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 P R A C T I C E   L I M I T E D   T O   T H E   T A X A T I O N   O F   C O M M E R C I A L ,  I N D U S T R I A L  &  I N V E S T M E N T – G R A D E   R E A L   E S T A T E            

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About Jack Fitzgerald

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So far Jack Fitzgerald has created 102 blog entries.

Municipal Debt

The Cook County Treasurer has published the results of a first-ever study of municipal debt and how it relates to the individual taxpayer. View it at: DEBT STUDY

Cook County Property Tax Bills

The Cook County Treasurer has announced that the 2020 2d Installment Property Tax Bills will be mailed during the end of August 2021, with an estimated due date of October 1, 2021.

Illinois Ranked 7th in Sales Tax

Illinoisans pay one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation when local and state sales taxes are averaged. The average rate of 8.83% was up slightly from a year earlier.

If you buy something in Illinois, combined state and local sales taxes increase the sticker price by an average of 8.83%.

That rate from July 1 is up slightly from the rate a year earlier when the Tax Foundationdid its mid-year sales tax survey. The average was up 3 cents on a $10 purchase from a year earlier in Illinois.

Illinoisans all pay 6.25% in state sales taxes. They pay an additional 2.58% on average in local sales taxes to reach the 8.83% rate, which places Illinois 7th highest in the nation. Louisiana took the No. 1 spot with a 9.55% average.

The local tax rate average was calculated by weighting rates by population. The Tax Foundation found the maximum local tax rate in Illinois to be 9.75%, which was the highest in the U.S.

Residents of Chicago pay a total rate of 10.25%. It’s the highest combined sales tax of any U.S. city with at least 200,000 residents, a title Chicago has held since the Cook County Board passed a sales tax hike in 2016.

Illinois sales tax averages have crept up to 8.83% from 8.22% between 2021 and 2015, according to the Tax Foundation. Illinois was 10th in the nation for sales taxes in 2015 but is now No. 7.

Sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes gasoline taxes and cell phone taxes are all among the nation’s highest in Illinois. An Illinoisan over a lifetime will pay $693,792 in taxes, which is 43% of everything that person will earn and is one-third more than the U.S. average.

State leaders have yet to admit nickel-and-diming residents is hurting the state, but the 2020 U.S. Census found Illinois lost population for the first time in 200 years.

A huge culprit in the exodus is Illinois’ second-highest in the nation property taxes. Illinois’ residential property taxes have grown 3.3 times faster than median household incomes since 1990. Total state property taxes outpaced population growth 14 times over since 1963.

This rapid growth in property taxes has been driven by state lawmakers’ need to meet exponentially increasing shortfalls in Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension crisis. State spending on pensions has mushroomed over 533% since 2000 while state spending on social services has dropped by nearly 15%.

As a result, a quarter of every dollar spent by the state in 2020 went to propping up Illinois’ pension obligations. That amount increased to nearly 30% of the total state budget in the fiscal year that began July 1.

Public pension reform received bipartisan support from state lawmakers and the governor in 2013. But a ruling in 2015 by the Illinois Supreme Court means the only way to achieve it for Illinois state and local governments is through a constitutional amendment.

Pension reform is the greatest step Illinois could take to control the constant upward creep of sales and other taxes.

Rising Rents in the Cities

Lauren Campos opened the door to her Phoenix apartment last week to find a note stuck in the door frame. Her rent was going up nearly $400 a month, the note said, a 33 percent increase.

Campos and her fiancee read the letter in shock. The property management company gave them four days to decide whether to commit to stay or leave by the end of July. They spent the rest of the day poring over apartment listings online, only to realize they would either have to move or downsize from their two-bedroom place to a one-bedroom.

“It almost feels like there is nowhere to go. It’s just insane everywhere,” said Campos, 28, a lifelong Phoenix resident who has noticed a growing number of California license plates in her complex’s parking lot. “It feels like I’m being chased out of my own home, and it’s the worst feeling in the world.”

