Property Tax in CaliforniaIf you own taxable property on January 1, you become an assessee and are liable to pay property tax. The property tax amount you have to pay is based on the value of your property, or more accurately on its assessed value. The assessed value of your property is the value determined by the County Assessor of your county for property tax purposes. It is shown on your property tax bill (see a typical property tax bill below). The assessed value of your property is likely to be the prior year’s assessed value adjusted for inflation by up to 2%. Hence, you normally do not expect a large increase in your property tax bill. You will receive a property tax bill with a normal increase in amount payable unless there is a change in ownership.
If there has been a change in ownership of your property, its assessed value no longer remains the prior year’s assessed value adjusted for inflation. Its new assessed value will be its market value after it has changed ownership. The date of change in ownership is also important to ascertain the effective year of change in assessed value. Since, your property tax is calculated on the assessed value of your property, the change in ownership and its effective date can have a major impact on your property tax bill.
This section will explain to you the two primary factors that affect your property tax bill, as well as how change in ownership can be another dominant factor that results into higher assessed values and property tax bills.
A property tax bill gives you important information including the name of the owner, assessed value of the property, and property tax rate.
|Property Tax Bill|
Two primary factors which increase your Property Tax BillYour Property Tax on real property depends on two primary factors:
2. The tax rate.
One of the other factors that affects your property tax liability is change in ownership. It is a dominant factor which increases your property tax by increasing the assessed value of your property. As the assessed value increases, it causes your property tax to increase as a result.
When a change in ownership occurs, the County Assessor assigns a new assessed value to your property. The technical term for assigning a new taxable value to your property is reappraisal or reassessment.
In California, reassessment based on change in ownership can very often account for major increases in property taxes each year. The reappraisal or reassessment of property due to change in ownership is one of the major driving forces behind higher property tax bills and increases in public revenue.
Let us examine how property taxes are calculated and how the changes in ownership increases the payable amount shown on a property tax bill. It is important to keep three items in focus throughout the coming text. The three factors are assessed value and increases in it; rate of property tax, and change in ownership.
You cannot calculate property tax without assigning a value to your propertyYou cannot calculate the annual property tax on your real property simply by punching the number of rooms, shops, apartments, and swimming pools into a calculator! You need to know the value that has been assigned to your specific property. Once you know this value, the process of calculating your property tax liability is simple and straightforward. You need to multiply the value by the tax rate to get the amount of property tax payable. That is:
Property tax = property value X tax rate
The value on which you calculate the property tax of your real property is the first primary factor that affects amount payable shown on your property tax bill. A county assessor will call it the assessed value (taxable value) of your property, i.e., the value on which your property tax liability is computed. The higher the value of your property, the higher will be your property tax bill. That is why owners of properties strive to keep the assessed value of their properties by adopting all possible legal measures.
The California Revenue and Taxation Code and Property Tax Rules spells out a precise procedure to determine this assessed value of your real property based on its size, location, improvements (houses, garages, fences, etc.), and other factors.
Note the underlying arithmetic:
The higher the assessed value of your property, the higher the tax liability on your real property will be.
The County Assessor may increase the assessed value of your property each year in order to adjust for inflation.
In summary, the assessed value of your property will be reappraised by the County Assessor based on any new construction, as well as change in ownership. It will also be adjusted for inflation in addition to any reappraisal.
You need a rate to calculate property tax on the value of your property.
The assessed value of your real property is not sufficient alone to determine your property tax liability. You also need a property tax rate to multiply by this value to determine property tax payable. The rate of property tax is the second primary factors which increases or decreases your property tax in a given year.
Arithmetic is simple:
The higher the rate of property tax rate in your county, the higher your tax liability will be.A lower tax rate is good for saving property owners money and a higher tax rate is good for tax collectors.
The power to taxThis Article is about locally assessed real property. Locally assessed personal property and state-assessed properties are not subject of this Article/eBook.
The local government has power to tax real property. Primarily, the government exercises the power to tax by imposing tax at specified rates and subsequently changing the rate of tax annually or after a suitable period.
The government increases tax by increasing assessed value and rate of property taxBecause the amount of your property tax bill depends on the assessed value of your property, it changes as the assessed value of your property changes. In addition, if rate of tax changes, your property tax also changes. Therefore, in addition to other measures, the government can increase property tax amount on property by changing both the primary factors which determine your property tax.
The government can increase your property tax by:
1. Increasing the assessed value of property; and
2. Increasing the property tax rate.
If the County Assessor of your county uses the market value as the assessed value of your property, your property tax bill will increase or decrease with the changes in the market value of your property. In turn, the market value of your property changes based on the market forces that drive the real estate market. Therefore, the tax on your real property is subject to both market forces and the government. If real estate prices are soaring, property tax bills will also show higher payable amounts. Before 1978, the government was on the receiving side of these benefits because of ever-increasing real estate prices. However, the assessed value was no longer allowed to increase based on market values of property after 1978.
Prior to 1978, there were no prescribed limits on assessing initial assessed value at a base year values, increasing the assessed value from year to year, or increasing the rate of property tax. The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 prescribed these limits and curtailed many of the methods of the government to tax real properties.
Proposition 13 has limited the government’s power to taxIn June 1978, California voters approved Proposition 13 to change property taxation in California. The passage of Proposition 13:
1. Limited the property tax rate applied to assessed values to 1 percent plus additional rates to retire bonded indebtedness;
2. Placed explicit limitations on the power of the government to impose additional property taxes; and
3. Limited increases in assessed values.
Proposition 13 limited the power of the government to assign values to properties by fixing base values for properties at market values of 1975 in general. After its passage in 1978, the assessment procedure of real properties for property tax has dramatically changed. Real property values for property tax purposes are now rolled back to their March 1, 1975, values before any increase in them and before calculating property tax on these values.
In addition to fixing the base values, Proposition 13 further limited the government’s power to tax by placing strict upper limits on annual increases in assessed values. The assessed value of a property cannot increase by more than 2% in any given year. This means both the initial assessment of a property and its yearly increase are now limited.
After Proposition 13, a County Assessor annually assesses all real property in California annually on January 1. Under the Revenue & Taxation Code, two values are compared, and the greater of the two is assigned as the assessed value for the property:
1. Base Year Value as of March 1, 1975 plus adjustment for inflation; and
2. Base Year Value as of the date of recent change in ownership.
Base Year Value as of the date of new construction is also relevant because new construction also triggers reassessment. However, reassessment based on new construction is beyond the scope of this article/eBook.
Thus, Base Year Value of March 1, 1975 plus adjustment will be the assessed value of your property unless there is new construction on your property, or the property is transferred through sale. Therefore, any new construction or transfer is likely to result in a higher assessed values for your property.
A base year value is the full cash value or fair market value of the property. The base year value is adjusted for inflation at a specified rate. Since Proposition 13 placed a limit on the annual increase in assessed value, the base year value cannot be increased by more than 2% in a year, unless the property is transferred or new construction takes place.
The law defines fair market value as the full cash value of real property or its equivalent. It is the amount of cash that the seller of the real property would expect to receive on the open market if neither party were under an exigency to enter into the transaction and both parties were fully informed about any advantages or disadvantage associated with the property.
After the passage of Proposition 13, the value of real property in California, for property tax purposes, does not necessarily increase to keep pace with its current fair market value. However, a change in ownership can result in the assessed value being increased to the current market value, regardless of its previous assessed value.