One of the bills I have worked on throughout the summer deals with cleaning up Chapter 10-6, the chapter of state law dealing with property tax assessments. Most of the work was done by staff at the Legislative Research Council in consultation with the Department of Revenue and several county assessors, so I can’t take much credit for the finished product.
While the State relies largely on sales and use tax for its general fund, local schools and political subdivisions are supported by taxes on real estate.
In the past, South Dakota levied taxes on a variety of personal property, ranging from jewelry to livestock. The personal property subject to tax was based on self-reporting, leading some to suggest that the tax was immoral because it encouraged people to lie. The personal property was repealed in 1978. Today, local governments and schools rely on the tax on real estate. This area of code has been frequently amended as policy makers have sought to craft a “perfect” tax system.
The bill I have introduced, SB 70, is an effort to tidy up the current law without making any policy changes. Looking at the chapter as it is today, more than 70 sections of law have been repealed and a handful of others have been transferred to a different part of the Code; however, the numbers of those sections are still scattered throughout the chapter. A few sections reiterate the same idea, some sections dealing with the same concept are in completely different parts of the chapter, and a few are no longer needed because they reflect fragments of the old self-reported personal property tax laws.
SB 70 is an effort to reorganize the chapter so – while it may not be more pleasant to read – at least it is easier to follow along. The sections will be reorganized and re-numbered starting with 10-6-101 so they are easier for taxpayers and county directors of equalization to reference.
If you are interested in more information about the state’s property taxes, the LRC has an issue memorandum written in 2016 titled “Property Taxation – A Modern History.” You can find it on the LRC website sdlegislature.gov under the “References” tab.