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The present volume is part of a series of Land Tenure Studies produced by FAO’s Land Tenure Service of the Rural Development Division. Land tenure arrangements are a key to food security and sustainable rural development. Equitable and secure access to land, especially for the rural poor, is a crucial factor for reducing poverty and hunger, for increasing agricultural productivity and growth, and for improving rural conditions. Effective land tenure institutions are needed to administer who has rights to what natural resources for which purposes, for how long, and under what conditions.

Increasingly, land tenure institutions are being called upon to support the decentralization of services to local governments. The main objectives of decentralization are to improve the delivery of services by the public sector and to enhance the quality of life of citizens. One expectation of transferring certain powers and responsibilities from the central government to lower levels of government is that the delivery of services should improve if the diverse demands and needs of people are served by local officials who have better information on what they want.

While the scope of services being allocated to local governments has expanded, many rural towns and villages lack the revenues needed for them to fulfil their new responsibilities. The limited revenues available to rural local governments have helped to reinforce the growing inequality between rural and urban areas in many countries. Revenues available to local governments can be improved by introducing a rural property tax. A property tax is an effective local tax because the local nature of property makes it relatively simple for local governments to identify tax-payers and to collect the taxes. A property tax can make a substantial contribution to the tax base of a local government even if property taxes in general make a modest contribution to the national tax base.

This volume is intended to support land administrators who are involved with the design and implementation of rural property tax systems. It is based on FAO’s Land Tenure Studies Number 5, which focused on rural property tax in Central and Eastern Europe. The response to that guide showed a need for information on rural property tax systems to be more easily available in other regions. In addition, this volume places a rural property tax more explicitly in the context of decentralization.

This book, like others in the series, does not seek to be exhaustive but rather reflects what FAO and its many collaborators have discovered are ‘good practices’. FAO’s Rural Development Division looks forward to continuing collaboration with its larger audience.

Maximiliano Cox
Rural Development Division

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