Put more tax burden on property sellers, not home dwellers
OUTRAGE regarding the need for fair property taxes is not a hysterical, knee-jerk response to any increases in taxes, but necessary to clearly assure and protect homes for people. Our society's first imperative regarding property should be the core value that homes are for people. People need homes as they need food, water, clean air and health care for survivability, not to mention "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" of the Declaration of Independence and for "promotion of the common welfare" of the U.S. Constitution.
Hawaii's property tax systems, derived by all counties, are based upon the fair market value of those in the market. This means that those who are transferring or selling their property are in the fair market value system and deriving those higher values as they benefit from their sale. It is only at this time that the actual or real value is realized and the monetary benefits of the property valuations are true and real. This is when the property owner who sells sees the vast increases in real dollars and is beneficiary to the monies and profits so derived.
Unfortunately for homeowners who are using their homes for their homes, they are artificially included in the fair market sales system because their property assessments are based upon those who have sold their properties and reaped, in many cases, vast profits.
I believe we should go back to the initial core or moral economic value of homes being for people as first priority. We could do this by passing county property tax legislation to allow homeowners to request being put into a tax deferral system where a cap on the actual property tax would be placed on the property as long as it is being used by the homeowner. The deferred tax, which would be based on the ever-changing tax assessments related to property values as currently computed, would be paid at the time the property gets back into the real fair market upon sale or transfer.
A practical and meaningful tax deferral option that could be requested by any homeowner could cap the property tax each year at 3 percent. The regular county assessments based upon property valuations upon sale of similar properties would still go on, but the tax deferral system would bill only at the maximum of 3 percent increase until ownership is changed. At the point of any title change and the homeowner's property enters the fair market, the difference in the deferred taxes and what was paid would be due upon sale.
This particular method is important to protect and assure homes for people while taking the purely profiteering out of the process as much as possible. To just lower taxes for all benefits the most those who use the property to make profits and to turn it over and over again, escalating values. Lowering taxes for all also means that profiteers constantly push up land and housing values out of the reach of those needing affordable housing, without any proportional contribution to the government entities that are then required to provide for the common good, which often means developing and maintaining affordable housing.
We have to demand a better way. Deferred property taxes for homeowners are at least one step toward the best fair tax system.
William E. Woods-Bateman is a community activist and a retired public health administrator. He lives in Kalihi.