No More either/Or: What's Philadelphia worth?
For years Philadelphia Pennsylvania has been an outlier among American cities (and internationally) for its menu of strange taxes on business and onerous levies on residents that have savage effects upon the local economy. For years, people who think about tax issues have proposed over and over again reducing reliance on these corrosive and self-destructive levies, that have driven jobs and capital out of the city squeezing the traditional middle class in particular.
2013 may turn out to be the year that Philadelphia turned itself around.
A new system of property values to be revisited on an annual basis could lead Philadelphia into the land of normality with a healthier reliance on property tax, in the manner of healthy urban economies from Texas to Washington and to Massachusetts.
Yet the Actual Value Initiative (known as AVI locally) is having what one might call a difficult birth. There has been no real civic discussion about the reassessment, and now Philadelphia city government is introducing dozens of ad hoc ideas meant to soften any perceived hardships that come from a reassessment.
Some make sense, some don't, and some have existed in the background for years. Recently several respected civic and political leaders ( including UrbanTools, Marc Stier, Jon Geeting) joined forces with editor Anthony West for an article on how to introduce AVI published this week in the Philadelphia Public Record, owned by longtime City Councilman James Tayoun ( Mr. Tayoun has also been a powerful and sensible voice for land value taxation).
Because Pennsylvania has a fairly rigid constitution when it comes to taxation, some very worthwhile ideas such as an exemption to the business Use and Occupancy tax ( a double tax on nonresidential property used actively for business), and a property tax deferral mooted by Councilpersons Sanchez and Johnson may have some difficulty in passage. However for now, the land value tax is demonstrably a fairer in much more progressive way to tax in the city of Philadelphia. An editorial in the Public Record endorses not only fixing the minor "bugs" in AVI, but forthrightly pushes for a land value tax, which is a simpler concept and easier to implement right now.
To quote Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. from the article: