Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a public financing method which has been used for redevelopment and community improvement projects in many countries including the United States for more than 50 years. With federal and state sources for redevelopment generally less available, TIF has become an often-used financing mechanism for municipalities. Similar or related approaches are used elsewhere in the world. See for example, Value capture.

Theory[edit | edit source]

TIF is a tool to use future gains in taxes to finance the current improvements that will create those gains. When a public project such as a road, school, or hazardous waste cleanup is carried out, there is often an increase in the value of surrounding real estate, and perhaps new investment (new or rehabilitated buildings, for example). This increased site value and investment generates increased tax revenues. The increased tax revenues are the "tax increment." Tax Increment Financing dedicates tax increments within a certain defined district to finance debt issued to pay for the project. TIF is designed to channel funding toward improvements in distressed or underdeveloped areas where development would not otherwise occur. TIF creates funding for public projects that may otherwise be unaffordable to localities.

Currently, thousands of TIF districts operate nationwide in the US, from small and mid-sized cities, to the State of California, which invented tax increment financing in 1952. California maintains hundreds of TIF districts and leads the nation in debt issued through tax increment financing.[citation needed]

49 states and the District of Columbia have enabled legislation for tax increment financing. Arizona is now the only state without a tax increment financing law. While some states, such as California and Illinois, have used TIF for decades, many others have only recently passed or amended state laws that allow them to use this tool. [1]

Since the 1970s, a reduction in federal funding for redevelopment-related activities including spending cuts, restrictions on municipal bonds which are tax-exempt bonds and an administrative transference of urban policy to local, lower-level governments, has led many cities to consider tax increment financing. State-imposed caps on municipal property tax collections and limits on the amounts and types of city expenditures have also caused local governments to adopt funding strategies like this.

Criticism[edit | edit source]

TIF districts are not without criticism. Although tax increment financing is one mechanism for local governments that does not directly rely on federal funds, many question whether TIF districts actually serve their resident populations. As investment in an area increases, it is not uncommon for real-estate values to rise and for gentrification to occur.

Further claims made by TIF opponents:[citation needed]

  • Although generally sold to legislatures as a tool to redevelop blighted areas, some districts are drawn up where development would happen anyway such as prime areas at the edges of cities. California has had to pass legislation designed to curb this abuse.
  • The designation as blighted can allow governmental condemnation of property through eminent domain. The famous Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court case, where homes were condemned for a private development was about actions within a TIF district.
  • Normal inflationary increases in property values are captured with districts. Money that would have gone to the public coffers even without the financed improvements.
  • Districts are drawn too large, capturing value, again, that would have been increased anyway.
  • The process leads to favoritism for politically connected developers, lawyers, economic development directors and other implementers.
  • Funding often goes toward what have been traditionally private improvements. Improvements that developers profit from. When the public "invests" in these improvements it is the developers that still receive the return.
  • Approval of districts can sometimes capture one entity's taxes without its official input, i.e. a school districts taxes will be frozen on action of a city.

The city of Chicago, in Cook County Illinois, has a significant number of TIF districts and has become a prime location for examining the benefits and disadvantages of TIF districts. The city runs 131 districts with tax receipts totaling upwards of $500 million for 2006.[2] Lori Healey, appointed commissioner of the city's Planning and Development department in 2005 and presently Chicago Mayor Daley's Chief of Staff, was instrumental in the process of approving TIF districts as first deputy commissioner.

The Chicago Reader, a Chicago alternative newspaper published weekly, has published articles regarding tax increment financing districts in and around Chicago. Written by staff writer Ben Joravsky, the articles are critical of tax increment financing districts as implemented in Chicago.[3]

Given the influence and power held by Mayor Daley of Chicago, local, elected officials have been unwilling to criticize the Chicago's tax increment financing program due Mayor Daley's unwavering support for these districts. Cook County Commissioner Michael Quigley has been the exception, questioning the wisdom of expanding tax increment financing districts, calling for substantive reforms, and putting accountability into the governance of such districts. His office recently released a report on TIFs.[4]

Cook County Clerk David Orr, in order to bring transparency to Chicago and Cook County tax increment financing districts, began to feature information regarding Chicago area districts on his office's website.[5] The information featured includes City of Chicago TIF revenue by year, maps of Chicago and Cook County suburban municipalities' TIF districts.

The Neighborhood Capital Budget Group of Chicago, Illinois, a non-profit organization, advocated for area resident participation in capital programs. The group also researched and analyzed the expansion of Chicago's TIF districts. Though the organization closed on February 1, 2007, their research will be available on their website for six months.[6]

Currently, the largest TIF project in America is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico: the $500 million Mesa del Sol development. Mesa del Sol is controversial in that the proposed development would be built upon a "green field" that presently generates little tax revenue and any increase in tax revenue would be diverted into a tax increment financing fund. This "increment" thus would leave governmental bodies without funding from the developed area that is necessary for the governmental bodies' operation.

Applications and administration[edit | edit source]

Cities use TIF to finance public infrastructure, land acquisition, demolition, utilities and planning costs, and other improvements including sewer expansion and repair, curb and sidewalk work, storm drainage, traffic control, street construction and expansion, street lighting, water supply, landscaping, park improvements, environmental remediation, bridge construction and repair, and parking structures.

State enabling legislation gives local governments the authority to designate tax increment financing districts. The district usually lasts 20 years, or enough time to pay back the bonds issued to fund the improvements. While arrangements vary, it is common to have a city government assuming the administrative role, making decisions about how and where the tool is applied.[citations needed]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Arkansas (2000), Washington (2001), New Jersey 2002, Delaware 2003, Louisiana 2003, North Carolina 2005, and New Mexico 2006.
  2. "City of Chicago TIF Revenue Totals by Year 1986-2006" (PDF). Cook County Clerk's Office. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  3. "articles by Reader staff writer Ben Joravsky on Chicago's TIF (tax increment financing) districts". Chicago Reader. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  4. "A Tale of Two Cities: Reinventing Tax Increment Financing" (PDF). Mike Quigley (Cook County Commissioner) website. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  5. "TIFs 101: A taxpayer's primer for understanding TIFs". Cook County Clerk's Office. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  6. "Research". Neighborhood Capital Budget Group of Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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