Study Warns Automatic Tax Hike Would Increase Burden

Study Warns Automatic Tax Hike Would Increase Burden

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's property taxes may be low, but they are more than offset by high sales and income taxes, a new study finds.

The business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association said it hopes to highlight Utah's tax burden with the study to head off a proposal to allow property taxes to increase automatically with inflation.

The association argues efforts by local governments and school districts to bring Utah property taxes in line with other states would push Utah into the top 10 heaviest taxing states if cuts in other taxes aren't made.

The association's findings come from 2002 tax records.

"If Utah's property tax burden were increased to match the national average without reductions in Utah's other tax burdens, Utah's state and local tax burden as percent of personal income would increase from 13th-highest to sixth-highest in the nation," the association said in a news release.

In Utah, local governments must adjust their property tax rates so no additional income is gained when the value of a home appreciates under truth in taxation laws that were enacted in the 1980s. A public hearing must be held if local governments want to adjust their tax rate to bring in more revenue. That can discourage local governments and school districts from raising their property tax rates, said Roger Tew, tax consultant for the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Instead, cities have been forced to depend on volatile sales and income taxes, he said.

Utah's sales tax burden is 37.4 percent above the national average, ranking it 10th highest, the study said. Utahns also pay about 4 percent more in state and local income tax as a percentage of personal income than the national average, and almost 15 percent more than the national average when fees are included.

But Utah property owners only spend about 2.51 percent of their personal income for property taxes, ranking 38th among states, according to the study. That's 20 percent less than the national average.

Tew said if legislators are concerned that small increases in the property tax will raise Utah taxpayers' overall burden, they can always lower the sales and income tax rates.

Information from Salt Lake Tribune and Provo Daily Herald

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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