Inequality in Property Tax Appeals: Evidence from Field Experiments with Homeowners and Assessors
Abstract: Despite minority homeowners facing a disproportionate property tax burden, they are less likely to take action to reduce their taxes by filing an appeal. We use two field experiments, one with homeowners and the other with county assessors, to understand the drivers of inequality in property taxes and homeowner appeal behavior. In a survey experiment with Indiana homeowners, we show that information frictions and perceived discrimination contribute to the racial appeal gap. We additionally find racial differences in the treatment of homeowners by assessors based on both appeal outcomes and through a complementary correspondence study where assessors are less likely to provide aid to minority homeowners who want to appeal. This provides additional evidence of discrimination. Additionally, we consider the gender appeal gap, and document unequal treatment between female and male homeowners by assessors. Overall, our results indicate that appeals are not effective at reducing biases in assessments.