How to Read Your Property Tax Bill

property taxThanks to Proposition 13, property tax bills are less scary in California than they are in a lot of other states. Homeowners in Illinois and New Jersey, just to cite two examples, have been known to let out a blood-curdling scream when they open the tax collector’s envelope that would be right at home on the soundtrack of a Jamie Lee Curtis movie.

Proposition 13 limits increases in a property’s assessed value to 2 percent per year and provides property owners with a pretty good idea of what their tax bill will be before they open the envelope.

Still, there can be some surprises. Taxpayers should understand the various charges and check the tax bill to make sure they’re not being assessed for more than they’re legally obligated to pay. It’s a good idea to compare each year’s tax bill to the previous year’s bill.

For most California counties, the property tax bill will show three categories of charges. They are the General Tax Levy, Voted Indebtedness and Direct Assessments.

The General Tax Levy is what most people think of when talking about property taxes. It is based on the assessed value of land, improvements and fixtures. This charge usually makes up the largest part of the tax bill and it is the amount that is limited by Proposition 13.

The annual increase in the General Levy of Assessment should be no more than 2 percent, unless there have been improvements to the property, like adding a room to the house. However, if a property received a “reduction in value” reassessment under Proposition 8, the taxable value may go up more than 2 percent to reflect the recovery in the market value. But in no case will the taxable value be more than the initial Prop. 13 base year plus 2 percent annually from the date of purchase.

If homes like yours are selling for less than the valuation on your current bill, contact your county assessor and ask for an adjustment to reflect the actual market value.

The second category of charges is Voted Indebtedness. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Daily News

California Initiative to Erode Proposition 13 Qualifies for 2020 Ballot

Howard-JarvisAdvocates qualified a 2020 ballot measure to erode California’s Proposition 13 protections against unlimited property tax increases by splitting the tax roll to spike business taxes by up to $10.5 billion.

A coalition representing public-employee unions, “social justice” advocates, and public education collected more than the 585,407 legal signatures required to a qualify a state constitutional amendment for the November 3, 2020 ballot titled: “Requires Certain Commercial And Industrial Real ‘Property To Be Taxed Based On Fair-Market Value. Dedicates Portion Of Any Increased Revenue To Education And Local Services.’”

With rampant inflation forcing older homeowners and small businesses out of their properties, a California voter grass-roots coalition rebelled against Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978 to qualify and pass with 62 percent support an amendment to Article XIII A of the state constitution stating the “maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent of the full cash value of such property.”

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association (HTJA) has fought off numerous efforts by progressives and public employee unions to repeal Prop. 13 and its 57 percent annual property tax savings over the last 40 years. With about $49 billion in 2018 tax savings, a Public Policy Institute of California poll in April demonstrated that voters still favoring Prop 13 by a lopsided 57 percent to 23 percent margin. Democrat politicians often refer to Prop 13 as the third rail of California politics: “Touch it and die.”

But the pro-tax coalition cleverly structured its 2020 initiative as a property tax “split roll.”  The initiative promises to maintain Prop 13 protections for homeowners, while spiking annual business property taxes by $6.5 to $10.5 billion. According to an April 2018 poll by PPIC, likely voter support for “split roll” flips to 61 percent, versus 33.0 percent opposition.

But the HJTA told Breitbart that the “bait-and-switch” tactics will fail when voters figure out that the initiative’s sponsors are engaged in a two-step process to fracture opposition and dump all Prop 13 protections in the end. Homeowners may have voting power, but they need apartment owner and small business financial donations to compete against huge union war chests funded by dues.

