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This paper analyzes the problem of collecting property taxes in fiscally decentralized developing economies. The property tax is arguably the most important source of own revenues for local governments around the world, and economists generally agree that, although imperfect, the property tax is a good local tax. In practice, however, the property tax does not always become a productive revenue source and local governments do not gain the fiscal autonomy required to realize the benefits of fiscal decentralization. This problem is rather common among developing economies and particularly severe in Latin America. One of the main reasons for the poor tax performance of Latin American countries seems to be the lack of administrative capacity at the local level. This problem is notably aggravated, we argue, by a deficient design of the fiscal decentralization system. We also identify the main determinants of property tax performance in Latin American countries, and provide guidance for future reforms in the region.


International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series #1109, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

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