"When you receive your tax statement, determine if the property belongs to you and if you are responsible for the payment of taxes."
By statute, county assessors must deliver property tax statements to taxpayers by Oct. 25 of each year- just before Halloween. This requirement applies to all property, real or personal, whether owned by homeowners or utilities. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, it is important that taxpayers understand and carefully review their tax statements.
If you don't receive a tax statement for property you own and you're responsible for the payment of taxes, contact the county assessors office to determine if the assessor is unaware of a recent change of address or ownership.
When you receive your tax statement, determine if the property belongs to you and if you are responsible for the payment of taxes. If there has been a recent sale of the property, the assessor may not have noted the change of ownership, Taxpayers have a duty to now the assessor of changes in title and changes in address. Do not assume the new owner, or lessee of the property (in the case of a triple net lease), will pay the property taxes.
Review the real market value and assessed value appearing in the upper left corner of the tax statement. The assessor calculates a real market value for both land and improvements for the current and previous tax years. Below the total real market value is the assessed value for the total account for the current and previous years.
The assessed value may be less than the total real market value, but it may not be more. This is because Measure 50 requires the assessor to calculate two values — the real market value and the maximum assessed value. The lesser of the two values is the assessed value — the value upon which you pay taxes. If the assessed value is less than the real market value, generally, the real market value has no effect upon the property taxes you pay. Next, it is important to compare the assessed value for the current tax year to the assessed maximum assessed value cannot increase more than 3 percent above the property's assessed value from the prior year. There are exceptions, and the taxpayer must investigate to determine if they apply.
A property's maximum assessed value may exceed the 3 percent cap if the new property or improvements were added. Minor construction or general ongoing maintenance and repair does not constitute new property or an improvement.
Further, the improvements must have been made since the last assessment. Improvements made to the property three or four years ago cannot be added to the tax roll under Measure 50 although assessor may add them as omitted property.
Finally, it is the real market value of the new property or new improvements not the cost that is added to the tax rolls under this exception. This is particularly important if the improvement was a major but necessary repair that did not necessarily add value to the property.
Partitioned or subdivided property may be reassessed by the assessor and with some limitations, the reassessment may increase the assessed value by more than 3 percent. Likewise property that has been rezoned may be reassessed and the assessed value increased, but only if the property is used consistently with the rezoning. However, the total assessed value of properties subject to a lot line adjustment should not be affected by the adjustment by more than 3 percent.
The value of property that is added to the tax roll for the first time as omitted property, or property that becomes disqualified from exemption of special assessment, may increase the previous years assessed value by more than 3 percent under Measure 50. Finally, taxpayer that own or lease business personal property should carefully review their tax statements to determine if any penalties have been assessed. Taxable personal property must be listed, and reported to the assessor by March 1 of each year. If the personal property return is not filed timely, the taxpayer may face penalties up to 50 percent of the taxes due.
Under new legislation, upon application to either the assessor or the Board of Property Tax Appeals, under certain circumstances a taxpayer may obtain a waiver of the penalties. Taxpayers who believe their property has been improperly assessed should contact the assessor immediately. The assessor has the discretion to change the tax roll after it's finished, provided the change reduces the value of the property. But only payers who are vigilant and know their rights scan avoid those nasty Halloween surprises.