Slow trickle of rental aid heightens concern about eviction crisisRents are starting to surge in many parts of the country as the economy reopens and young people return rapidly to cities. On top of the influx of millennials and Gen Z renters coming back after staying with family or friends, people who can work from anywhere are still relocating to lower-cost cities, and the hot home sale market has caused some baby boomers to sell their family homes and rent again now that their kids are grown.

Nationwide, rent prices are up 7.5 percent so far this year, three times higher than normal, according to data from Apartments.com. Analysts expect rent prices to keep climbing for the foreseeable future, a major burden for renters and a warning sign that higher inflation could linger far longer than the White House and Federal Reserve keep predicting.

The economy isn’t going back to February 2020. Fundamental shifts have occurred.“I think we’re going to see increases for the next 12 to 18 months,” said Robert Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association. “We’ve never had three generations in the rental housing space, at least not in the numbers we’re seeing now.”

Demand for two particular types of rentals is especially high: single-family homes and apartments in smaller cities that have less inventory. Rents for single-family homes are growing at the fastest pace in 15 years, according to data firm CoreLogic. Parts of the country that used to be considered affordable are suddenly experiencing the kind of rent frenzy with bidding wars and surging prices that had previously been exclusive to mega cities like San Francisco and New York City.

“I tell my buyers: It’s a terrible time to buy, but it’s an even worse time to rent,” said Chey Tor, a Realtor at Re/Max Ascend Realty in Scottsdale, Ariz.

$1 million over asking: D.C. bidding wars escalate as U.S. housing crunch intensifiesPhoenix is among more than a dozen cities that have seen over a 10 percent spike in rents in the past year, according to Zillow, a real estate website for sales and rentals. The top cities for soaring rents include Boise, Idaho, Riverside, Calif., Spokane, Wash., Tucson, Stockton, Calif., and Las Vegas — what Realtors have dubbed the “Inland West.” Realtors in these places say they have been inundated with calls from young people and families who want to relocate from pricier parts of California and Washington state.

San Francisco and New York City are among only a handful of cities where the typical rent price is still below pre-pandemic levels, according to Zillow, though there are signs of a rebound there, too. So-called “rent concessions” where landlords offer a month or two of free rent or waive the deposit have dropped sharply in recent weeks. In November, 60 percent of downtown urban listings on Apartments.com offered concessions. In June, just 35 percent did.

tableJason Geroux, owner of 4:10 Real Estate in Phoenix, said he has managed rentals for nearly 15 years and never seen anything like this. His rental listings are often getting more than a dozen applications. People call him and offer to pay more than the asking price for the rental, effectively creating bidding wars on rental properties. On two recent listings, so many people offered to pay more money that he had all the applicants write down their best offer.

FAQ: The CDC’s final eviction moratorium expires July 31.“Potential renters are saying, ‘Hey, what if I offer $500 more a month?’ It’s just crazy stuff,” Geroux said. “For past 12 months we’ve seen supply going down and demand going up. It’s just caused things we haven’t seen before.”

Landlords in many of these inland cities are realizing the power they suddenly have. One of Geroux’s clients recently asked for a 50 percent rent increase. Geroux, an advocate for affordable housing, tried to talk the client to a lower amount, but he was not successful. Many cities outside the coasts do not have caps on how much rent prices can go up because they have never seen this kind of surge before.

If a renter is not willing to pay the higher rate, landlords are confident they can find someone else — or sell the property.

The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.Nick Kasoff, a landlord of 15 properties in Ferguson, Mo., gets at least a call a day from investors asking if he is willing to sell one of his rental homes. So far, he has said no.

“I can’t even answer my phone anymore,” Kasoff said. “As soon as they ask for Nicholas, I know exactly what it is. No one calls me Nicholas unless they look me up on property tax records.”

For years, the United States has not had enough rental properties, especially affordable ones in urban areas. The problem is even more acute now as some building projects were put on hold during the pandemic and some rental homes were sold off this spring during the housing market boom.

Michael Kobold has been renting in Boise since he lost his home in the financial crisis of 2008-2009. A year ago, he was paying $750 to rent a house with a big garage for his art studio. The rent jumped to $1,450 this month. Kobold felt he had no choice but to pay it. He brought in another roommate to help split costs, but even with three of them now, money is tighter than it was before.

