Lowering Property Tax Rates for All Homeowners During the Pandemic

Lowering Property Tax Rates

Lowering Property Tax Rates

In California, Governor Gavin Christopher Newsom signed an executive order on May 6th, 2020, to extend the deadline for homeowners who were scheduled to pay their property taxes on April 10th – and to extend business property owners’ deadline of May 7 to complete and file their business property statement. This was supposed to “provide relief for taxpayers suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19”.  Moreover, Governor Newsom referred to his offer to taxpayers as “property tax relief…”

To be clear, we neither support nor oppose the governor of California here at Property Tax Transfer.  But when we hear something this blatantly disingenuous coming from any politician, we simply must question it.  Property tax relief is property tax relief.  Property tax relief is Proposition 13 or Proposition 58… Genuine property tax relief in California is the lessening, or  lowering, or complete elimination of – property taxes.  What Governor Newsom is referring to is not property tax relief… It’s  property tax deferment.  Putting off payment for a few months.  We would appreciate it very much if political leaders in California would not use such an important term as “tax relief” falsely.

Now, it is entirely possible that the Governor actually wanted to forgive payment completely for certain taxpayers. And under the severe conditions imposed on all of us due to the Coronavirus health crisis and resulting job losses, and lower income suffered by millions of workers in the state – the governor could very possibly have been besieged by political colleagues, and talked out of tax relief – into  tax deferment…  However, why not hold out and insist on giving taxpayers a real break through enhanced Proposition 58 and Proposition 13  – or actually forgive most of these property taxes completely for one  year, or at least discount them considerably?  According to state economists, it would not even have amounted to one quarter of the tax cuts the federal government gave to the wealthiest Americans two years ago!

Many economists have asked, why is it that  a few hundred billionaires and multi-millionaires recently received hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax cuts as “tax-welfare” and “corporate-welfare”, so to speak.  Yet, in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, resulting in the worst job loss disaster since the Great Depression – 160 million middle class and working class property owners received nothing even close to the trillion dollar tax cuts afforded to just a handful of mega-wealthy families only a couple of years ago.

Many financial analysts in California have pointed out that the folks in power in this state did not mind shelling out trillions then – yet now on a state level, when middle class taxpayers desperately need an obvious financial boost such as a property tax cut, or property tax break, the best our state government can do is come up with an essentially useless  tax deferment proposal, and no actual tax cut… or tax relief.  These analysts do have a point.

Local government apologists claim that the $140 billion in property taxes that California typically receives every year is urgently needed right now to pay for essential pandemic services – to cover the cost of public health departments in 58 counties; to cover public hospitals; and – to pay for the school system, which is always sort of tacked on, as if they can’t find that money anywhere else. Local California government agencies insist that they stay open only due to funding that is largely based on… property taxes.

State agencies wrote a letter to the Governor, stating, “Delaying such a large infusion of general funds for two to three months would have a serious impact on their ability to provide these services.” They did not even want to go along with the proposal for deferment that the governor suggested! 

Some folks in the press wisely asked – is not keeping millions of Californians (many whom are elderly, and living on a fixed income) from being evicted and completely losing their home not anessential pandemic service”?

Gov. Newson has forced businesses to shut down, and most certainly will again, understandably and with good intentions – sending workers home to try to slow the spread of Covid 19. Admittedly, the pandemic is out of control in California, as it is in many red states. Folks in all these states want their “freedom”… and so it looks like they are therefore free to avoid wearing masks, free to contract Coronavirus, and free to infect others.

The Governor, ignoring this mass appeal for freedom, closed down businesses back in May anyway.  As a result,  many homeowners were not able to pay their property taxes. Companies all across California have closed to comply with Governor Newsom’s shutdown order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 respiratory complications.   Yet if you’re going to close down those companies, hopefully temporarily, and send workers home at half or no pay – wouldn’t it make sense to then give those workers a significant financial break, as in increased property tax breaks… somewhere along the line, somehow? Such as Coronavirus Prop 58 and Proposition 13 property tax relief!

Certainly homeowners and beneficiaries inheriting property from parents can still get a trust loan to buyout co-beneficiaries, and lock down a low property tax base… but reinstating Proposition 58, in terms of the changes Prop 19 has brought about, and adding more teeth to existing property tax breaks that can save Californians significant amounts of cash every month… Would be so relevant during a pandemic, that it’s almost absurd to have to bring it up — when it’s not even in discussion in the Congress or  the Senate.  Not to mention the California Legislature.

So… when the governor calls a two or three month property tax deferment “property tax relief”… it’s no wonder that taxpayers reacted negatively.  Property tax relief refers to lowering the amount to be paid.  Not deferring the payment date!