HJTA added that the PPIC’s mid-September polling found its “Yes on Prop 6” campaign to repeal the $5.5 billion a year gas tax on the November ballot was losing by 52 percent to 39 percent. But after HJTA’s and partner Reform California’s mail and radio messages were launched, the mid-October Survey USA poll and the San Diego Union-Tribune poll both showed “Yes on Prop 6” with a crushing 58 to 29 percent lead among likely voters.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Once again, California Prop. 13 is ‘on the table’

property taxIn the contest to see who will be California’s next governor, political pollsters haven’t given Republican John Cox much of a chance of prevailing over former San Francisco mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. After all, California remains a fairly progressive state and the Newsom campaign has more money. Cox, to his credit, has closed the gap significantly in recent weeks and stays focused on his message highlighting that California’s government is dysfunctional, and what can be done about it.

Newsom and Cox have had only one debate — which was actually billed as a “discussion” rather than a true debate — and no further debates are scheduled, although Cox has agreed to them. Given his advantages in the race, Newsom appears to be steering clear of anything that could trip him up.

However, their one debate was illuminating in one, troubling respect. In a discussion of tax reform connected to housing, Newsom was asked directly whether Proposition 13 was “on the table.” He answered, “everything is on the table.” This is a comment to send cold shivers down the spines of Californians whose homes are their lifelong and most important investment.

To read the entire column, please click here.

To read last week’s complete column, please click here.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

Let’s Educate the Voters About Proposition 13

VotedThis week, progressive interest groups announced they had sufficient signatures to qualify an initiative for the 2020 ballot that is a direct attack on Proposition 13. Specifically, this so-called “split roll” initiative would raise property taxes on the owners of business properties to the tune of $11 billion every year, according to the backers. Because many small business owners rent their property via “triple net” leases, they too would be subject to radical increases in the cost of doing business.

Although there is a statewide election this November, the “split roll” measure will not appear on the ballot until 2020 because the proponents, either intentionally or not, did not submit their signatures in time for the 2018 ballot. They say they anticipate a better voter turnout in two years, which in itself may be wishful thinking. Ben Grieff, a community organizer with the ultra-progressive group Evolve, also said that the later election would be necessary to lay the groundwork for “a long two-year campaign” and that, “we need all of that to educate people.”

Well, educating people about Prop. 13 cuts both ways. And if past campaigns and polling are any indication, the more Californians learn about Prop. 13, the more they like it.

So let’s start today’s lesson with an overview of a class we’ll call “Why Prop. 13 is Good for California.” Here are the benefits of it in a nutshell.

Prop. 13 limits the tax rate on all real estate in California to 1 percent. Increases in the taxable value of property — often referred to as the “assessed value” — are limited to 2 percent per year. This prevents “sticker shock” for property owners when opening their tax bills compared to the previous year’s bill. Property is reassessed to full market value when it is sold. This system of taxing property benefits homeowners, because Prop. 13 makes property taxes predictable and stable so homeowners can budget for taxes and remain in their homes.

Renters benefit because Prop. 13 makes property taxes predictable and stable for owners of residential rental property, and this helps to reduce upward pressure on rents. If one believes that California’s current housing crisis is bad now, imagine how high rents would be if the owners of the property were forced to pass along their higher tax bills to their tenants. In truth, Prop. 13 increases the likelihood that renters, too, will be able to experience the American dream of homeownership.

Business owners, especially small business owners, benefit because Prop. 13 makes property taxes predictable for businesses, and it helps owners budget and invest in growing their businesses. This helps create jobs and improves the economy. California has ranked dead last among all 50 states in business climate by CEO magazine every year for more than a decade. Prop. 13 is one of the only benefits of doing business in California. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Breeze

Proposition 5: The Property Tax Transfer Initiative

property taxProposition 5 will be on the November 6, 2018 statewide ballot and could provide you property tax relief if you are a qualified California homeowner.

If passed, Proposition 5 will extend Proposition 13 property tax benefits.

First, a brief history of property tax propositions:

  • Proposition 13 passed in 1978 making base property tax 1%, with 2% maximum annual increases.
  • Proposition 60 authorized seniors a one-time move of the property tax to another property. In the same county if the new home’s purchase price is equal to or less than the sold dwelling.
  • Proposition 90 allowed counties to accept Proposition 60 property tax basis from a home sold in a different county to be applied to those that accept low property tax transfers. 10 counties have opted into accepting these transfers.

