A Call For Real Estate Transfer Tax Reform


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by Shane Phillips

Municipal revenues have been hit hard by the COVID-19-driven economic slowdown, forcing governments to identify new sources of funding or enact steep service cuts. Cuts of approximately $1 billion for Los Angeles County and up to $600 million for the city of Los Angeles are anticipated, with further reductions possible as the economic fallout comes into sharper focus. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, California local governments have been restricted in their options for raising revenue. This has led to an overreliance on regressive sales taxes and an inequitable distribution of property tax burden, among other challenges. Reforms to the real estate transfer tax, which is assessed when properties are sold or otherwise change ownership, are an effective and equitable solution to immediate budget needs, while also supporting important long-term priorities including affordable housing and tenant assistance.