Governor Newsom told us recently that more than 1.6 million Californians have filed unemployment insurance claims, which the state is struggling to organize and process, to get those checks out. It’s fine to send folks that are out of work unemployment checks – they have paid into that every working week.  But wouldn’t it make even more sense to give them all a property tax break, eliminating Proposition 19 restrictions in light of the Covid outcomes? Preferably forever… But at least as long as the Covid virus rages?

Loans for Irrevocable Trusts

Loans for homes in an irrevocable trust

Loans for homes in an irrevocable trust

According to financial leaders who own firms that provide loans for irrevocable trusts and property tax relief programs, in concert with Proposition 58, Prop 193, and Proposition 13 – typically saving  homeowners over $8,500 in extra taxes every year – the news is that property owners in California should consider accomplishing any property transfers to heirs, that may be planned either as a sale, a gift or an inheritance, or a hybrid – prior to or by Feb. 15, 2021…

Feb. 15th being the final day one can access original Proposition 58 or Prop 193 property tax break benefits – to save money on the initial transfer, plus thousands of dollars on yearly property taxes, as the tax assessor comes around to collect, so to speak.  

To reiterate, as you probably already know, Proposition 58 allows parents in California to transfer property to their children without triggering a property tax reassessment. And as you most likely are aware, you must be the son or daughter of a parent that resides, and owns property, in California – in order to qualify for a “parent to child exclusion” (also referred to as a parent to child exemption) – from reassessment, in terms of the current market value of family owned real property.

Conversely, Proposition 193 allows grandparents to transfer property to their grandchildren, with a “grandparent to grandchild exemption” – without having to worry about current market property tax reassessment.  It’s worth noting that the Proposition 193 exclusion is workable only if the Proposition 58 exemption cannot be used.  In other words, to put it bluntly, parents of the grandchildren in question must be deceased.  That may sound harsh, however it is important to know the facts.

To be safe and secure, experts are telling us right now to be aware of certain changes to the Proposition 58 “parent to child exclusion” tax break – and to remain aware of time as a serious factor. We are told that we should view Feb. 15, 2021 as a formal deadline for completing a family property transfer or intra-family trust for a trust loan – not for paperwork signatures, or a postmark date. With potential county closures mounting up, the completion of this sort of transaction in person could very well continue to be a challenge, and backlogs affecting paperwork sent through the mail could be an issue at some point.  

As of February 16, 2021, family property transfers must be used as a primary residence, to avoid property tax reassessment at current market value; maintaining the invaluable right to avoid property tax reassessment.  Fortunately, Californians will still be able to take advantage of a property tax break as long as they are using inherited property as a primary residence, within a year of the passing of the decedent who is leaving the property to his or her children; typically as an inheritance.    

However, we do need to be aware that it is the next generation of property owners, in the future, that may incur higher property taxes due to new tax laws, or shall we say a revised version of the same   property tax break protected by CA Proposition 58.  The point being, with new changes to property tax law in California, with the right to avoid property tax reassessment being challenged and even partially unraveled, it has  become more important than ever to consult or work with Prop 58 and property tax relief experts that are knowledgeable in all trust loan, Proposition 58 and Proposition 13 matters… who maintain a grasp of property tax law changes, and how those shifts impact beneficiaries and property owners in the state of California.    

Home ownership for middle class Americans has mushroomed and developed at a breakneck pace, as the gold centerpiece that represents The American Dream…. Yet it is property tax breaks, and property tax relief for the middle class in the state of California – that has kept that dream alive.

Parent to Child Transfer

Parent to child real estate transfer

Parent to child real estate transfer

It’s time we ask ourselves – exactly what kind of affect will CA Proposition 19 most likely have on California?

There is a lot more to this than meets the eye. As of June 6, 1978 California has been the one state in America with direct access to a low tax base model, becoming accustomed to the classic Prop 13 property tax cap… working in tandem with the 1986 Proposition 58 protected property tax transfer & parent to child exclusion, making it possible thanks to Proposition 58 for homeowners & commercial property owners  to avoid property tax reassessment at current market  rates.   Basically forever, as long as they retained the property they inherited. 

Proposition 19 has now cut deeply into critical Proposition 58 property tax benefits, closing the door on the parent to child exclusion (i.e., parent to child exemption), if a property owner is not able, for whatever reason, to move into their inherited home within a year after the passing of the parent that has left the house and/or land to his or her heirs. 

