The debate over how to effectively tax property in Iowa has raged for years. A new report from the Iowa Fiscal Project (IFP) compares and contrasts the property tax reform proposals put forward by the Iowa House and Senate. The report was described in this Des Moines Register editorial with high praise: “No matter which approach prevails, the Iowa Fiscal Partnership deserves credit for an unbiased examination of the impact of the competing property tax proposals on real businesses in Iowa.”
Currently, commercial property taxes are based on 100 percent of their actual values. Residential property is treated very differently. IFP reports that most recently residential property was assessed at just 52.8 percent of actual value. This disparity is something that Governor Branstad, the Iowa House and Senate are working to address. The Senate bill would create a property tax credit which would ultimately mean that some commercial property would be taxed like residential property. The House bill (which has the support of Governor Branstad) would ultimately tax commercial property at 80 percent of its actual value. In its report, IFP raises important questions about how local governments will be reimbursed for the resulting reductions in a significant local government revenue source should either bill become law. The Senate bill provides more targeted tax relief to corporations, whereas the House bill provides a property tax reduction to all businesses.
It could be that this issue gets put on hold for yet another year because Senator Joe Bolkcom (chair of the Ways and Means Committee) is vowing, as he has before, that no compromise on a tax bill will be reached until an increase in Earned Income tax Credit (EITC) is signed into law.