What is being considered today:

  • If passed, Proposition 5 will make it so that those 55 and older will be able to move their Proposition 13 tax benefit to a home of any value, anywhere in California any number of times. Plus, Proposition 5 adds two addition categories of persons: those that lose their home to natural disasters and the permanently disabled homeowners of any age.

If you are thinking of moving call me at 949-616-2988 to discuss your particular circumstance.

Note: this article is not tax or legal advice.

For further details about Proposition 5 and how it may affect you read the information below.

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The California Association of Realtors sponsored the initiative and referred to it as the “People’s Initiative to Protect Proposition 13 Savings.” The California Attorney General describes Proposition 5 as “Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer their Property Tax Base to Replacement Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.”

Starting January 1, 2019 three segments of the population would be enabled to benefit from the passage of Proposition 5, they include: 1) homeowners over 55 with their primary residence in California, 2) homeowners that have had their primary residence substantially damaged or destroyed by a disaster, as declared by the Governor and 3) any homeowners that are a severely and permanently disabled person.

To fully understand the significance of the 2018 Proposition 5 you will need to have a basic understanding of the Howard Jarvis’s lauded Proposition 13, passed in 1978, along with Proposition 60, passed in 1986, and Proposition 90, passed in 1988.

Proposition 13 made it state law that property tax base rates are 1% of the full cash value, usually the purchase price, (minus the $7,000 homeowners’ exemption) and that the property tax may only increase a maximum of 2% per year.  Proposition 13 defined “full cash value” as the county assessor’s valuation of real property as shown on the 1975-76 tax bill under “full cash value” or the appraised value of real property when purchased, newly constructed, or a change in ownership that occurred after the 1975 assessment.

Proposition 60 allows seniors a one-time opportunity to use the Proposition 13 benefit of having their lower property tax basis transferred to a newly purchased replacement dwelling. Seniors are defined as any person over the age of 55 years and includes a married couple one member of which is over the age of 55 years. The current law in place is that the replacement dwelling must be of equal or lesser value than the dwelling to be sold. Proposition 60 only applies to intra-county primary residence replacements and was enhanced with the passage of Proposition 90.

In 1988, Proposition 90 was passed and enhances the Proposition 60 benefits by allowing counties to opt into allowing Proposition 60 transfers of property tax basis from other counties. Only 10 counties in California have chosen to accept this inter-county property tax bases, they include: Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura counties.

Proposition 5 would enhance Propositions 60 and 90 by allowing homeowners 55 years of age or older to transfer their Proposition 13 tax basis to a home of any price (proportionally), located anywhere in the state, any number of times. Let me provide a hypothetical example to explain by what I meant by proportionally. Say you purchased your home 21 years ago for $200,000, with a property tax basis of $2,000 and with compounding your property tax basis is now $3,000 and your home is now worth $900,000 and you want to purchase a home for $1,200,000. You sell the less expensive home and purchase the home that costs $300,000 more, your property tax basis from the original home would move with you for the first $900,000 in value and your property tax basic 1% levy would only increase by the difference in the full cash value. Your new property tax would be the $3,000 moved basis plus an additional $3,000 for the property tax on the increased value. Therefore, your property tax base would be $6,000 instead of $12,000 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1, Buy Up Example

Figure 1, Buy Up Example

If you want to buy a less expensive home, your property taxes will be reduced proportionally equal to the original home. Any replacement property of equal or lesser value purchased or newly constructed by a person eligible to transfer the base year value of his or her original property, the base year value of the replacement property will be calculated by dividing the base year value of the original property by the full cash value of the original property, and multiplying the result by the full cash value of the replacement property. If in the same scenario as above, you sold your $900,000 property and purchased a $450,000 home the new property tax would be half of the new sale price or $1,500 per year (see Figure 2). The buy down is a little harder to follow so let me provide a second example. If your existing home sells for $600,000 and your property tax is $2,000 and you purchase a home for $400,000 your new property tax basis would be 1% of one-third of $400,000 or about $1,333.33 per year (see Figure 3).