Proposition 58, and of course Prop 13 tax relief, as well as trust loans to buyout co-beneficiaries while locking in a low tax base, has been a life saver for so many estate heirs and trust beneficiaries in California. Life everywhere is hard these days for middle class residents, and California is an especially expensive state to live in.  Moreover, inheriting a home from a parent is a major asset, and being able to save thousands of dollars on property taxes during the initial property transfer, and yearly, certainly adds value to the good fortune provided by these property tax breaks. 

A quote from the Los Angeles Times summed it up succinctly on Oct. 19, 2020:

…a qualifying homeowner who owns a home with a taxable value of $200,000 that is worth $600,000 on the market would pay roughly $2,200 in property taxes now. If the homeowner moves to a $700,000 house, the homeowner would pay $3,300 a year in property taxes under Proposition 19. Without the initiative, the same homeowner would pay $7,700 annually…”

Of course they forgot to mention that this property tax “initiative” must be implemented strictly within a year after the decedent passes away.  Or the door to the tax break slams shut. 

Yet, adding absurdity yet again to redundancy, the Los Angeles  Times once again repeats the one, almost comical, example of “families taking advantage” of this sort of property tax relief, using your right to a parent to child transfer exemption…  indicating repeatedly that there are numerous examples of inherited homes and Prop 13 as well as Prop 58 tax breaks being used by all these rich folks as money making outrages , renting our inherited properties on the beach for $16,000+ per month, and never using it as a primary residence. 

Yet it truly is comical that after 40 years we still have not heard  about one other specific family in California engaged in this sort of money-making practice, but “Jeff Bridges and his siblings”.  Now, we’re certainly open to hearing about other families involved in property tax transfer activities like this, inheriting property taxes from parents at a super low base rate every year, just to be a beachfront landlord raking it in every year from other rich people who are addicted to sun and surf. Yet no other family name ever surfaces. 

And again and again we hear about this one family, the  Bridges, taking advantage of Proposition 13 by renting out luxury homes to wealthy residents… once again in the LA Times in Oct. of 2020, 

“The provision has since been dubbed “the Lebowski loophole” after The Times found that “The Big Lebowski” actor Jeff Bridges and his siblings had advertised a beachfront home in Malibu inherited from their parents for nearly $16,000 a month in rent despite an annual property tax bill that’s a fraction of that amount.”

So is the LA Times telling us that they simply cannot come up with one other family that inherits a luxury property like this and then makes a killing every year renting it out?

These property tax benefits are indeed genuine, and actionable for mostly middle class families.  Not rich movie stars like Jeff Bridges.  The parent to child transfer exemption has always been there for middle class home owners and beneficiaries… since 1986, and actually since 1978 with the advent of Howard Jarvis’  Proposition 13.

The ability to avoid property tax reassessment, to exercise your right to a parent to child transfer exemption, even for a modest secondary property from parents, really can be a life saver for middle class residents who are not rich, and need every break they can lay their hands on.  This conspiracy theory that gives Californians the impression that these tax breaks are mainly for wealthy property owners is completely  false.  If anything, you could call it a middle class tax break, period… and you’d be 100% truthful. 

Now all of a sudden that tax break is gone unless you move into your inherited property within one year of having inherited it.  Is this simply to upset the Bridges family?  And if you don’t move into your inherited home as a primary residence within one year you will lose your property tax transfer benefits… you will lose your parent to child transfer exemption.  You won’t be able to transfer parents property taxes, there will be no inheriting property taxes fro parents.  If you miss that 12-month deadline your ability to keep parents property taxes will evaporate completely.  And if you don’t think this is real, guess again. 

Critics of property tax relief in California, proponents of Proposition 19, repeatedly tell us, “Fine! What’s the big deal anyway? You can move into inherited property within a year and then enjoy your right to avoid property tax reassessment forever!  So what’s the problem:”  Well… the problem is that perhaps some beneficiaries  can’t make that move so easily within year one. Perhaps this is not the most realistic tax revision ever voted into law.

Over 650,000 new homeowners, beneficiaries, took advantage of a Proposition 58/Prop 13 tax break over the past ten years;  that gave them the right to maintain their parents’ low property tax base upon inheriting a home from a parent.  How many heirs or beneficiaries inheriting a home this way over the next ten years will lose inherited property because they will not be able to move into their inherited home smoothly, without problems, as a primary residence within 12 months?

No one knows exactly.  However, we can safely say – a lot!  More revenue for the Legislature.  More homes on the market for realtors.  More cash to pay off unfunded state government pensions.  That, we know.

