WV Center on Budget and Policy > Blog > How High Are West Virginia’s Property Taxes?

How High Are West Virginia’s Property Taxes?

The recent defeat of Kanawha County’s proposed education excess levy has put the spotlight on property taxes, creating an opportunity to discuss how West Virginia’s property taxes compare to the rest of the country. While adding up the number of specific levy rates is a poor way to measure tax burdens, actually comparing property taxes between states can be complicated. Rates are expressed in different ways (in West Virginia they are expressed as cents per $100 of assessed value), property can be valued differently (West Virginia assesses property at 60% of its market value), and not all states tax the same property (West Virginia taxes both real and personal property). With that in mind, let’s try to make some comparisons.

One simple way to compare property taxes among the states is on a per capita basis. The Census Bureau collects data on how much each state collects in state and local property taxes. Divide that by each state’s population, and you have how much property taxes are paid per person. West Virginians pay an average of $770 in property taxes per person, ranking near the bottom at 45th lowest among the states and D.C., and more than 45 percent lower than the national average of $1,423.

per capita

 

While measuring property taxes on a per capita basis tells us about the taxes paid by individuals, it doesn’t exactly tell us about whose property taxes are the highest, in the sense of who has the highest property tax rates. For example, a state with high property tax rates might not rank highly on a per capita basis, because those high rates could be being applied to low property values, which wouldn’t bring in much revenue. To get at that question, we can try to measure effective rates, by dividing total property tax revenue collected by the total value of all property. However, measuring the total value of property in a state is harder than it sounds. Fortunately the New England Public Policy Center did it for us in 2002.

When it comes to overall effective property tax rates (property tax revenue as a percent of total property value), West Virginia ranked 37th lowest among the 50 states at 1.09%. This was 18 percent lower than the national average. And, as it turns out, per capita rankings align pretty closely with effective rate rankings, meaning that measuring property taxes per capita does a reasonably good job of telling us which states actually do have high rates.

overall

Yet another way to compare property taxes is to take a hypothetical piece of property, and apply each state’s tax system to it. That is what the Lincoln Land Institute did for its comparison study. For example, for a $150,000 home, West Virginia ranks 48th lowest  (note: the Lincoln Land Institute study uses two rates for NY and IL, because of dramatic difference in taxation within those states, so the ranks are out of 53, including D.C.) at 0.74%. This was 44 percent lower than the national average of 1.2 percent.

homestead

When it comes to commercial property, with $1 million in property and $200,000 in fixtures, West Virginia ranks 31st lowest at 1.64% or 16 percent lower than the national average. It’s not surprising that West Virginia ranks higher on this measure, since a number of states do not tax business personal property.

commercial

Finally, when it comes to industrial property, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal property, West Virginia ranks above average, but not all the way at the top. For $1 million industrial in real property and another $1 million in personal property, West Virginia ranks 18th at 1.64%, about 12% higher than the national average. And in a state like West Virginia, it’s increasingly natural gas drillers who are paying.

industrial

No matter which way you slice it, West Virginia’s property taxes are below average, unless you are a natural gas driller with several hundred thousand dollars in equipment. And even then, you are still paying less here than in a state like Texas, which also has a large energy industry. But for everyone else, West Virginia’s property taxes are pretty low.

6 Responses to “How High Are West Virginia’s Property Taxes?”

  1. Given how sparse our population is, how plentiful our mineral wealth, and how much of our property is owned by out-of-state interests, it’s ridiculous that we don’t generate more revenue from the property tax.

    • Hock says:

      Hey Sean. I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just stumbled on to your blog. My wife and I are considering relocating to West Virginia. If you see this post, please flesh out the comparison of the tax bite on the hypothetical $150K house. I’m really curious about those numbers. Mostly because they are seemingly counter-intuitive. For starters, how can places like New York, California and D.C. which tax the crap out of their citizens fare better than West Virginia in this ranking? Also you said that the national average is 1.2%, but the graph shows it as 1.32%. Not much of a difference, but I wonder if that will change the ranking at all? Thanks very much.

      • Sean O'Leary Sean O'Leary says:

        The chart is correct, 1.2% is just a typo.
        You have to remember that $150,000 goes a lot further when it comes to home prices in WV than in NY, CA, or D.C. That’s why those areas look ok in that ranking, but are higher in the per capita ranking. The effective tax rate on a home in D.C. may be low compared to other states, but the homes there are much more valuable, producing more revenue. So if you live in D.C., you’re probably going to pay a lot in property taxes, not because the tax rate is high, but because your home is more expensive.

  2. Joe says:

    Yeah look at wages in Wv.

    • Sean O'Leary Sean O'Leary says:

      Our property taxes are still fairly low even when you account for West Virginia’s relatively low income. We rank 41st for total property taxes paid as a percent of personal income, at 2.28%, compared to 3.36% nationally.

  3. clint says:

    I live in Mcdowell county which is a coal producing county. most counties in WV produce no coal. currently there are no jobs in most of WV especially McDowell county especially after Obama and the Democrats got through with it . the only way you can live in most of WV is on check, either Welfare,SS or retirement checks. WEST VIRGINIA IS A WELFARE STATE AND THE DEMOCRATS AND OBAMA HAVE LITERALLY DESTROYED IT. VERY DISCOURGING TO LIVE HERE AND ONCE WAS A GREAT STATE.

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