New Hampshire bill could lead to increases in business property taxes

By Joe Chen | The Center Square

New Hampshire state Rep. Robert Harb, R-Plaistow, is sponsoring a bill that would allow the state to set different commercial, industrial, and residential property tax rates for municipalities based on their commercial-to-residential ratio, meaning businesses might pay higher property taxes.

“It’s a way to attempt to set right the commercial and industrial rate,” Harb said in a recent House Municipal and County Government Committee hearing, according to the New Hampshire Business Review. “It might help people with their residential tax bills.”

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New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord

Harb said he is supporting the bill because in his town, commercial and industrial rates have not changed, while residential property taxes have increased. House Bill 1467 would effectively allow municipalities to up the commercial/industrial tax rate.

“No towns are forced to do it,” Harb said in the hearing. The bill also wouldn’t change how business property values are assessed.

Opponents of the bill argue it would be unconstitutional in New Hampshire, since state courts have interpreted its constitution as “the same tax shall be laid, upon the same amount of property, in every part of the jurisdiction levying it.”

Harb said during the hearing that the bill would not be unconstitutional because “you can’t appeal a rate. You can only appeal an assessment.”

Even if the bill is constitutional, some doubt its intentions will work.

“The unintended consequences is you might drive development to other towns,” Robert Gagne, head of the Manchester Assessors Office, said at the hearing.

“We oppose this bill that is designed to shift the tax burden from residents to businesses,” David Juvet, senior vice president of policy at the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, said during the hearing. “It is the wrong road.”

Other states have gone down the road of different tax rates. Massachusetts’ constitution, for example, allows different tax rates, which lets Boston set its commercial rate at $24.93 per $1,000 in assessed value and its residential rate at $10.56.

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