A special assessment is an additional tax on a piece of property, generally in the form of real estate taxes. This additional assessment is collected by the local taxing authority and directed to a designated fund to finance projects, improvements or programming for the assessed district.
Special assessment districts are a common development financing tool. Every state provides some form of special assessment district financing. Most states offer more than one option. These tools are known by a variety of names and can be structured in a variety of ways, but there are two predominant methods.
The first method, Business and Neighborhood Districts, is the assembly of business and neighborhood groups into a district to generate funding for projects and programs. Business and Neighborhood Districts are typically run by property owners in the district. These owners impose self-assessed taxes on themselves in order to generate funds for physical improvements or other amenities.
The second approach, Government Districts, is a directly targeted assessment program organized by the local government. Government Districts come in many shapes and sizes. These districts often provide services that are similar in scope to those provided by Business and Neighborhood Districts. However, in these cases, government entities typically direct the work of these districts.
Want regular updates on Special Assessments? Subscribe to CDFA's Tax Increment Finance Update
Special Assessments are one of the most common tools local governments use to incentivize development in a district. Interested in learning more? This section contains resources on understanding the basics of special assessment financing.
The Rise of Innovation DistrictsMembers only Login
Innovation Districts are creative urban ecosystems in which city leaders, start-ups, established firms, institutions, skilled workers, and entrepreneurs converge to capitalize upon new ideas and technological breakthroughs. Innovation districts are designed to bridge gaps between fields and make unusual and creative collaboration more likely to happen.
An Overview of Special Purpose Taxing DistrictsMembers only Login
The National Association of Home Builders published this report focusing on Special Purpose Taxing Districts, a more efficient and effective way to fund public improvements in advance of growth, while at the same time ensuring that new growth pays for the improvements.
Search the map below for Special Assessment District resources by state. This specialized search is part of CDFA's Online Resource Database
. Click on a state to see a sample of Special Assessment resources by state. Login with a CDFA Member account at the top of the page to view full results.
Tax Increment Finance Best Practices Reference Guide 2nd Edition
The Tax Increment Finance Reference Guide addresses what TIF is, why it should be used and how best to apply the TIF tool. The reference guide also highlights both TIF and special assessment projects from across the country and discusses how they can be applied to address many common economic development issues.
Advance Tax Increment Finance Best Practices Reference Guide 2nd Edition
View More Publications
The Advance Tax Increment Finance Reference Guide examines model policies, guidelines and procedures, and outlines the TIF process from A to Z. Throughout the book, clear guidance is offered for assessing project feasibility and monitoring the performance of active TIF districts. In addition, the guide outlines the critical elements of state TIF statutes that should be known in order to ensure project success and long term economic prosperity.
The Intro Tax Increment Finance Course
offers an in-depth look at the guiding principles and appropriate application of TIF. This course brings TIF deal-making and best practices into focus through a two-day program targeting the entire TIF community including economic developers, public agency representatives, bond issuers, legal professionals, developers, financial advisors, and other stakeholders.
The Advanced Tax Increment Finance Course
builds upon CDFA's Intro TIF Course by focusing more concretely on structuring the deal and developing short- and long-term policies. You will also learn about performance monitoring, feasibility analysis and using TIF in conjunction with other development finance tools.
View All Courses
Weekly Development Finance COVID-19 Briefing
Every Friday, March 27 - May 29, 2020
1:00 PM Eastern
CDFA will be hosting a weekly briefing about development finance COVID-19 news and resources. These one-hour phone calls will feature legislative updates, news from our members, state and local financing strategies, and lessons learned from previous development finance responses to disasters.
CDFA Federal Policy Conference (cancelled)
View more Upcoming Events
April 14-15, 2020
The federal government plays a critical role in driving private and public investment in innovation, job creation, infrastructure, and community development. With the 2020 presidential election quickly approaching, development finance will be a key policy issue across the nation. The 116th Congress will also play a major role in shaping our country’s economic development policy going forward. It's up to the development finance community to focus the national discussion on smart federal policy, and CDFA is the voice of the economic development finance community on Capitol Hill. For these reasons, CDFA will host its CDFA Federal Policy Conference on April 14-15 in Washington DC.