Like many other municipalities, the tax system of the City of Detroit was built during gold rush times when life was good and everybody was making lots of money– so who cared if a few golden flakes fell into the municipal coffers now and again. As times got tougher, the city government began to draw larger percentages of revenue from a shrinking but still sizable tax base. Which in turn drove even more economic activity towards greener pastures elsewhere.
Eventually, you end up with the gigantic mess which currently comprises the financial structure of the Motor City. As the average income of the city’s residents continues to trend downwards, more and more people find themselves unable to cope with their still-sky-high tax levies. This in turn leads to a plethora of administrative band-aids designed to help out people temporarily while still keeping rates high in hopes of an eventual turnaround.
Since raising taxes is always an unpopular political move, it is far better to keep taxes that have already been raised in place and grant various exemptions. If the city were to lower taxes now, it might have the same effect as the current tangle of exemptions and rebates but they would need to be raised back up later on.
In addition, by offering tax relief in the form of regulatory indulgences, two important benefits accrue to the city government. First off, it increases dependency on the government’s willingness to forego tax collections so long as the population continues to vote the current crop of rascals back in office rather than voting a new crop of rascals in to take their place. Secondly, even if lowering taxes and granting indulgences are technically equivalent on a revenue basis, the truth is that there are many people who do not know about, or do not apply for, the tax relief to which they are entitled. This means that the second strategy is much more revenue friendly to the government.
For an individual taxpayer who is worried about their tax burden, or is just interested in keeping as much of their money as possible away from the government, the only real solution is to consult with a professional tax attorney. Since the local tax code is an absolute maze, and written in arcane bureaucratic jargon, the chances are pretty good that almost anybody actually qualifies for some level of relief on at least some of the multitude of levies which the city imposes. Far from being a cost to the taxpayer, the services of a Detroit tax attorney are likely to be highly remunerative for those who show the initiative to consult with one.