What types of property are subject to tax?

Property is divided into two categories: real and personal. The classification is significant because the assessment procedures and the tax rate often vary.

Although there are many practical and legal distinctions, real property, in general, is land and anything permanently attached to land (e.g., improvements). Houses, gas stations, motels, shopping centers, farms, apartment buildings, restaurants, offices, and so forth are common examples.

Personal property, in general, is any property that is not real property, that is, not attached to the land; it is generally mobile and does not last as long as real property. It includes all items that may be seen, weighed, measured, felt or touched or are perceptible to the senses. Examples of personal property include cars, boats, livestock, personal effects and household goods, tools, inventories, computers, portable machinery and equipment, etc. It may also include attachments to mobile homes on rented lots.

Personal property can also be categorized as "tangible" and "intangible". Tangible personal property is physical property, often movable, that has value and utility in and of itself. Examples of such items range from furniture, trade tools, and fixtures in a doctor's office. Generally intangible personal property are assets, such as trademarks, patents, copyrights, franchises, stocks, notes, deeds of trust, and bonds. (There has a tendency by most property tax jurisdictions to move away from taxing intangible property.)