Is Gov. Rauner right when he claims Illinois has the worst property taxes nationwide?

Anna BruzgulisPolitiFact Illinois

Apr 20, 2017

This article also appears on the website of PolitiFact Illinois, an exclusive partnership between Reboot Illinois and the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, PolitiFact.

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Mostly True
“Our families have the highest property taxes in the country. We must change this.”
Bruce Rauner
Governor

Illinois
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
2017-03-15

 

As Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner tours the state seeking support for changes he wants before he’ll sign a budget, he frequently says Illinois has the highest property taxes nationwide. He uses the claim to try to build support for a property tax freeze, something he wants before he’ll sign a state budget. Illinois now has gone 22 months without one.

“Our families have the highest property taxes in the country. We must change this,” Rauner recently tweeted.


PolitiFact Illinois previously rated the claim about Illinois having the fifth-highest tax burden as Mostly True, so we wanted to know if the governor’s claim about property taxes was on target. Are Illinois property taxes really the highest in the country?

Different sources say different things

Illinois’ property tax rankings vary depending upon where you look. The Tax Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan think tank, ranked Illinois third in the nation in property tax burden. Popular personal finance sites like WalletHub placed Illinois property taxes as second highest in the nation, with New Jersey claiming the top spot.

In fact, we could only find one source that ranked Illinois first in property tax burden. CoreLogic, a California-based corporation that provides various private and public clients with analytics on a variety of property and finance questions, ranked Illinois as the state with the highest property taxes.

Looking at these three sources, Illinois was ranked first, second and third across the nation in property tax burden (with rates of 2.67 percent, 2.3 percent, and 1.98 percent, respectively). No doubt, Illinois property taxes are high. But we were curious where the differences in rates were coming from, and whether or not one was more accurate than the rest. So we reached out to CoreLogic, WalletHub and the Tax Foundation to ask about their methodologies.

Let’s start with CoreLogic

To calculate their property tax rates, CoreLogic responded that they first collected the annual tax amount for every property in the state. The market value of each property was information already contained in their databases. To calculate the tax rate, it was then just a matter of dividing the annual property tax by the fair market value of every property, To arrive at a state-level property tax rate, CoreLogic used the median tax rate, or the middle value in the range of rates they had collected.

Wallethub used a slightly different approach

WalletHub used 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate their property tax rates. Using reported values for annual property taxes and property value, WalletHub used these numbers to find the median property tax amount and the median home value in each state. Dividing the two, Wallethub arrived at its figures for each state’s property tax rate.

The Tax Foundation also used Census data

However, whereas WalletHub used the median home value and tax rate, the Tax Foundation used the average property tax rate.

That explains one reason why Illinois property tax rates may be different. Although the median, or middle value, is often close to the average value, the two numbers are not necessarily the same. This could easily result in differences large enough to shift a few states in national rankings.

Another reason for differences may be the source of the initial data. The Tax Foundation and WalletHub used 2015 values obtained by the Census Bureau to calculate property tax rates. CoreLogic, however, depended on data in their internal servers to do those calculations. Although likely similar, it is plausible that there was enough variation to cause a difference in results.

Although individual approaches may have varied, the final results differ only slightly: Illinois consistently ranked in the top three for highest property taxes in the nation.

Our ruling

Rauner tweeted, “Our families have the highest property taxes in the country.”  Using information from CoreLogic, WalletHub and the Tax Foundation, we found Illinois was ranked first, second, and third in highest property taxes, respectively.

Reaching out to each of these sources, it appears that different methodologies and possible variations in original data may have accounted for the slight difference in final property tax rates.

However, whichever metric you use, Illinois has one of the highest property tax rankings in the nation. Therefore, we rate this claim Mostly True.


Sources

Office of the Governor, 2017 Budget Address, Feb. 15, 2017

PolitiFact Illinois, “Illinois tax burden among highest, but not in Top 5 in U.S.”, Dec. 1, 2016

Tax Foundation, “How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? (2016),” July 1, 2016

WalletHub, “2017’s Property Taxes by State,” March 1, 2017

CoreLogic, “Comparing the Real Cost of Owning Property Across the United States,” April 27, 2016

Bruce Rauner’s Twitter, “Tweet,” March 15, 2017

Ryan Huston, assistant professor of accountancy, Arizona State University, email interview, March 21, 2017

Lori Guyton, executive vice-president at Crosby~Volmer International Communications, email interview, March 21-23, 2017

Jared Walczak, policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, email interview, March 21-23, 2017

Diana Popa, communications manager at WalletHub, email interview, March 21-23, 2017

Mike Bitter, professor of accounting, Stetson University, March 21-23, 2017

Eleni Demertzis, Rauner press spokesperson, email interviews, March 6 – 9, 2017

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