Is property tax a legitimate tax? What are the principles behind it? Some forms of taxation are legitimate, others are not. The Bible provides the answers to what and how a civil government can tax.
In order to discover if the civil government has the right to property tax we have to know who really owns the property. Is it the family, civil government, or God? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" [Gen. 1:1, NKJV]. "The earth is the Lord's and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters" [Ps. 24:1-2, NKJV]. God is the sole owner because He is the Creator. Until it is sold, the creator of an item [or the one who paid him to create] is the owner. Obviously, no one hired God to create the universe so He is the ultimate Owner by right of creation.
Does God still claim ownership? "For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness" [Ps. 50:10-12, NKJV]. "At that time, Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth..." [Matt. 11:25, NKJV]. Yes, God claims total ownership over the earth. Christian or non-Christian, we are all caretakers of God's property.
Didn't Satan gain ownership of the earth when Adam fell? The above verses say no. Adam never had ownership of the earth so he could not lose it. What he lost was his delegated dominion, authority, and rulership of the earth under God. Satan won from Adam the right to administer the earth - which he promptly did for his own purposes not God's. The ownership never passed on to Satan, though. In Christ, Satan's authority and dominion has been smashed. It is now the job of Christians to take the dominion and administration of the earth back from Satan in physical history. He no longer has a right to any of it.
Since God is the owner, to whom did He delegate the responsibility of looking after His property? Was it the family or the civil government? This is the vital question in answering our main question. If God gave the responsibility to the civil government, then the government owns the property under God and might have the right to tax it. However, if the responsibility was given to the family, then property tax is a direct attack on the authority of God. It would be an attempt by the civil government to subvert the Law of God and take over responsibilities not given to it. So, who owns the land under God?
The first time this is mentioned is in Gen. 2:15. "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it [NKJV]. God gave Adam the job of looking after the earth. In Gen. 1:28 God told Adam and Eve to "have dominion" over the earth and everything on it. Adam was the head of the first family. At this point in history there was no need for a civil government. It might be reasonably argued that since Adam was also the head of the human race, and its representative before God, that he was also the civil government. In which position was Adam given responsibility to rule the earth under God? We will have to see how Scripture develops the theme to find out.
After the flood Noah is given authority of the earth but we are faced with the same problem we had with Adam. In Gen. 12 & 13 God promises to make Abraham a great nation and also gives him the land of Caanan. [This again shows God's ultimate ownership for He chose to take the land away from one group of people and give it to another group.] Abraham doesn't give a conclusive answer to our question either.
It must be noted that all these men were given responsibility or promises as the heads of their families. Unless we can prove they were representing a future civil government and not their immediate families, we will have to assume it was to the families that property was given by God.
Now we come to the time when Israel was a nation. They had a civil government and they were about to go in and possess the land God had given them. Here we would expect to find a difference between civil government and families. To whom did God give the responsibility of the land of Israel?
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names...But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers [Nu. 26:52-53; 55, NKJV]. "And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families; to the larger you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance; there everyone's inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers" [Nu. 33:54, NKJV].
The nation of Israel was entering a new land in which none of them had owned property before. Moses, as the civil government, was given the initial responsibility to divide the land among the families according to the size of the tribe and the family. Notice very carefully: The land was an inheritance of the families, not the possession of the government. The job of Moses was the initial dividing of the land according to God's specific directions but he, as the government, never owned the land. Nor, after it was given, was it ever allowed to come into the hands of the government. It was an inheritance for the families to develop and enjoy down through their generations. It was NEVER to be taken away from them by the government for ANY reason.
In fact, the Bible goes so far as to explicitly forbid the civil government from taking property away from land owners. "Moreover the prince shall not take any of the people's inheritance by evicting them from their property...so that none of My people may be scattered from his property" [Ez. 46:18, NKJV].
Property tax then becomes an illegitimate tax. In reality the civil government is usurping the right to own property. It is claiming, through property tax, that all property rightly belongs to the government in direct contradiction of the Law of God [the Owner]. Property tax becomes the rent the government charges us to use what they falsely claim is their property. Anyone who stops paying their property tax is going to find out very quickly who really owns the property in the sight of the government.
Property tax is one of the many anti-God, humanistic devices used to put more power in the hands of the civil government. Under God's Law, the civil government is extremely limited. But rebels against God who are greedy for power will do anything to get it. Property tax puts the control of property in the hands of government, where it was never intended to be, strengthening their power base as they continue to grasp for even more power.
Even now the government uses property taxes to manipulate property owners. It can be used to punish the rich, hinder the struggling middle class, and keep 'undesirables' out of certain areas. The next step is to deny the right to own property to individuals or organizations of which the government does not approve. Christians and churches which oppose high-level, Satanic humanism will undoubtedly be high on their list.
If what you have said is true, do I have to pay property tax? There is no Biblically legitimate reason to charge or pay property tax. However, refusing to pay property tax is not a recommended action. If a man holds a gun to your head and demands your wallet, you give it to him and pray he doesn't pull the trigger afterward. He has no right to your wallet, but he does have superior force at the moment. The same is true with property tax. The government has no legal right to any such money - it is theft and extortion - however, if you don't pay they will take your property away.
The first thing Christians need to do is repent, personally and on behalf of the country in which they live. Oppression comes upon a country because of rebellion against God. High crime, high and unjust taxes, property tax, unrest, and other things are evidence that a country is being judged by God because it has forsaken Him. "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of all things; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you" [Deut. 28:47-48, NKJV].
"Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, "O, Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments...O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face...we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets...O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! So not delay for Your name sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name" [Dan. 9:3-19, NKJV].
Daniel's entire prayer is well worth reading and considering. We do indeed stand in need of repentance. We need to return to the love of God and obey His laws. Then and only then will we return to the blessing we once have known in this country. But until we recognize and deal with this root cause of rebellion against God, there is nothing which will turn our country from its collision course with destruction. Unless the Lord saves us we are doomed. The Lord wants to save us, if we will but turn to Him. Property tax is only one sympton of a greater problem.
This leads us to the second thing we can do. People need to be educated as to what is right and wrong. We need to teach them the beauty of the Law of God. "Therefore be careful to observe them [the laws of God]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people" [Deut. 4:6, NKJV]. [Because much of the church has forsaken the Law of God they are no longer a wise and understanding people in the affairs or sight of the world.]
"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever before me. I have more understanding than my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation" [Ps. 119:97-99, NKJV]. Christians need to be taught the Law of God and how it applies to everything in life. The answers to the difficult questions facing our modern world are to be found in the Bible. [We need to be careful to NEVER imply that salvation comes by the law. Salvation and our relationship with God is ALWAYS a matter of grace and not law or works.]
Finally, we need to support and vote for people in civil government who will work at reducing property taxes [without merely shifting it to other unbiblical areas]. If property tax can be continually decreased, then the day will come when it will be eliminated and made illegal in man's courts as well as God's Court.
For more information on how God's Word applies today, take the free e-mail course Life Line. For specific details on on property tax and other laws see the Institutes of Biblical Law textbook available from our bookstore.