On Election Day in November of 2020, a tiny margin of votes in California swayed the outcome to pass the California Association of Realtors’ effort to convince California voters that Proposition 19 was a marvelous new property tax break to help older homeowners and families inheriting real estate from parents and grandparents.
Also, there was an extremely clever sentimental component built into the Proposition 19 marketing campaign; that was designed to sway voters with a promise to use a good deal of the projected increase in property tax revenue to beef up budgets for fire-fighters… and the educational system. So who on earth would object to revenue going in those directions? Obviously, no one. When in fact, from what we hear, very little revenue will actually be going in that direction, and instead will reportedly be used to pay for unfunded state government pensions “and/or related needs…”
All those opposing this property tax measure wanted homeowners over 55 and those who are “severely disabled” (and naturally this will affect a certain number of older residents) to continue to keep the same number of times they can transfer their tax assessments.
Proposition 19 marketing language dances around this “severely disabled” issue… avoiding specific guidelines for Californians as to what marks the difference between “normally” or “moderately” disabled, let’s say… and “severely” disabled! And instead, allows homeowners who are over 55, and reportedly “severely disabled”, or whose homes were destroyed by wildfire or some other “natural disaster” – to transfer their primary residence’s property tax base value to a replacement residence of any value, anywhere in the state.
Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, summed it up pretty well when he said, “Proposition 19 is an attempt by Sacramento politicians to raise property taxes by removing two voter-approved taxpayer protections from the State Constitution. This measure would require reassessment to market value of property transferred from parents to children, and from grandparents to grandchildren.”
The small print, and in fact in this case micro-print, continues to give folks inheriting property from parents the ability to avoid property tax reassessment… but only if they use the property as a primary residence, and only if they move in within 12-months after the parent passes away.
As long as this deadline is met, Prop 19 apparently does not violate the Proposition 13 transfer of property, or property tax transfer in general… And for beneficiaries looking to sell their property shares, there are trust fund solutions to help avoid beneficiary conflicts tied into Proposition 58 and Prop 13 tax breaks, for California property owners, or to work around the new Proposition 19 property tax obstacle that forces homeowners to move into inherited property within one year or lose the “Parent to Child Exclusion”.
Californians will still be able to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property, and inheriting property taxes from parents – beneficiaries can keep parents property taxes, there is no other assessment or reappraisal imposed on the Proposition 58 Transfers Between Parent and Child; Grandparent and Grandchild as discussed on the BOE site in the section regarding the Proposition 58 Parent to Child Exclusion or Parent to Child Transfer; or on any other transfer of property between siblings, such as a buyout of co-beneficiary property shares.
“Severely disabled” is pretty vague language however. How can you actually define that, with parameters that California trust beneficiaries, estate heirs, and homeowners can follow? Clearly, you cannot.
Proposition 19 waters down the Proposition 58 Parent to Child Exclusion or Exemption to some degree, although we can still work with it, but it limits property tax breaks, as they say, for “certain transfers of real property between family members”. Proposition 19 limits the exclusion from reassessment for transfers from a parent to a child of $1 million of fair market value. If the property value exceeds $1 million, it will be partially reassessed but not to full market value (i.e., FMV less $1 million). If the child/beneficiary does not use the home as a primary residence, it is reassessed at full market value (FMV). Naturally, Proposition 19 is not retroactive and will not apply to any property until it is transferred (or deemed transferred) after Feb. 15, 2021.
So far, Proposition 19 is mainly impacting the Proposition 58 Parent to Child Exclusion From Property Tax Reassessment; and the limits they reference refer only to the 12-month deadline plus beneficiaries using a property tax transfer when inheriting property taxes only for a primary residence – not for an investment property that can be rented out. They claim to be expanding tax benefits for transfers of family farms as well, although we don’t know precisely what this entails.
Children or grandchildren who inherit their parents’ or grandparents’ primary residence but do not move in as their own primary residence will be re-assessed at current market value. This will affect many families, like established family farms. For example, if a family farm that was purchased for $300,000 (600 acres at $500 per acre) a generation ago with a tax bill of $3,500 – this could be reassessed by the tax assessor to be $6,000,000 (600 acres at $10,000 per acre; price per acre could vary depending on market area) resulting in a tax of approximately $72,000.
How are families supposed to deal with this sort of tax hike? Could the California Legislature be this greedy for extra tax revenue (i.e., that they were doing perfectly well without for decades) as to completely ignore the ability for families to survive under these sort of extreme property tax conditions? In the long run, how does thousands of family farm businesses going bankrupt possibly help California?
This significant property tax increase could affect many family farms that were once profitable in terms of basic survival going forward under these tax conditions. So you understand all this and can make sense of all these details? No? Well get in line because short of attorneys and CPAs, no one else understands all the fine points either!