“If you leave, then you’ll end up out on the street,” said Kobold, who is 69. “The problem is all these people from California moving in here. They are paying for a house sight unseen.”

20 million Americans still don’t have enough to eat. A grass-roots movement of free fridges aims to help.The trend of small and midsize cities seeing surging rents is different from in the past. According to Zillow, the last time rent increases nationwide were jumping this much was 2015 when San Francisco and San Jose topped the list of highest rent increases along with Denver, Honolulu and Portland, Ore. So far in 2021, none of those cities appear in the top 80 for rent increases, according to Zillow data through May.

New high rise apartments, currently being built, are pictured in Phoenix on July 2, 2021.© Dominic Valente for The Washington Post New high rise apartments, currently being built, are pictured in Phoenix on July 2, 2021.The pandemic caused Americans to put a greater emphasis on wanting more space and a more reasonable cost of living. But as prices rise in smaller cities, especially in the Inland West and Sun Belt, economists and Realtors warn there will be unforeseen consequences, and it could take years before enough housing is built in these areas to alleviate price pressures.

“It’s hard to keep up with the demand shift in the housing market because building homes is slow and encumbered by a lot of red tape and geographic challenges,” Zillow chief economist Jeff Tucker said.

Wall Street is also starting to notice the high demand and low supply in the rental market and the potential profits that could be made. Private equity firm Blackstone recently purchased Home Partners of America, which manages about 17,000 rental homes, for $6 billion. And J.P. Morgan Asset Management and American Homes 4 Rent announced a deal last year to build more rental homes, targeting the West and Southeast.

Why is inflation rising? Our economics reporters explain and answer your questions.It is not clear yet what all of these trends will mean, but most economists and investors predict high demand for rentals for months to come. That is likely to push up inflation since rent makes up about 40 percent of the consumer price index that the U.S. government calculates each month.

The latest inflation data from May showed a modest 1.8 percent increase in rents for main residences, but experts think that could rise this summer and fall, especially given what they are seeing from sites like Apartments.com and Zillow. The fact that wages are rising at one of the fastest paces since the early 1980s also gives landlords confidence to hike rents.

“Core inflation could stick over 2 percent faster and longer in this expansion because shelter inflation should pick up,” said Logan Mohtashami, a former mortgage broker who is now lead analyst for HousingWire. “If we do really see wage growth at the bottom end, landlords will ask for more rent.”

In many parts of the country that have not seen this kind of rent pressure before, it is hitting especially hard — and making people worry that prices will keep climbing. The United States also has a growing number of people living on fixed incomes as they retire, making them especially hard hit by rent increases.

Pamela Porter, 68, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a retirement community in Fort Worth. She just received notice her rent is rising by $40 a month to $780 — a 5 percent hike.

“I’ve noticed food prices going up. And gasoline. Oh my. That shot through the roof,” Porter said. She said $40 may not sound like a lot, but “that increase could definitely impact my ability to buy groceries and buy my medicine. I’m not going to even mention car repairs. Life shouldn’t be this hard.”

Cook County Tax Bills Running Late…..Politicians Fingerpoint

‘Senior freeze’ tax errors exposed by Sun-Times could delay property tax bills

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough tells county Assessor Fritz Kaegi she won’t calculate tax rates till he fixes ‘major errors.’ Kaegi says she doesn’t have that authority.

A 58th-floor condo at Water Tower Place, 180 E. Pearson St., that owners Barbara Kaplan Israel and Martin Israel are trying to sell for $3.3 million was among the properties the Sun-Times has reported had a much lower tax bill because of errors by the Cook County assessor’s office. The tax bill last year for the three-bedroom, 5 1⁄2-bath unit was $2,502. The owners have long had a senior tax freeze — a tax break for people over 65 making less than $65,000 a year.
A 58th-floor condo at Water Tower Place, 180 E. Pearson St., that owners Barbara Kaplan Israel and Martin Israel are trying to sell for $3.3 million was among the properties the Sun-Times has reported had a much lower tax bill because of errors by the Cook County assessor’s office. The tax bill last year for the three-bedroom, 5 1⁄2-bath unit was $2,502. The owners have long had a senior tax freeze — a tax break for people over 65 making less than $65,000 a year.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Cook County property tax bills that were supposed to be delivered Aug. 1 could be delayed because of “major errors” the Chicago Sun-Times exposed in a $250 million-a-year program that offers a tax break to certain seniors.