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 1

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 1

Figure 3, Buy Down Example 2

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 2

The benefits to those that have suffered from having their primary residence substantially damaged or destroyed by a disaster, as declared by the governor, applies to replacement properties that are comparable to the home that was damaged or destroyed without regard to the age of the owner(s). This is explicitly for a replacement property that is located intra-county. Proposition 5 has language indicating that the state Legislature may authorize each county board of supervisors to adopt, after consultation with affected local agencies within the county, an ordinance allowing the transfer of the base year value of property that is located within another county in the State.

The third category of persons that may benefit from the passage of Proposition 5 include any severely and permanently disabled person, who resides in a property that is eligible for the homeowners’ exemption. The property tax base year transfer is also applied to replacement dwellings that are purchased or newly constructed on or after June 6, 1990. The benefit would be in place regardless of the number of prior transfers, the value of the replacement home or whether the replacement dwelling is located within the same county. There are other details, but this gives you a general overview of the three classes of persons that may choose to benefit from the passage of Proposition 5.

The California Association of Realtors believes that if Proposition 5 is approved by California’s voters it would make moving between counties once again affordable for California’s retirees, help victims of officially recognized natural disasters and provide relief to the severely disabled.  These property tax benefits would result in the freeing up of home inventory and encouraging home ownership. If you are considering moving contact me to discuss your unique real estate needs, (949) 616-2988.

John Paul Ledesma, GRI | Broker Associate | HomeSmart Evergreen Realty| DRE 01810644

www.MissionViejoREDispatch.com

Note: this is not tax or legal advice.

©2018 John Paul Ledesma

After all these years, liberals are still wrong about Proposition 13

Howard-JarvisForty years ago this week, California voters began the modern tax revolt movement that spread across America like wildfire. The idea that citizens could take back control from an overreaching government helped to propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Reagan, who had a close friendship with Howard Jarvis, took his message of limited government to Washington and his message of freedom to the world.

Proposition 13 cut property taxes, put limits on their rise, and toughened the requirements for passing other tax increases. It passed overwhelmingly in June 1978, and ever since, liberals have failed to acknowledge how wrong they were about it — both in terms of politics and policy.

Two months before the vote, California’s then Gov. Jerry Brown (version 1.0), was quoted in the New York Times as saying “I don’t think there is one credible observer who thinks Proposition 13 will endure over the long period.” Forty years later, it’s Brown who is heading into the political sunset while Proposition 13 continues to protect grateful California taxpayers.

So-called “experts” were also wrong in their dire predictions about the harm that would be inflicted on California if Prop. 13 were to pass. One of the TV commercials run by the well-funded opposition campaign featured a doom-saying UCLA economist who predicted that California would be plunged into a deep recession if voters approved the measure. But in the years immediately following passage, California had an extraordinarily booming economy.

Progressives like to perpetuate another falsehood about Prop. 13 in their ceaseless efforts to divide and conquer the taxpayer coalition that supports the law. They seek to target the owners of business properties who, like homeowners, benefit from predictable taxes under Prop. 13. A false argument is advanced that during the 1978 campaign, voters weren’t told that Proposition 13 protections would be extended to business properties as well as homes.

This simply isn’t true.  The opponents of Prop. 13 themselves repeated that fact throughout the campaign and, specifically, in the official ballot pamphlet.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all lies about Proposition 13 is how it “destroyed education” in California. This falsehood is repeated so often and with such vigor that it is accepted as established fact by liberal elites and mainstream media. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, Sacramento mayor and former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg blamed Prop. 13 for “years of cutbacks to arts funding in public schools.” This despite record revenues being pumped into education. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Daily News

In Sacramento, Democrats are run by the unions

Unions2June 6 marks the 40th anniversary of voters’ overwhelming approval of Proposition 13, which has been protecting all California taxpayers ever since.

