Property taxes in the UK

For a while I wondered why the UK is the OECD country which generates the highest share of tax revenue from property taxes. The graphic below is from the OECD’s 2018 report The Role and Design of Net Wealth Taxes in the OECD (which by the way is very worth the read).

Figure 1.7. Breakdown of property tax revenues in OECD countries in 2016

I used to interpret statistics like that as a proxy for the progressiveness of a country’s tax system since property holding is heavily concentrated in the right tail of the distribution. A closer look (and having a better understanding of the UK tax system after moving here) reveals however that the largest contributor in the case of the UK are “recurrent taxes on immovable property” and that is nothing else than Council Tax, which is paid not by the owners of the property but whoever occupies or rents it. That means simply using “taxes on property” as in the SNA/OECD classification as an indicator of how progressive a country’s tax system is, can be quite misleading.

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