's just the cost of freedom.  Right?

You are right about paying rent, a couple of deadbeats thought they were gonna stay in my parents property but woke up to a rude awakening, not only were they booted the fuck out, sheriff came and took all their stuff and auctioned it off to pay up.


You don't want to piss off actual paying landlords in this stressful enviroment.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"Iraq was blowing up the world trade towers."

I think you mean when the Germans were bombing Pearl Harbor.

Idiot Savant's picture

You beat me to the punch BR - I hope the guy is just being sarcastic.

P.S. - I thought Israel bombed Pearl Harbor....

TruthInSunshine's picture

The Persians sacked Rome, Ghengis Khan invaded Poland, Iraq blew up WTC, Germany bombed Pearl Harbor, Mark David Chapman assassinated Kennedy, Alexander the Great invaded the Falkland Islands, Lee Harvey Oswald shot J.R., and Tupac killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

sunkeye's picture

yeah and custer's triumphant return to the phillipines

now dont bother me im cramming for  my bong architechture final ie im beta testing  the class project prototype 


TBT or not TBT's picture

So then, rent control boy, Iraq blew up the world trade towers?    You should contact Oliver Stone immediately!

Golden monkey's picture

"Iraq was blowing up the world trade towers."


Breaking : A monkey just busted an overweight troll. (Our special report tonight : "Dick Cheney : a man with a heart of gold").

pazmaker's picture

so what do you do Popo?  Homeless?(very uncomfortable lifestyle)   Rent?(you still are paying a master)......   You have to live somewhere right?

I'm not being sarcastic but realistic...what other options do you have?

Alcoholic Native American's picture

Do like what most people in my generation are doing, move back in with mommy.  I lucked out and found a landlord I knew that gives me a good price and no credit/job check.

pazmaker's picture

Ahh that is an option...I have one moving back in with me in July... I don't have any plans on selling so the value of the house to me is that I have a safe secure place to live. I'm in a rural area and trade with some of the neighbors. eggs, vegatables goat cheese etc.


So the value to me is not what someone would give me for it.


Golden monkey's picture


I swear to God just seconds before I read him, I was thinking that I was fucking his mom...

Bagbalm's picture

Motorhome? Tent/\? Charity shelter. Cave.

MachoMan's picture

Popo, the ability to tax real estate is a fundamental check and balance of the system.  The trick is to identify who is the central taxing authority for real property.  Yep, the LOCAL government...  that part in which we should be most able to influence...  Further, this taxing authority essentially gives cities/counties the inherent authority to extract taxes from unwanted foreign intruders...  (for example, massive amounts of land held by TBTF banks).

Now, if you want to talk about our local voting process being controlled by government employees, then I'm all ears...  but, that doesn't change the fact that it's a necessary right to local governments in the scheme of things...

baby_BLYTHE's picture

Gerald Celente no longer predicts civl unrest in the United States!

"There will be an increase in crime, but no civil unrest. The American people are too Snooki stupid"

Guess it's time to think about consuming some of the supplies I stored for prep. Also think about unloading some PMs in the near future.

chumbawamba's picture

What he didn't say but what you would understand if you've been following along for the past few years is that it'll be worse than civil unrest, because Americans will simply roll over and accept fascism.  In fact, the transition has already happened and is nearly complete.

Abandon all hope.  Get ready to fire.

lordbyroniv's picture

My water bill is also up, are my gas..and my electrcity.


This is getting totally nutz !!!!!!

And yes,...prop taxes are up.


I am sick of this government.  sick.  sick.  sick.


Looks like the banksters want everyones we all default.


That is the trend.


Alcoholic Native American's picture

Freedom isn't free.  Support the troops/IRS.

Two Face's picture

I went back and checked my water/sewer/garbage utility bills for the last 5 years just to see how much rates had changed over that time period.  Lo and behold, the rates for each were up between 52-55%.  I about shit a brick when I saw the numbers.  CPI of 1-2%/yr, my ass!