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Real estate taxes in the U.S. are usually assessed at the municipal level and are a vital part of municipal budgets. Revenue from real Estate taxes are used to fund things such as schools, hospitals, infrastructure and so on.

Calculating Real Estate Taxes

Calculating real estate taxes differs from each municipality, but is based upon the assessed value of the property. Some municipalities will just charge a percentage of the assessed value while others create millage rates based upon budgetary needs and then real estate taxes owed are based upon the millage rate times the assessed value. Most municipalities have a detailed description of how real estate taxes are calculated on their websites often found under the Assessor Office tab.

Due to the recent housing crisis many people have found that the assessment value placed upon their property is too high. When this happens Americans have a right to challenge the property assessment. To do so they have to contact the assessors office and follow the appropriate steps outlined by the office. Generally the onus of proof is on the property owner, so they will need to prove to the assessor that their home isn't worth what the assessor thinks which is generally accomplished with an appraisal.

History of Real Estate Taxes in America

Real estate taxation goes back to ancient times, with the modern roots stemming from feudalism in Europe. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries British tax assessors commonly used property ownership to figure out how much people could afford to pay in taxes, according to Glenn W. Fisher a professor from Wichita State University and author of The Worst Tax? A History of the Property Tax in America.

In 1818 Illinois became the first state to set a uniform standard for how all property was to be taxed. By the end of the 19th Century 33 states had adopted property tax uniformity.

Sources:
http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/fisher.property.tax.history.us
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_tax