In a letter Friday to Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough cited the newspaper’s reporting in warning there could be a delay in sending tax bills to Cook County’s 1.77 million property owners.

Yarbrough told Kaegi her office “will not begin its calculation of Tax Year 2020 second-installment tax rates until we have received corrected and accurate data . . . related to senior tax exemptions.

“Given the major errors with the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption program revealed recently in the Chicago Sun-Times, we cannot in good conscience perform the aforementioned calculations pursuant to our fiduciary duty to the citizens of Cook County,” Yarbrough wrote.

If the bills go out late and that results in a delay in collecting property taxes, that would affect hundreds of school districts, municipalities and other government agencies in Cook County that rely on that money.

The Sun-Times reported June 27 that Kaegi’s office incorrectly calculated the value of the senior assessment freeze for many of the 144,904 homeowners receiving the tax break — a program that shifted $250 million in taxes last year from homeowners 65 or older claiming household income of less than $65,000 a year onto the rest of Cook County homeowners and businesses.

Among the errors, senior freezes had been granted in some cases to businesses, which aren’t eligible, and property assessments had been frozen based on the value of buildings that had been torn down years before.

Also, Kaegi cited a computer programming glitch he acknowledged gave further tax breaks to seniors who’d gotten refunds on taxes they’d previously paid.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough cited “major errors” the Sun-Times exposed with the senior property assessment freeze program.
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough cited “major errors” the Sun-Times exposed with the senior property assessment freeze program.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Yarbrough pointed to the program’s aim of helping “a targeted, vulnerable population,”writing: “This demographic’s vulnerability increases dramatically when they are people of color. They deserve to be protected and not subjected to the exploitation that precipitates from an inefficacious government program.”

Deciding what homeowners and businesses pay in property taxes in Cook County involves three agencies, each headed by an elected county official. The assessor, Kaegi, sets the value of each property. The clerk, Yarbrough, calculates each property’s share of the taxes needed to bring in enough to cover government budgets. The treasurer, Maria Pappas, mails the bills and collects the taxes.

Pappas also is asking that any errors in assessments or exemptions be fixed so she can tell taxpayers when they will have to pay their final bill this year.

“When a taxpayer receives an excessive tax break, everybody else must make up the difference,” Pappas wrote in a letter Thursday to Kaegi. “I am concerned that these errors will persist and result in continued inequities for our residents and our businesses. It is crucial that these bills be fair and accurate.”

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas: “concerned that these errors will persist and result in continued inequities for our residents and our businesses.”
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas: “concerned that these errors will persist and result in continued inequities for our residents and our businesses.”
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Kaegi’s spokesman Scott Smith says the assessor’s office has corrected some errors the Sun-Times found.

Among those: correcting a property assessment that resulted in a tax bill last year of only $2,502 for a Water Tower Place condominium whose owners are listing it for sale — at $3.3 million.

The assessor will reset the base year of the frozen assessment on the Water Tower Place condo, according to Smith, likely resulting in a significantly higher tax bill.

Kaegi’s office is still investigating to determine whether the annual income of the owners, Barbara Kaplan and Martin Israel, qualifies them for the exemption.

A spokesman for Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi says,“There is a process to claw back exemptions from people who don’t qualify for them.”
A spokesman for Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi says,“There is a process to claw back exemptions from people who don’t qualify for them.”
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Smith says Kaegi’s staff provided Yarbrough’s office with up-to-date assessments Wednesday for all 1.7 million properties in Cook County.

