Real estate taxes are assessed on real or fixed property, such as a house, while personal property taxes are assessed on items that are not fixed and can be moved, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Examples of personal property include cars, boats, and in some cases, mobile homes.
Real property includes the home, the land and any structures and improvements that cannot be moved from the property, explains the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Tax rates on real property usually vary depending on how the property is used. For example, commercial property, residential property and agricultural property may be taxed at different rates.
Real estate taxes are assessed on the fair market value of the real property. That value is determined by property assessors who examine the square footage, size of the lot and other factors, depending on the locality, to determine the property's potential sale price in the current market, according to LawFirms.com.
Personal property taxes include privately owned items, states Intuit's TurboTax website. Although cars and boats are most commonly associated with personal property taxes, other large purchases may be included as well. Other potentially taxable property includes machinery, furnishings, electronics and other household goods that are not permanently fixed to the home. Local governments dictate which items are taxed as personal property.