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SimCity Strategy Guides


Government: Treasury & Budget


The SimCity economy is the source of all success, and all problems. Running your city requires cash, but tax income never goes as far as you'd hope! This article covers the ins and outs of taxation and managing money in your city.

The following sections can be found in this article:

  • How Taxes work in SimCity
  • What is a 'Good' Tax Rate?
  • Making Money from Services
  • How Taxes work in SimCity

    If you've been paying attention to your city budget, you've probably noticed that your tax income lags behind your population. Whatever your tax rate you'd think that the income you get from 1000 Sims ought to be 10% of the income from 10,000 Sims, and similarly 1% of 100,000, but it isn't. Whilst tax income does rise with your population, it does so at a reduced rate.

    Why tax income is less than it should be

    The problem is not so much your tax income, rather it is the displayed population value. You don't have as many Sims in your city as the population total reports, for some reason (probably because Maxis likes to code their games so they might run on a 486, if it weren't for the requirement of having one of three high end graphics cards).

    The number you see at the bottom of the screen in game, which tells you how many Sims live in your city, is an inflated figure created by changing the real value using the function 'simcity.GetFudgedPopulation' in the scripting of the game's UI. Your actual population is considerably smaller (a displayed population of 1 million represents only about 120,000 Sims). You can discover your real population easily by adding up the total number of workers and shoppers as shown in the details tab of the population panel. These 'real' Sims are your tax payers.

    How SimCity tax is calculated

    Tax in SimCity is a property tax rather than an income tax. The amount of money each building pays depends on it's zone type, density and wealth/tech level. The table below gives the total hourly quantity of tax generated from each building type within SimCity based upon a tax rate of 10% (so if your tax rate is 5% you would halve the amount listed). Please note that residential buildings will also house students, however since students don't pay tax, I have not included them in the per-capita value. The per capita value shows how much tax is generated per hour per Sim. This is intended to give a general picture of tax 'efficiency' based on the population of the building.

    Tax production for different density and wealth/tech levels for buildings within SimCity, how many residents/workers they provide and the tax efficiency of buildings based on population/worker size. All quantities assume a tax rate of 10%
    Zone Type Density Wealth Level Taxation /hr Occupants Per Capita /hr
    Residential Low Low $10 /hr 6 Sims $1.66 /hr
    Residential Medium Low $80 /hr 60 Sims $1.33 /hr
    Residential High Low $200 /hr 600 Sims $0.33 /hr
    Residential Low Medium $20 /hr 3 Sims $6.66 /hr
    Residential Medium Medium $160 /hr 30 Sims $5.33 /hr
    Residential High Medium $240 /hr 300 Sims $0.80 /hr
    Residential Low High $50 /hr 3 Sims $16.66 /hr
    Residential Medium High $190 /hr 10 Sims $19.00 /hr
    Residential High High $280 /hr 103 Sims $2.71 /hr
    Commercial Low Low $20 /hr 14 Workers $1.42 /hr
    Commercial Medium Low $100 /hr 76 Workers $1.32 /hr
    Commercial High Low $280 /hr 710 Workers $0.39 /hr
    Commercial Low Medium $30 /hr 12 Workers $2.50 /hr
    Commercial Medium Medium $150 /hr 34 Workers $4.41 /hr
    Commercial High Medium $280 /hr 670 Workers $0.42 /hr
    Commercial Low High $130 /hr 6 Workers $21.66 /hr
    Commercial Medium High $130 /hr 30 Workers $4.33 /hr
    Commercial High High $260 /hr 620 Workers $0.42 /hr
    Industrial Low Low Tech $60 /hr 26 Workers $2.31 /hr
    Industrial Medium Low Tech $320 /hr 172 Workers $1.86 /hr
    Industrial High Low Tech $800 /hr 1620 Workers $0.49 /hr
    Industrial Low Medium Tech $90 /hr 24 Workers $3.75 /hr
    Industrial Medium Medium Tech $640 /hr 132 Workers $4.85 /hr
    Industrial High Medium Tech $920 /hr 1330 Workers $0.69 /hr
    Industrial Low High Tech $100 /hr 22 Workers $4.54 /hr
    Industrial Medium High Tech $540 /hr 92 Workers $5.86 /hr
    Industrial High High Tech $820 /hr 940 Workers $0.87 /hr

    The general pattern of this information is that you typically get less tax income, as well as fewer workers and shoppers as wealth / tech levels increase, for the same amount of space. 12 low wealth, low density residential buildings pay $120/hr in tax and provide 72 workers and shoppers, compared to one low density, high wealth residential building which pays just $50/hr in tax and generates 2 workers and 1 shopper for the same amount of ground space. That said, it is important to remember that smaller populations do require fewer city services and higher wealth level Sims cause fewer social issues which in turn costs the city less money.

    For more information:

  • Zoning: About Density
  • Zoning: Wealth Levels
  • What is a 'Good' Tax Rate?

    The lower the tax rate, the happier buildings will become and the faster zones will grow. Having very low taxes, however, can be hard on the city budget, especially without specialization income. Choosing an optimum tax rate which generates enough to pay for city services, whilst keeping Sims reasonably happy is obviously a good idea.

    Wealth Level Optimum Rates Prohibits Zone Growth
    Low 8-12%

    19% for Low Density

    18% for Medium Density

    19% for High Density

    Medium 7-11%

    17% for Low Density

    15% for Medium Density

    12% for High Density

    High 6-10%

    14% for Low Density

    13% for Medium Density

    13% for High Density

    For each wealth level changes in the tax rate correspond to different positive, or negative happiness values. These values are as follows:

    Happiness impact of tax rates on different wealth classes
    Low Wealth Tax Rate Happiness Impact Medium Wealth Tax Rate Happiness Impact High Wealth Tax Rate Happiness Impact
    Low 0% +3 Medium 0% +3 High 0% +3
    Low 1% +3 Medium 3% +2 High 2% +2
    Low 4% +2 Medium 6% +1 High 5% +1
    Low 7% +1 Medium 9% 0 High 8% 0
    Low 10% 0 Medium 12% -1 High 11% -1
    Low 13% -1 Medium 15% -2 High 14% -2
    Low 16% -2 Medium 18% -3 High 17% -3
    Low 19% -3 Medium 20% -3 High 20% -4
    Low 20% -3

    These values combine with existing levels of happiness generated by parks, schools, germs, crime, shops, jobs etc, to produce the quantity of happiness seen on the residential data map.

    For more information:

  • Government: Understanding Data Maps
  • Making Money from Services

    You can make income for your city by selling various services to neighboring cities. There are, however some drawbacks and issues to be aware of which mean this isn't going to be the debt-busting solution to all your city's financial problems!

    You can only provide services to connected neighbors
    Emergency service deals will only pay out when you successfully capture criminals, rescue injured Sims or put out fires - which means getting to the emergency in time! If you are late, you won't get paid!
    Garbage service deals pay $300 per month, additionally you will need spare capacity in your own trash processing (even though the trash isn't actually brought back into your city). This frequently results in making a loss.
    Neighbors can only buy a portion of spare power, water and sewage processing and the amount is dependant on the number of connected neighbors you have. If you have 3 connected neighbors each can only buy a maximum of one third of your spare power, water or sewage treatment.
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