How much money does San Francisco make?

San Francisco is a major city in California and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. With a GDP of over $500 billion, San Francisco has one of the largest and most diversified economies in the United States (source). The city relies on a variety of revenue sources to fund public services and operate local government. This article will examine the major sources of revenue for the city of San Francisco and provide an overview of how much money the city makes from property taxes, sales taxes, hotel taxes, business taxes, fees, fines, investments, and funding from federal and state governments.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are a main source of revenue for the city and county of San Francisco. According to a recent report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, property taxes accounted for around $2.9 billion in revenue for San Francisco’s 2021-2022 fiscal year.

This makes property taxes the single largest source of tax revenue for San Francisco. By comparison, sales taxes accounted for around $239 million and hotel taxes accounted for around $397 million in 2021-2022. San Francisco’s property tax revenue comes predominantly from commercial real estate rather than residential.

Compared to other major U.S. cities, San Francisco collects a significant amount from property taxes, but not the most. For example, New York City collected over $30 billion in property tax revenue in 2021, while Chicago collected around $6 billion. However, on a per capita basis, San Francisco collects more property tax revenue than Chicago.

In recent years, San Francisco’s soaring property values, especially for commercial real estate, have driven large increases in property tax revenue. However, forecasts predict property tax revenue may fall in the near future as the commercial real estate market cools off.

Sales Taxes

According to a San Francisco Chronicle article from 2023, sales tax revenue to San Francisco was around $141 million in 2022, a 22% decrease from $181 million in 2019, adjusted for inflation. In contrast, a 2024 article from ABC7News noted the city had still not fully recovered to pre-pandemic sales tax revenue levels.

San Francisco’s sales tax rate is 8.5%, higher than California’s statewide average of 7.25%. However, sales tax revenue depends not just on the tax rate but also the volume of taxable sales. The downtown area in particular has struggled, with retail vacancy rates around 25% in 2022. While the city’s overall sales tax revenue has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, some neighborhoods are recovering faster than others.

Nationwide, most states charge between 5-7% sales tax. With tourism and high costs of living, San Francisco generates more sales tax per capita than many other cities. However, the revenue drop during COVID-19 disrupted the city budget. Ongoing efforts to revitalize small businesses and bring shoppers, diners, and visitors back downtown will play a key role in restoring this important source of city funds.

Hotel Taxes

San Francisco generates significant revenue from hotel taxes and occupancy taxes paid by tourists and visitors staying in hotels and short-term rentals in the city. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, hotel tax revenue reached over $400 million in fiscal year 2018-2019 before declining during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fiscal year 2021-2022, hotel tax revenue was around $220 million, rebounding closer to pre-pandemic levels as tourism picked up again.

The majority of hotel tax revenue goes into San Francisco’s General Fund, providing flexibility in how the money can be allocated. However, some hotel taxes are earmarked for specific purposes. For example, Proposition E passed in 2018 allocated a portion of hotel taxes to support the arts, cultural institutions and festivals in San Francisco.

As tourism and business travel continue to rebound post-pandemic, hotel occupancy and room rates have been rising. This should translate into higher hotel tax revenues for San Francisco going forward. However, the city faces challenges in recovering tourism and conferences, especially in the downtown area. Managing hotel tax revenue will remain an important policy issue.

Business Taxes

San Francisco generates a significant portion of its revenue from taxes on businesses operating in the city. According to a 2022 report from the San Francisco Chronicle, business tax revenue accounts for around 15% of the city’s $6.3 billion general fund budget [1]. However, the city’s dependence on business tax revenue also makes it vulnerable to economic downturns. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, remote work cost San Francisco an estimated $484 million in business tax revenue according to an analysis by the city’s controller [2].

Compared to other major cities in California, San Francisco’s business tax rates are among the highest. As of 2022, San Francisco’s 1.4% payroll tax is higher than Los Angeles (0.45%) and San Diego (0.61%). However, San Francisco’s gross receipts tax maxes out at 0.56% which is lower than San Jose’s maximum of 0.75% [3]. While high business taxes provide revenue for the city, they can also drive companies to relocate offices outside of San Francisco.

Fees & Fines

San Francisco collects substantial revenue from parking citations, traffic fines, and other fees. According to the SFMTA, it collects around $65,000 per day in cash fares from public transit. The city also generates significant funds from parking tickets, to the tune of around $90 million per year or 1.5 million citations annually (SFGate). As of November 2022, San Francisco was owed over $200 million in unpaid parking fines and penalties from over 1 million outstanding tickets (SF Standard). Traffic fines, tolls, business fees, and other citations are additional sources of city revenue.

Federal & State Funds

San Francisco receives significant funding from federal and state governments. According to the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission, the federal government provides funding to San Francisco for programs related to sanctuary policies, diversity, and inclusiveness. However, these funds have been threatened by the federal administration over disagreements about immigration policies (

The federal government also provides funding to San Francisco for healthcare programs. For example, federal HIV/AIDS funding to San Francisco has declined significantly since the 1990s but still represents an important source of revenue for the city’s network of HIV/AIDS service organizations (

In addition to federal funds, San Francisco receives money from the State of California. This includes grants for transportation, housing, healthcare, education, and other public services. However, the amount of state funding has fluctuated over the years depending on California’s budget situation.


San Francisco has a substantial investment portfolio that generates significant income for the city. According to the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector, San Francisco has over $11 billion in investments as of 2021 (Investments – Treasurer & Tax Collector). These investments include stocks, bonds, and other securities.

The main objectives of San Francisco’s investment strategy are to maximize earnings while preserving capital and maintaining liquidity. The city’s pooled investment fund contains operating funds from various city departments and enterprises. In FY2020-21, the pooled fund earned over $97 million in interest and dividends.

Some of the city’s largest individual investments include stocks in major companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. San Francisco also invests heavily in US Treasury bonds and notes. Additionally, the city maintains an extensive portfolio of corporate bonds and commercial paper from major banks and corporations.

Overall, San Francisco’s substantial investment assets and wise investment strategies generate hundreds of millions in annual income for the city’s operating budget. The investment returns help fund city services while reducing the tax burden on residents and businesses.

Debt & Expenses

San Francisco has significant expenses and debt obligations that impact the city’s budget and finances. According to the Westside Observer, the city is projected to have a budget deficit of $779.8 million for the next two fiscal years. A major driver of expenses is staffing costs, with salaries and benefits making up around 50% of the city’s $13 billion budget according to the SF Standard. Healthcare and pension obligations for municipal employees are a large part of this expense.

The city also has high fixed costs related to debt service. San Francisco has over $5 billion in general obligation bond debt from large capital projects and facilities. Debt service payments alone are around $500 million per year. The city also has lease revenue bonds, certificates of participation, and other loans that add to yearly debt expenses.

High operating expenses combined with large debt obligations contribute to San Francisco’s recurring budget shortfalls. The city tends to spend nearly to the limit during good economic times, leaving little room to reduce costs when tax revenues decline during downturns. Tackling rising personnel costs and developing budgetary reserves will be key issues moving forward.


In summary, San Francisco generates revenue from a variety of sources. The city collects substantial amounts from property taxes, sales taxes, hotel taxes, and business taxes. Additional revenue comes from fees, fines, investments, federal and state funds, and other sources.

According to the Chegg study, San Francisco’s total revenue in 2019 exceeded $110 million. The Lincoln Institute report also showed the city’s strong fiscal health and revenue-generating capacity.

Overall, San Francisco has a robust and diversified revenue base that provides fiscal stability. While expenses are also high, the city’s access to varied revenue streams ensures it can continue providing services to residents and businesses.

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