Some people mistakenly think Prop. 13 protects only homeowners, because it cut the property tax rate statewide to 1 percent and put a stop to uncontrolled increases in assessed value. But it did something else, too. It required voter approval of local tax increases and set the threshold for approval of special taxes at a two-thirds vote.

For 40 years, big-spending politicians have been looking for loopholes.

Take parcel taxes, for example. A parcel tax sounds like a tax on UPS deliveries, but it isn’t. It’s a tax on real estate parcels. Under Prop. 13, politicians can’t raise property taxes that are based on the value of property, but they figured out that they could add a flat tax to property tax bills if it wasn’t based on value.

Under Prop. 13, two-thirds of voters have to be convinced to approve parcel taxes.

Politicians figured out that the two-thirds threshold would be easier to reach if they exempted a lot of people from having to pay the tax. Certainly people who won’t have to pay a tax are more likely to vote for it. And politicians who vote for the exemptions can say they voted for a tax break, even though they were raising taxes at the time.

An example of this was the Legislature’s action in 2008 to exempt people on Social Security Disability from paying education parcel taxes. HJTA opposed this bill because it undermined the two-thirds vote requirement for parcel taxes established under Prop. 13. The more classes of people who are exempted, the more the two-thirds vote will be watered down, and the easier it is to raise taxes.

Taxpayers are hit twice by the exemption trick. Taxes are raised more often, but the exemptions mean the government receives less revenue. So the likelihood of other taxes being raised to make up the difference in the future is that much greater.

But when something is working for the politicians, it tends to stick around.

Politicians love picking winners and losers.  It means power over the lives of others and provides a great source of campaign contributions.

The “progressive” legislators who control California’s government favor government employee union organizations — the most powerful force in Sacramento. Every favor granted to public sector unions is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers and the private sector to government employees and the public sector.

Right now, the Legislature is considering a bill that would exempt teachers and education support staff from paying education parcel taxes. Senate Bill 958, which has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly, was initially a statewide proposal but has been narrowed to target only the Davis Joint Unified School District in Yolo County.

For now. …

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

November initiative would give baby boomers huge property tax break

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14115451Older California residents who buy pricier homes could save thousands of dollars in property taxes under an initiative that has qualified for the statewide November ballot.

The initiative – backed by the California Association of Realtors – would change a key provision of Proposition 13, the state’s 40-year-old property tax law that ties a home’s assessed value to its sales price and caps the property tax rate at 1 percent of that value.

Under the initiative, people over the age of 55 moving within the state could pay property taxes based on the sales price of the home they are leaving.

For example, if a resident sells his or her home for $400,000 in Sacramento and then buys a condo in San Francisco for $1 million, their property tax rate would be discounted thanks to the lower Sacramento home value. In that instance, if the resident’s Sacramento assessed value was $200,000, the formula would result in a San Francisco assessed value of $800,000 on the $1 million condo, 20 percent less than it would be otherwise. …’

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

There is no loophole in Proposition 13

property taxFor decades, California progressives have complained about a “loophole” in Proposition 13 that unfairly benefits the owners of commercial real estate to the detriment of homeowners. This characterization has been widely accepted by the mainstream media with little critical analysis.

There is no loophole in Prop. 13.

There is, however, an ambiguity in the statute implementing the measure that relates to the “change of ownership” rules. That ambiguity can be easily addressed by a statutory amendment without doing violence to Prop. 13. Both the business community and the state’s preeminent taxpayer organization, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, agree that this change is necessary.

Senate Bill 1237, by state Sen. Patricia Bates, would address this technical tax issue involving fictitious entities such as limited liability corporations and complex partnerships in a way that is wholly consistent with Prop. 13.

