Truth in taxation

Assessments: Getting rid of 40 percent assessment would simplify real estate property taxes.

April 12, 2000

A BETTER WAY to compute residential property taxes is only a signature away. A bill passed by both houses of the legislature finally will bring truth in taxation if the Gov. Parris N. Glendening signs the measure, as he has indicated he will.

For much of this century, Maryland taxpayers have been assessed taxes on percentages of the value of their homes -- 46 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent. The current standard is 40 percent.

These fractional assessments were feel-good changes that sought to relieve inflationary fears over the last century. It might have seemed like a bargain when homeowners were assessed taxes on only 40 percent of their home's value, but the change didn't make a dime's worth of difference in the tax amount.

The 40 percent assessment provides no relief but causes plenty of confusion. Ronald W. Wineholt, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, says Maryland's system "produces one of the most complicated assessment notices in the country."

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor sought to end this confusion three years ago, but his effort fell short. This year, the House and Senate wisely passed a similar measure designed to give homeowners an honest, simplified picture of their property taxes.

Tax change

Here's how your new tax bill will work: In Baltimore County, for example, the property tax rate is $2.855 per $100 of assessed value. That $2.855 rate is calculated on only 40 percent of value. Thus, a homeowner with a $150,000 house pays $1,713. Under the simplified system, Baltimore County's tax rate would be set at $1.142 per $100 of assessed value--full value. The tax on the same $150,000 house would remain $1,713.

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