“This doesn’t mean that we won’t, in the future, find someone that doesn’t qualify for the exemption,” Smith says. “There is a process to claw back exemptions from people who don’t qualify for them.”

After the Sun-Times story was published, Smith says Kaegi’s office reviewed the assessments of the properties the newspaper cited and also others that reporters had asked about.

But the office didn’t review all 144,904 properties that now have a senior assessment freeze.

“This analysis revealed that the majority of the [properties] were calculated correctly,” Smith says. “Some senior freeze exemptions in the story do not conform to our office’s current policy for the administration of the senior freeze exemption. In these cases, those exemptions have either been changed or removed for the 2020 exemption roll. The Erroneous Exemption Department is currently investigating the [properties] mentioned in the Sun-Times story that may have erroneously received exemptions.”

Smith later released a letter from Kaegi to Yarbrough that challenges her authority to delay the property tax process. It cites an appellate court ruling that “a clerk has no power to determine whether taxes have been legally assessed.”



Click to read the June 27 Sun-Times report.
Click to read the June 27 Sun-Times report.


2020 Cook County Tax Multiplier

The Illinois Department Revenue has announced that the 2020 Cook County Tax Multiplier will be set at 3.2234 an increase of 10.5% over the 2019 Tax Multiplier of 2.9160.

The Tax Advantages of Indiana

By Morton Marcus

Facts and Figures, How does your state compare? is an annual publication of the Tax Foundation. It is mailed to every state legislator and governor.

Many Hoosier legislators and administrators quote the Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. As of July 1, 2020, Indiana ranked #9 among the 50 states. That places us in the top quintile of favorable states. Such eminence! We’re up there with Wyoming (#1), South Dakota (#2), and Alaska (#3).

How do we get to be #9? For that Index, we rank #13 in Corporate Income tax, #15 in Individual Income tax, #20 in Sales tax, and #27 in Unemployment Insurance tax. There must be something that propels us up to #9. Turns out we are #2 in Property taxes on business and that offsets all those other taxes.

In the early 1970s, Indiana got about a third of its state and local tax revenues from property taxes. Today, about a quarter of our tax collections come from property taxes.

On a per capita basis, including every infant, our property taxes are $1,033 and we rank 39th behind the highest state, New Jersey ($3,378 per capita), with Alabama 50th at $598 per capita.

Alternatively, Indiana ranks 30th with property tax paid at 0.81% of owner-occupied housing value. By this measure, Alabama is lowest (at 0.37%) among the 48 continental states, while New Jersey is again in first place at 2.13% of value.

While Indiana is low on property taxes, we make it up on sales taxes. Our 7% statewide sales tax rate is the highest in the nation (tied with MS, RI, and TN). Unlike most states, we don’t permit local sales taxes or have a statewide sales tax earmarked for local governments.

Indiana has the lowest statewide flat tax (3.23%) on individual income. Most states have graduated income tax rates as incomes rise, in addition to local income taxes. Indiana’s state income tax raises $900 per capita, the 10th lowest amount in the nation among the 43 states with income taxes.

Our gasoline tax rate at 42.16 cents per gallon is the 10th highest in the nation, lower by 10 cents from Illinois, but higher than neighboring Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

Indiana’s gasoline taxes and license fees pay for 68.7 percent of our state and local road spending, the highest level in the nation. As crossroads of the nation, with heavy truck traffic, we might ask, “Do we get our fair share of federal highway funds?”

Before any action by the current Indiana Legislature, we had the 13th lowest cigarette tax rate. No vaping or marijuana tax. The seventh lowest tax on spirits, the 15th lowest tax on wine, and the eighth lowest tax on beer.

Thus, Indiana’s low taxes are favorable for both business and unhealthy choices.

Morton Marcus is an economist. Reach him at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com. Follow his views and those of John Guy on Who gets what? wherever podcasts are available or at mortonjohn.libsyn.com

Cook County Forest Preserve Property Tax Increase Referendum

Cook County voters would be asked to weigh in on whether to raise property taxes as a way to stabilize the Forest Preserves’ finances during the November 2022 general election under a proposed referendum that all commissioners in charge of the district indicated they want on the ballot.