There are a myriad of reasons why Proposition 19 will turn out to be inconvenient and awkward at best – to be, at worst, an unnecessary tax measure that will effectively fray the fabric of the estate and property inheritance system in California. For example:

     Ones’ job may be an extra 60, 90, whatever, hours away on the freeway getting to work from this new inherited home from mom or dad – and then back again after work.

•     Perhaps a spouse also may have significant travel issues, to and from work, regarding distance to and from a new home.

•     School for children can easily be an issue, if an inherited home is in a new school zone.  All familiarity, neighborhood friends,  teacher relationships, social relationships – all gone, if they’re near where you lived previously. This can cause all sorts of issues for children.

•     A beneficiary could be disabled; and prior to moving abruptly within a year, may need to start fixing up an inherited home to accommodate disabilities – generally costing a good deal of money to implement physical changes of this kind, ramps, safety measures in various rooms, etc.

     Many beneficiaries are senior, which would make such an abrupt move very difficult at best – and for many, downright impossible.

     There is also the matter of selling your inherited house, most likely for a good deal less than it’s probably worth due to Covid issues affecting many California properties; over the next decade.

     Lastly, and ironically, all this hub-bub regarding additional presumed mountains of revenue from new Proposition 19 driven property taxes will, if Jon Coupal and the Taxpayers Association are correct, serve mainly to pay for unfunded state government pensions.  Perhaps a small fraction for the schools system… But that’s about it.

So, as we originally indicated – there is a lot more to this issue than meets the eye.

PART TWO: Property Tax Relief Fights for Its’ Life in California…

A couple of things worth mentioning, as we’re on the subject of replacing political noise with fact-based information…

The Coronavirus driven mortgage  foreclosure and credit card default catastrophes are coming, given the tens of millions of people that are unemployed nationally… with millions unemployed in California alone.  Let’s not forget that. And the CA Legislature wants to raise property taxes in the middle of a pandemic?

Making matters even scarier for people, there is talk about  eliminating the payroll tax,  unraveling Medicare, and Social Security so those programs are defunded by 2023.  Not a particularly good idea in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic, where we saw 84,000 people infected in one day last week.  Does California really need a tax hike on property, in a time like this?

We’d have to say no. We don’t need a Proposition 19 to unravel crucial elements making up the foundation of property tax relief in California… And we don’t need a Proposition 15 to take away much needed tax breaks for already struggling landlords and commercial property owners in the state of California. Frankly, we also do not need politicians politicizing the Coronavirus crisis, and we don’t need PR and disinformation from the federal government. 

What we do need, however, are some ways to help home owners, and renters, spend less while unemployment rages – and afterward as well. We need a permanent property tax relief system in place in the United States, just like they have in California, to genuinely help Americans spend less and save more. Making sure, for example, that we have the ability to transfer parents property taxes, when inheriting property taxes, so we can avoid property tax reassessment. Without present value tax assessment taking a large bite out of our savings every year. 

And of course on top of parent to child transfer protections, we need, just like Californians have – the legal right to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property taxes; with the ability to keep parents property taxes, in other words property tax transfer that maintains everyone’s property taxes at a predictable low base level, say 2% no more, with iron clad parent to child transfer of low property tax rates when we inherit property from our parents or parent – or, as attorneys call it, “parent to child exemption”.  Exclusion from present day property tax evaluation… avoiding property tax reassessment.  As they do in California.

Also, with the ability to buyout siblings’ property shares with a trust loan, through Proposition 58, always insuring we keep our parents low property tax rate; avoiding property tax reassessment. Also, being able to buyout sibling’s share of an inherited house – as realtors call it, “transfer of property between siblings” or “sibling to sibling property transfer”.  

Californians take these property tax relief measures for granted! Buying my brother’s share of our house or the transfer of property between siblings; Buying out siblings’ share of a house; Buying out property shares through cash to a trust loan from a trust lender, such as Commercial Loan Corp, for example. Imagine that. Meanwhile,.

Most Americans don’t even know what these terms even mean, or what Proposition 13 or Proposition 58, or trust loans, even signify. Just do some initial research on sites like https://cloanc.com/category/prop-58 to learn up on trust loans with Proposition 58 or Prop 193 – keeping a low tax base upon beneficiary buyout of sibling property shares, or as realtors call it, “the transfer of property between siblings”, and “lending money to an irrevocable trust“ – typically from an irrevocable trust loan lender.

Just take a careful, thoughtful  look at CA State Board of Equalization, at https://www.boe.ca.gov/ or do some easy research on info blogs like https://propertytaxnews.org simply to get the basics down, so you know what you’re talking about when you talk to snooty staffers answering calls at your representative’s office in Washington DC.

>> Click Here to go to Part Three…