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Why Boston Needs Split-Rate Taxation

Ahern_smBy Conor Ahern. Download as PDF.  Split-rate taxation is a concept that would thoroughly benefit the City of Boston. This type of taxation has tremendous potential without the risks associated with other revenue-generating schemes. In the short term, split-rate taxation is revenue-neutral and would alleviate many of Boston’s entrenched municipal problems without risking undermining urban development. In the long term, split-rate taxation promotes density, efficiency, lowered rents, an enhanced tax base, decreased environmental impact, and numerous other potential benefits.In this memorandum I advocate that Massachusetts law be amended to permit municipalities to engage in differential taxation within given land usage categorizations. I provide a brief explanation of split-rate taxation—its underpinning assumptions, its potential benefits, its barriers to implementation, and its successful (if limited) deployment. I argue that the criticisms and skepticism of split-rate taxation’s feasibility do not apply to Boston, then enumerate the benefits Boston could expect to reap were this taxation system to be deployed.

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The Rappaport Briefing is published by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. The Briefing publishes news about Rappaport Center activities as well as student commentaries on issues confronting state and local government in Massachusetts.

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