Tax Roll

What Is a Tax Roll?

A tax roll is an official record of property subject to property tax within a given jurisdiction. Tax rolls are usually maintained by the municipal government department to which the property taxes are owed. Local tax rolls may also be integrated with county, state, and national reporting databases. Multiple tax rolls may be created in jurisdictions that tax a variety of different types of assets. Tax rolls provide detailed information about the property in question, including the roll number and property description.

Key Takeaways

  • A tax roll is a record of property subject to property tax within a given jurisdiction.
  • Tax rolls provide detailed information on property and its associated tax.
  • Certain jurisdictions may require property taxes on various types of assets, such as real estate and motor vehicles.
  • Tax rolls are usually segregated by asset type for tracking purposes.
  • Rolls are maintained by a separate department, such as the tax collector's office or the motor vehicle department.

Understanding Tax Rolls

Tax rolls list detailed information about an individual’s property and associated property tax within a specific jurisdiction. Each individual city, county, and state legislates property tax laws as a means of generating revenue. Most tax rolls are created annually as reporting for a taxpayer’s annual tax obligation.

Most local municipalities charge property taxes on all residential and commercial real estate within the jurisdiction. These taxes may also be levied on vehicles and some large assets. This source of revenue is used to fund local infrastructure and public services. Law enforcement, fire service, schools, water, sewage, and road and highway construction projects are some of the most common recipients of property tax roll funds.

Property taxes, in general, are a type of ad valorem excise tax. This is a tax on a specific item with the tax revenue based on a percentage of the property’s value. Jurisdictions can require a property tax on any type of property they choose. They can also adjust the tax rate annually in conjunction with changes made to the annual budget.

All tax rolls come with a roll number, property description, tax rate, the current value of the property, and the amount owing. It may also indicate the property class (for real estate, this means the kind of property, such as farm, commercial, residential, etc,) as well as any other charges or fees owed by the property owner.

Each governing department may have its own rules and regulations for determining the value and taxation of property on a tax roll. Real estate property is often appraised on a regular basis by the local assessment department. Motor vehicle property values may be based on data from the motor vehicle department.

Special Considerations

Any delinquent tax activity is included on an annual tax roll until all tax bills are paid. If property taxes are not paid, most governments will tag the property with a tax lien. A tax lien usually results in a freeze on the sale or refinancing of a real estate property until the tax is paid.

A tax lien on any type of property can also potentially allow the government to take the property to cover any past-due tax debts. Unpaid property taxes usually also come with accumulating monetary penalties.

If property tax is required on a specific piece of property, it will typically be communicated after the release of a preliminary and final tax roll. Government agencies often provide both online and mailed communications on preliminary and final tax roll reporting.

Some jurisdictions may only allow disputes of tax roll obligations between the preliminary and final releases. Overall, tax roll information is usually communicated to each taxpayer individually through a tax bill, which specifically shows their tax owed and value assessment as well as everything detailed on the tax roll. 

In some cases, tax rolls may be referred to as tax assessments, assessment rolls, or tax assessment rolls.

Types of Tax Rolls

As noted above, property taxes are levied on different kinds of assets. The most common is on real estate. But some states also impose property taxes on motor vehicles and other assets. Most jurisdictions keep a separate tax roll and department for each type of asset.

Real Estate Property Tax Rolls

A real estate property tax roll is simply a record of all land and building property located within a given jurisdiction. Each reported property listing includes important details such as the owner, property location, property class, property value, valuation date, property appraiser, taxable status, and tax owed.

A real estate property tax roll is created annually by the designated assessment office, which is usually the local assessor’s office. Properties on the roll are valued based on a jurisdiction’s appraisal rules. Many jurisdictions appraise property values annually. The designated assessment office is responsible for determining each property’s appraisal value and its property tax, which is all detailed on the roll.

Annual property taxes are usually imposed based on a millage rate. In millage rate terms, 1 mill is equal to 0.10% of $1,000 or $1. Therefore, a millage rate of 2 mills would be 0.20% of $1,000 or $2, and a millage rate of 30 mills would be $30 per $1,000 or 3%.

The governing tax roll office is responsible for enforcing the millage rate, applying it based on a property’s taxable value, recording the tax obligation on the tax roll, and notifying the taxpayer as required.

Motor Vehicle Property Tax Rolls

In most cases, the department of motor vehicles is generally involved in the creation of a motor vehicle tax roll. The tax is based on the fair market value (FMV) of the property, which is usually determined by the department's tax assessor. Assessments are sent annually, just like those sent for real estate. Keep in mind, though, that not all states impose a property tax on motor vehicles.

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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Understanding a Federal Tax Lien."