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Advocacy Group Calls for Cap on Tennessee Property Taxes

A recent editorial column caught our eye in the Sunday, January 21, 2024, edition of The Tennessean, addressing a topic that is relevant to the real estate industry, our EMTAR members, and property owners throughout the Volunteer State.

Titled “Recent property tax increases show why Tennessee needs a cap,” the article was written by Dr. Arthur Laffer, an economic researcher and former economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan; Joe Scarlett, retired Chairman of Tractor Supply Co. and vice chairman of the Beacon Center; and Justin Owens, president and CEO of the Beacon Center.

The Beacon Center is a Middle Tennessee-based nonprofit whose stated purpose is to “empower Tennesseans to reclaim and protect their freedoms, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American dream.”

Among other issues the center champions is fair taxation. Here is the message shared on its Housing and Property Rights section:

The cost to own or rent a home has skyrocketed in recent years. While Nashville gets frequent headlines about its growth, this is a growing trend across most of the state . . .  In fact, Tennessee has the fourth-highest growth in home prices in the nation. Beacon will work to reduce the cost of both homeownership and renting through a “Cost of Housing Reduction Package.” Among our proposals, we are:

  • Calling for a statewide limit on large property tax increases like that in 46 other states, which will benefit both homeowners and renters alike.
  • Launching an interactive zoning map allowing Tennesseans to see how zoning regulations impact the cost of their home.
  • Reducing government red tape that stifles housing supply, including a Permit Freedom Act to expedite local permitting.
  • Reforming the state’s home improvement contractor license to make it easier for homeowners to make more affordable improvements to their homes.
  • Prohibiting so-called “pending ordinance doctrines” by local governments that allow local laws to take effect before they pass and often drive up housing prices before they are even passed by the local legislative body.

As for the Tennessean article, the three authors asserted, “Limiting the growth in property taxes will benefit every single Tennessee family. And with prices of many goods and services at an all-time high, this relief couldn’t come a moment too soon.”

The case they made also included:

  • “Property tax bills, tax rates, and assessed property values have been on a tear here in Tennessee. People who have lived in their homes throughout their careers are seeing eye-popping property tax hikes that are putting a strain on their pocketbooks.
  • “Rental properties have been forced to increase rents because of higher property taxes.  And the costs of owning and buying a home have risen a lot in part due to property tax hikes. 
  • “In recent years, cities and counties across Tennessee have raised property taxes by double-digit percentage points. 
  • “When property taxes go up, everyone, without exception, suffers.  This is especially true for low- and middle-income families. 
  • “Without any homeowner protection, local governments in our state can raise taxes with reckless abandon and little accountability to taxpayers. Tennessee is one of only five states that does not place a cap on property tax hikes, according to the Tax Foundation.  
  • “In 45 other states, local governments have learned to live within their means and pay for essential services without going back to taxpayers for more money year after year.  
  • “It may come as no surprise that placing a cap on property tax hikes is extremely popular among voters.  A recent Beacon Poll found that 74% of voters support some type of state intervention on property taxes.  
  • “On Jan. 9, state legislators returned to Nashville to conduct the people’s business and voters expect them to make property tax relief a top priority.” 

This is a topic that bears much watching, advocacy, and thoughtful conversation, especially as the Tennessee General Assembly is in session and we have opportunities to let our legislators know that we, as REALTORS®, champion fairness when it comes to housing-related taxation, including property taxes.

About EMTAR: Chartered in 1969, our Association’s 1,300+ REALTORS® are a proud part of the 36,000+ members of Tennessee REALTORS® and of the 1.5 million+ members of NAR, all working to serve the public and protect the rights of America’s property owners. EMTAR members are known not only for their unmatched real estate excellence and high ethical standards, but also for being generous, hospitable, others-focused, loyal, hardworking, and eager to help wherever and whenever help is needed.

property taxes, real estate taxes