Specifically, under Prop. 13, when you sell your home, it is reassessed to the full market value for the new purchaser. Of course, the new buyer still enjoys the 1 percent rate cap and the certainty that the taxable value of the property will not increase more than 2 percent per year.  But for properties that have been under the same ownership for decades, the “taxable” value of the property can be just a fraction of the market value. That is why Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann provided in Prop. 13 that upon change of ownership, property would, at least initially, be taxed at market value. After purchase, it receives the same 2 percent limitation on annual increases in taxable value as all other properties.

But some clever tax attorneys have advised clients that they can avoid Prop. 13’s intent to treat commercial transactions the same as homeowners by creating fictitious entities that themselves are transferred in an inappropriate attempt to avoid reassessment. This violates the spirit of Prop. 13 and actually gives the enemies of Prop. 13 a justification for arguing that all of Prop. 13’s protections should be stripped away for commercial property. It also explains why public employee unions continue to oppose bills such as SB1237, because it would deprive them of their best argument in the ongoing fight to remove Prop. 13’s protections for commercial property. Indeed, the enemies of Prop. 13 are already working to qualify this very initiative for the 2020 statewide ballot. …

To read the entire column, please click here.

Enemies of Prop. 13 Delay Attack on Iconic Initiative

property taxA reporter for the Bay Area News Group stopped by the government office in Santa Clara County and concluded that while people standing in line to pay their property taxes were upset with the heavy burden, they had scant knowledge of California’s iconic Proposition 13. What most were probably unaware of is that their taxes would be at least twice as high without Prop. 13.

Many people who live in California today were not here in 1978 when Proposition 13 was passed overwhelmingly by voters. Today’s younger homeowners have little idea how frightened and angry citizens were in the mid-1970s when their property taxes doubled or even tripled from the previous year.  Homeowners were literally being taxed out of their homes.

But despite having no personal memory of the pre-Prop. 13 era, most Californians have at least heard of Proposition 13 and, when prodded, recall it somehow helps to keep escalating property taxes in check.

In June, Proposition 13 will hit its 40th birthday. While long-time homeowners will surely celebrate, those in government with an insatiable appetite for taxpayer dollars are hoping that voters will be ready to weaken it.  But previous attacks on Proposition 13 have come up short. At most, Prop. 13 was weakened by court decisions involving fees and charges as well as attacks on the two-thirds vote requirements.  But those attacks were quickly countered by subsequent ballot initiatives such as Proposition 218 in 1996, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, which reinforced Prop. 13’s original intent.

Knowing that a direct attack on Proposition 13’s protections for homeowners is a fool’s errand, the tax-and-spend interests have focused on raising property taxes on business property. This so-called “split roll” effort has gone on for about 30 years and has never really gained any serious traction. According to these interests, 2018 was going to be the year where they would finally be able to take a big chunk out of Prop. 13 by hitting commercial real estate with several billion dollars in higher taxes.

The optimism displayed by Proposition 13’s detractors has been based in large part on the expected “blue wave” of voters coming out in support of progressive candidates. Liberal Democrats believe, rightly or wrongly, that voter disgust with the Trump administration might at least allow them to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The thinking, at least until recently, has been that November of 2018 would be the right moment to fracture the pro-Proposition 13 alliance because of an energized progressive base, low voter turnout and fading memories of 1978.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box. After beginning a serious effort to collect signatures for their “split roll” initiative, the proponents have taken their foot off the gas and announced that, instead, they will attempt to qualify the measure for the 2020 ballot. The ostensible reason for the delay is that it would give them more time to expand their coalition (of course, the same can be said for Prop. 13 defenders) and that the voter turnout model in 2020 would be better for them – a dubious claim indeed.

Split-roll proponents might be having second thoughts about what they thought was a weakening of support for Prop. 13 or the political strength of their own coalition. Perhaps they’ve seen polling – both private and public – revealing Proposition 13’s continued popularity. Whatever the reason, this November’s election will not present a direct threat to Proposition 13. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register