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In Missouri and Minnesota, property tax “circuit breakers” ensure that property taxes do not take more than a limited percentage of income from taxpayers of modest means. As ITEP has explained, it is widely accepted that property taxes are passed on by landlords to renters in the form of higher rents, which is why these circuit breakers are usually available to renters, as well as homeowners. However, lawmakers in these two states have tried to change that.
Effort to Take Credit from Renters Fails in Missouri
In Missouri, a victory for tax fairness came in the form of inaction. The Missouri legislature ended its session on May 13th without passing legislation that would have eliminated the property tax credit for renters. Making the property tax “circuit breaker” unavailable for renters would have left thousands of low-income families and individuals unable to claim the credit.
The measure would have cut off $57 million in critical tax relief for individuals making less than $27,500 a year, in the name of budget austerity.
Supporters of the circuit breaker tax credit questioned the legislature’s priorities, as it sought to end this benefit for low-income individuals while showering a single air freight facility with as much as $33.4 million annually in tax credits.
New Proposal in Minnesota
Even as a temporary victory was won in Missouri, the Minnesota’s legislative tax conference committee is proposing to cut the state’s renter’s credit by a proposed $186 million next year.
According to the Minnesota Budget Project, under the proposal, seniors and people with disabilities would face an average reduction in their credit of $190, while all other families would face an average reduction of $335. In fact, about 72,500 households would lose their refund entirely.
The move to eliminate the renter’s credit will be especially harmful in Minnesota, which already ranks dead last in rental affordability among low-wage workers.
Circuit breaker property tax credits are one of the most effective ways to use the tax system to reduce poverty. During a recession, states should be considering ways to enact or expand these credits, rather than scaling them back.