Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

Setting the Record Straight on PWC Property Taxes

There has been quite the debate lately over the issue of property taxes in Prince William County as discussions on the FY ’15 budget heat up, mostly because people are comparing apples and oranges – tax rates vs. assessed values, etc. There are a variety of factors to consider, so that’s why I found the calculations done on tax-rates.org to be so informative.

This site actually plugs median home values for each county into that county’s tax rate in order to arrive at the median property tax paid by homeowners. From there it ranks where the county stands nationally in terms of not only that, but also in terms of percentage of property value and percentage of income.

The results from this are:

The median property tax in Prince William County, Virginia is $3,402 per year for a home worth the median value of $377,700. Prince William County collects, on average, 0.9% of a property’s assessed fair market value as property tax.

Prince William County has one of the highest median property taxes in the United States, and is ranked 120th of the 3143 counties in order of median property taxes.

The average yearly property tax paid by Prince William County residents amounts to about 3.2% of their yearly income . Prince William County is ranked 500th of the 3143 counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.

Let’s look at how PWC ranks in relation to its neighboring counties on these various aspects. When you’re just looking at the median tax bill, things don’t look so bad.

 County / City Median Property Tax
Falls Church City $6,005 ± $222 (20th of 3143)
Loudoun County $4,976 ± $54 (33rd of 3143)
Arlington County $4,564 ± $63 (40th of 3143)
Fairfax County $4,543 ± $28 (41st of 3143)
Alexandria City $4,061 ± $115 (64th of 3143)
Fairfax City $3,646 ± $109 (96th of 3143)
Prince William County $3,402 ± $38 (120th of 3143)
Stafford County $2,477 ± $37 (284th of 3143)
Virginia $1,862 (21st of 50)

Although PWC has one of the highest tax rates in the state, its median tax bill is on the low-end for Northern Virginia because home values in the county are so low (and that’s not a good thing for a variety of reasons including the fact the median home value is tax negative and does not pay for all the county services that it consumes.)

However, the narrative of being a low-tax county starts to fall apart and the gap begins to close when you start looking at the amount of taxes paid as a percentage of household income.

 County / City As Percentage Of Income
Falls Church City 4.23 ± 0.27% (181st of 3143)
Loudoun County 3.88 ± 0.06% (260th of 3143)
Fairfax County 3.6 ± 0.04% (343rd of 3143)
Arlington County 3.55 ± 0.11% (360th of 3143)
Alexandria City 3.44 ± 0.13% (399th of 3143)
Fairfax City 3.24 ± 0.17% (480th of 3143)
Prince William County 3.2 ± 0.07% (500th of 3143)
Virginia 2.53% (29th of 50)
Stafford County 2.37 ± 0.07% (1085th of 3143)

Finally, here is the real kick in the head to PWC homeowners – the percentage of property value that we pay in taxes.

 County / City As Percentage Of Property Value
Loudoun County 1.01 ± 0.02% (1129th of 3143)
Falls Church City 0.94 ± 0.05% (1241st of 3143)
Prince William County 0.9 ± 0.01% (1302nd of 3143)
Fairfax County 0.89 ± 0.01% (1317th of 3143)
Alexandria City 0.83 ± 0.03% (1435th of 3143)
Arlington County 0.8 ± 0.02% (1524th of 3143)
Fairfax City 0.75 ± 0.03% (1647th of 3143)
Virginia 0.74% (34th of 50)
Stafford County 0.7 ± 0.01% (1786th of 3143)

This last method is truly the most accurate way to compare property taxes since it takes into account the biggest variable in the equation, that of assessed home values. When looking at property taxes through this lens, PWC’s property tax is higher than Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County and the City of Fairfax. It is barely behind the City of Falls Church (and even that is somewhat questionable since PWC separates out special assessments for fire, gypsy moth eradication, etc. which other counties include in their tax rate.)

So, as the debate rages on about spending priorities and tax rates, keep all this in mind as our elected officials attempt to jack up our property taxes by another 5.5% for FY ’15.

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7 Responses to “Setting the Record Straight on PWC Property Taxes”

  1. Scott

    One thing I’m curious about is if levies and fees are figured into the math here. We have the gypsy moth and fire and rescue fees, I know my hometown in Minnesota has a storm water runoff fee, I’m sure other localities have their versions of the same things. Those are a great way to keep the actual ‘property’ tax rate lower….but we pay just the same.

  2. Riley

    I noted that towards the end of this post where PWC has the habit of separating those fees out while other counties include them in the standard property tax rate. As a result, the PWC rate is skewed lower than it actually is by roughly 7 cents per $100. I may try running those numbers myself so we can see what the real rate is in comparison to the others.

    • Riley

      Just found it.

      ​Fire and Rescue Levies (Countywide, except for the Town of Quantico) ​$ 0.0727
      ​Gypsy Moth Levy (Countywide) ​$ 0.0025

  3. jan

    The reason that PWC breaks out the various fees is that, with a regular tax, they have to share it with the schools. If it is called a fee, then they consider that not to be a tax, and they don’t have to share it with schools. In addition, we can’t write it off on our taxes because fees aren’t considered the same way as taxes are.

    • Riley

      You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Jan. I’ve been working on a tax reform / simplification for our county’s taxes that would address those precise problems.

  4. Not Harry F. Byrd

    But Corey Stewart says the Era of Austerity must end and Supervisors must get more “comfortable” with spending again.

    The elected GOP leadership in PWC is a joke. And that dude wanted to be Lt. Governor.

    Fairfax has a lower tax burden than PWC. I never tire of that stat because it illustrates it perfectly – Fairfax has been under Democratic control since 1995. Just what is the point of PWC’s Republicans?

  5. charles

    I disagree with your premise that the “percent of home value” is the best measure. I think it is the worst measure. I say that because home values have no direct relationship to how much money one makes in a year, or how much money the county has to spend to support a house.

    The reason Fairfax looks “good” in this regard is that their home values are highly inflated because people want to live closer to the city. So if you took my house in Prince William, and transported it to Fairfax, I would have exactly the same house, it would take exactly the same support, but I’d pay a LOT more in taxes, while my “percent of home value” paid in taxes would actually be LOWER.

    Would i be better off because that percentage was lower, or would I be worse off because my taxes paid would be higher? I think the answer clearly is worse off.

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