Property Tax Assessment Appeals

As per the California State Board of Equalization, “The property taxes you pay are based on your property’s assessed value, as determined by your County Assessor. If you disagree with the Assessor’s value, you can usually appeal that value to your local Assessment Appeals Board or County Board of Equalization.

Assessment Appeals Board:

Local appeals boards are independent agencies, separate from the Assessor’s office, established to decide disputes between County Assessors and property owners. You are not required to have an attorney or an agent represent you. However, as the applicant, you must personally attend the hearing or be represented by someone who should be thoroughly familiar with the facts of your appeal and the appeal process, including the Local Rules of the Board. If a representative appears on your behalf, you will be required to provide written authorization before the hearing.

With proper evidence, an Appeals Board can lower, raise, or confirm a property’s assessed value, remove a penalty assessment imposed by the Assessor, or reverse a change in ownership or new construction reassessment. However, an Appeals Board cannot reduce your property’s assessed value simply because you are paying more taxes than your neighbor, remove penalties and interest for late payment of property taxes, reduce your taxes due to your inability to pay, fix the tax rate, levy taxes, or change tax rates, grant or deny exemptions, extend filing periods, change the decision of another appeals board, or rehear an issue already ruled upon.

Decline in Value Appeals:

If you believe the market value of your property has decreased and is no longer as high as its assessed value, you can file a “decline in value” appeal for the current year.

The regular assessment filing period for all property in your county is July 2 through September 15, unless the County Assessor elects to mail assessment notices earlier. The regular assessment filing period for your county is July 2 through November 30, if the County Assessor does not elect to mail assessment notices to all owners of real property by August 1.

Your appeal must be based on the market value of your property as of January 1 of the year in which you are filing. For example, if you file your appeal in 2015, for the July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016 tax year, your appeal must be based on the market value of your property as of January 1, 2015.

If your appeal is successful, the new assessed value will be used to determine your property taxes for the tax year appealed. The new assessed value of your property, however, does not automatically become the value for the following year. The Assessor is required to review your property’s value annually once a decline in value has been determined. The County Assessor will compare your property’s market value with its base year value plus adjustments for inflation. The Assessor is required to assess your property at the lower of those two values.

Base Year Value Appeals:

TThe base year is defined under California property tax law known as the voter-approved Proposition 13. The base year is determined under different scenarios. The original Base Year Value for all properties was established under Proposition 13. Thereafter, the base year may remain the same with or without certain events or changes occurring, and then may be subject to change under different scenarios. Such as, the Assessor must determine a new “base year value” of the property when it is transferred by purchase or set when it was newly constructed after 1976. The base year value is the new taxable value resulting from this change in ownership or the completion of new construction. However, if new construction occurs on only a portion of your property (for example, you add a bedroom), the newly constructed portion is assigned its own base year value. This value represents the Assessor’s estimate of the market value added by the newly constructed portion of your property. The remainder of your property, which did not undergo new construction, retains its existing base year value that was in place. All Base Year Values are subject to an appeal if desired by the property owner.

Calamity Reassessment Appeals:

When a property is damaged or destroyed at no fault of the property owner because of a natural disaster or other “calamity”. In this instance, an Assessor’s appraiser determines the market value of the home before and after the damage.  The percentage of the loss is then applied to the assessed value of the house and a refund is issued.  However, the land value will remain unchanged. If you received a notice and disagree with the new proposed value, you must file your appeal within six months of the mailing of the notice, or the postmark date of the notice, whichever is later.

Escape Assessment Appeals:

Escape assessments are assessments for events that happened in prior years but were not discovered timely by the Assessor. An example would be new construction which was not detected by the Assessor until a later date, who then applies a new assessment. An escape assessment will cause a roll change to a prior year, and or earlier. In other words, an assessment made outside the “regular” assessment period to correct for the property that was undervalued or not valued at all during the regular assessment period. If you want to appeal the value of the correction assessed by the Assessor, you must file your appeal no later than 60 days after the date of mailing printed on the assessment notice, or the postmark date of the notice or tax bill, whichever is later.

Burden of Proof:

The only evidence that an appeals board can consider is the evidence that you and the Assessor present at your assessment appeal hearing. The board may not consider any information attached to your application or any discussions with the Assessor’s office or others unless you also present such evidence at your appeal hearing.

There are usually three basic methods, or approaches, used by an appraiser to find the value of the property, including the Assessor: comparable sales of similar property approach; replacement cost less depreciation approach; and income approach, when applicable. In most residential appeals, the most reliable type of evidence to support your opinion of “fair market value” is the sale of properties similar to yours. These are called “comparable properties.” However, merely presenting a list of sold properties as comparable evidence, without detailed knowledge and an analysis of the pertinent comparison facts as your comparable evidence, and expecting the Assessment Appeals Board to rule in your favor is a poor plan for a successful appeal. You, the Appellant, also, need to know that there is a legal age restriction to be adhered to on comparable evidence.

The Assessor always bears the burden of proof if the applicant is an owner-occupied single-family dwelling and thus the Assessor will usually be well prepared. For all other property, the burden of proof is with the property owner, and again the Assessor will usually be well prepared.

You may request a written summary of the facts and evidence used by the appeals board in reaching its decision on your appeal. These “findings of facts” are necessary if the board’s decision is not in your favor and you intend to appeal beyond an Assessment Appeal Board’s decision in a legal manner up to a superior body, including the Superior Court.

Basic Terminology:

  • Base Year Value – The full cash value (market value) of property on the date it changed ownership, or the full cash value of newly constructed property on the date construction was completed.
  • Change in Ownership – Transfer of a present interest in real property, including the beneficial use thereof, the value of which is substantially equal to the value of the fee interest.
  • Escape Assessment – An assessment made for an event, such as a change in ownership or new construction, that occurred in a prior year but was not discovered timely by the Assessor.
  • Lien Date – 12:01 a.m. on January 1 which taxes are collected. Also, the time when taxes for any fiscal year become a lien on property.
  • Market Value – The taxable value of your property. At the time of the purchase, it is usually your sales price. However, if your property was obtained as the result of a foreclosure, REO, auction, probate, etc., it may not be the taxable market value enrolled by the Assessor.
  • Penalty Assessment – Assessment imposed for failure to file an annual property statement for business/personal property or failure to file a change of ownership statement reflecting a change in ownership of real property or mobile home. This assessment is in addition to your normal property tax assessment.
  • Supplemental Assessment – Assessment for events such as changes in ownership and completed new construction, which occurs on or after the January 1 lien date. These types of events cause an Adjusted Base Value. The event has its own tax bill and becomes a lien on real property as of the date of the re-assessable event.

Please see our other related articles

Property Tax Assessments
Holding Title to Property
Incorrect Deeds
The Escrow Process

Disclaimer: Every situation is different and particular facts may vary thereby changing or altering a possible course of action or conclusion. The information contained herein is intended to be general in nature as laws vary between federal, state, counties, and municipalities and therefore may not apply to any given matter. This information is not intended to be legal advice or relied upon as a legal opinion, course of action, accounting, tax or other professional service. You should consult the proper legal or professional advisor knowledgeable in the area that pertains to your particular situation.

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