Understanding New Property Tax Relief Law in California

California Property Tax Transfer Law

California Property Tax Transfer Law

Using Reassessment to Your Advantage

Have you considered that property reassessment can sometimes work in your favor? For example, if property values drop. While we would prefer to see the value of our house increase, at least in a down market as our property value goes down – and so do property taxes. 

We’ll always take the point of view that property taxes should be lower. So if our property value drops, future increases would not be limited to Proposition 13’s popular 2% maximum increase every year. Yet if we transfer the property to someone else and regrettably trigger property reassessment, we can reset the property tax basis and future increases to the lower value.

If we find ourselves in that position with a taxable estate, we can think about transferring our property out of the estate. This will reset the property tax basis to a lower value – potentially reducing estate taxes. It’s certainly worth thinking about. Owning our own home is the classic California dream… The classic American dream. So being able to pass along that investment usually makes a great deal of sense to most of us.

Proposition 19 Replacing Previous Property Tax Benefits

As most Californians know by now, on Nov 3, 2020, CA voters approved Proposition 19 – a constitutional amendment verbosely titled the “Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act.”

The benefits are relatively simple and straight forward… With Prop 19 more or less replacing and continuing the Proposition 58 parent-to-child exclusion from paying current property tax rates; voted into law in 1986. With the right to keep parents property taxes on a property tax transfer, when inheriting property taxes… taking advantage of an inexpensive property tax transfer, in other words a parent-to-child property tax transfer measure called a parent-child exclusion.  Along with Proposition 193, an amendment passed by voters in 1996, allowing grandparent-to-grandchild transfer exclusions from current property tax reassessment.

Proposition 19 also replaced and continues tax breaks from Proposition 60 (passed in 1986) and Proposition 90 (voted into law in 1988) – both property tax measures enabling home transfers by seniors over age 55 – as well as replacing and continuing Proposition 110 (voted into law in 1990), as a tax measure enabling an exclusion from property reassessment for severely disabled residents.

To be clear, Proposition 19 enables residents to an inexpensive property tax transfer – to inherit family properties and keep a low property tax base on their parent’s home that they are able to move into as their primary residence. This new property tax relief also lets homeowners who are over age 55, extremely disabled, or victims of a wildfire or governor confirmed natural disaster to transfer the assessed value of their primary home to a newly purchased or newly constructed replacement primary residence up to three times in a lifetime.

With Proposition 19 taking over property tax breaks from the wildly popular CA Proposition 58, it bears repeating that the parent-child exclusion and inexpensive property tax transfer can be taken advantage of only when an heir inherits a home from a parent that was using that same property as a primary residence, not a vacation home – with an entire year to comfortably move into that parental home, as a primary residence.

New Property Tax Relief Benefits for Californians

However, homeowners also have the ability to file for a “homeowner’s exemption” as long as the home in question has been the principal residence of the owner as of Jan 1 of that tax year. A new owner will automatically receive an exemption claim form in the mail and there is no cost to file. To receive 100% of this $7,000 exemption a new property owner has to file with the local County Tax Assessor by Feb 15 of that year.

As most Californians know by now, we can’t take advantage of the parent-to-child exclusion if our inherited house is going to be used as a vacation home, rented out to tourists, rather than a primary residence. Fortunately, if the home is inherited by numerous children of a parent, only one heir needs to reside there to take advantage of an – the exclusion.

Moreover, a parent can shelter $1,000,000 of increased value from reassessment. Any appreciation above that will be added to the property tax assessed. In other words, if a primary residence is assessed today at $500,000 however is valued at $1,500,000, an heir inheriting the residence as a primary residence will keep the same property tax assessed value of $500,000. Fortunately for families in the agriculture business, this new limitation also impacts family farms.

These new property tax breaks applied to any transfer of California real estate after Feb 15, 2021, as a gift or an inheritance at death. They also apply to an irrevocable trust (such as a Qualified Personal Residence Trust or a trust created for your benefit by a predeceased spouse) that owns California real property and that will pass to children in the future.

Moreover, it’s fortunate mainly for middle class, upper middle class, and working families that a large loan to an irrevocable trust can still also be used by beneficiaries who wish to keep a parental home they’re inheriting at their parents’ low property tax base, when taking advantage of Proposition 19 (formerly the popular Proposition 58 tax break) to buyout co-beneficiaries, also referred to as buying out sibling property shares – looking to sell their inherited share of the same property, a – typically at a much higher sale price than an outside buyer would offer. The 6% realtor commission, attorney fees, closing costs, cosmetic improvements to please buyers, and other ancillary charges – all disappear when a trust loan from a trust lender furnishes the funding for a sibling buyout.

When you have a reliable trust lender at your side to make buying out sibling co-beneficiaries possible – it pays to keep it in the family.

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