All 17 commissioners have signed on as co-sponsors of the potential referendum, which was sent to a committee this week for further consideration. Although their support doesn’t necessarily amount to a tax hike endorsement, the move paves the way for the voters to say “yes” or “no” next year to property owners opening their wallets to help maintain the 70,000 acres of green lands, trails and water that officials say are in dire need of more cash.

Kristin Pink and Becky Collings, ecologists with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, visit restoration sites at Palos Preserves near Palos Park on Sept. 10, 2020.
Kristin Pink and Becky Collings, ecologists with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, visit restoration sites at Palos Preserves near Palos Park on Sept. 10, 2020. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

The chief sponsor, Commissioner Larry Suffredin, said he thinks the time is now to raise taxes because the district’s fiscal situation is in “a precarious state,” with the possibility of selling off land to stay afloat looming in the future. Suffredin has announced he’s not planning to seek another term when his current one expires.

“It’s such a small amount, but the responsibility we have for the 70,000 acres and putting together positive use of the land costs more than we can currently do,” Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, said in a phone interview. “People see that there’s not a lot of places to waste money and that these programs that they can do are such that they really do improve the quality of life.”

The referendum calls for a 0.025% increase to a total of 0.076% in property taxes, which amounts to hiking up the average Chicago homeowner’s bill by about $1.50 a month, or less than $20. That would shore up $41,729,404 for the Forest Preserves, which only kept its structural deficit steady this year thanks to rainy day funds.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also president of the Forest Preserves Board, said Wednesday she would personally vote for the tax hike if it appears on the ballot next year.

“I believe for a long time that the Forest Preserve needs resources to continue to provide the programming and do the restoration work that’s desperately needed, so there’s clearly a need for additional resources,” Preckwinkle said.

After the resolution clears the Forest Preserve board’s finance committee, it will go to a full floor vote sometime next month before another round of votes in December that would finalize the language, Suffredin said. He said the money should be used to acquire and restore land, improve programming for the community, address the backlog of maintenance needs, support the Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden and, perhaps most importantly, help close the funding gap for the district’s pension shortfall.

The $134 million Forest Preserves district budget is limited in funds because as a non-home rule unit of government, it does not have a sales tax levy, so more than 80% of its operating budget is supported by property taxes. Much of the rest comes from fees such as campground permits, but such nontax revenue dipped during the coronavirus pandemic’s restrictions.

A dusting of snow covers the woods at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve on Chicago's Northwest Side on Jan. 23, 2018.
A dusting of snow covers the woods at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve on Chicago’s Northwest Side on Jan. 23, 2018. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

That led to Preckwinkle passing a 2021 budget that withdrew more than 40% of a $43.9 million corporate reserve fund. In October, she cast a grim outlook for the district’s long-term fiscal future and said her budget proposal will not “address the bigger issues” in Forest Preserves.

However, both Preckwinkle and many commissioners did not throw their support behind a property tax hike referendum for the November 2020 election, despite Suffredin’s urging. He and Preckwinkle said that was due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s own plan for a graduated income tax, which ultimately failed, taking precedence on a ballot that Democrats did not want to crowd with another question related to levies.

“I don’t know that it was a change of heart as much as it was trying to understand the political strategy that the governor was promoting,” Suffredin said, adding that this time, “I don’t expect that we will have a problem.”

WPTA Webinar

Join the Women’s Property Tax Association for the Do’s and Don’ts of Practice Before the Property Tax Appeal Board Revisited
June 18, 2021Noon


To register, click here.

The Women’s Property Tax Association is pleased to announce that Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge Katherine Patti and Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Vesely have agreed to revisit the first topic ever presented five years ago by the WPTA: the Do’s and Don’ts of Practice before the Property Tax Appeal Board. Join us to learn about he practical administration and litigation of PTAB cases. 

The WPTA will be seeking approval to issue MCLE credit for licensed attorneys.

The Women’s Property Tax Association is comprised of women professionally engaged in property tax law, property tax valuation and/or assessment administration or adjudication.


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