What Are the Crucial CA Proposition 19 Property Tax Benefits?

CA Property Tax Benefits, 2022 Onward

Despite confusing, often deceptive messaging, designed at all  costs to get Proposition 19 voted into law in The Golden State of  California – it’s clear to most Californians that Proposition 19 property tax breaks really will increase property tax relief measures for homeowners over age 55, plus add exclusions from  property taxes for homeowners who are victims of wild-fires and other natural disasters – plus homeowners who are seriously disabled. 

Despite a little juggling with the facts, the slick promotion to get this tax measure voted into law, with attractive promises of improved tax exemptions… it did in fact appear to be a legitimate, believable package of property tax relief benefits for residents of the state of California — as long as you ignored the fine print.

What used to be Proposition 60 (voted into law in 1986, the same year Proposition 58 was passed), helped homeowners over 55 to sell their house and move into another home valuated at the same amount or less – in the same county – maintaining a low property tax base… This has been rolled into Proposition 19, and can be taken at face value… as long as the  California State Board of Equalization (BOE) continues to function as a non-political, fact-based source of CA property tax info – which, according to experts and state economists, it does appear to be doing. 

Experts Weight in on Proposition 19

Gaye Chun, the City National Bank wealth planner confirms, telling us: “The idea was to make it easier for seniors to move without worrying about a huge jump in their property tax bill that might be difficult for them to pay.”

Bruce M. Macdonald, an attorney with Carico Macdonald Kil & Benz LLP in El Segundo, CA agrees, stating, “If someone over 55 sold a house for $5 million, but they were paying taxes on a lower assessed value based on their original purchase price, they could buy a new house for $2 million and still pay taxes at their original, lower tax assessment.” No doubt, a truly significant improvement to a tax hike reflecting current or “fair market” property reassessment.

Tax Assessments and Property Tax Breaks in California

Property taxes are typically based on assessed value rather than current fair market value.  In most states, tax assessments are conducted every one to five years and are not changed when a property is sold or transferred as a gift or inheritance.

In California, to everyone’s relief, property tax relief measures have been voted into law to limit tax assessed value of property, as well as capping property tax rates, plus enabling beneficiaries inheriting property from parents to avoid high property tax reassessment – establishing a low property tax base right away, when inheriting a home from parents.

Much has been said about property tax relief on the critical side, by realtors and high net worth business people that benefit from tax increases… However, if you talk to working families, middle class Californians, and even upper middle class homeowners – you will hear nothing but praise for property tax relief laws such as Proposition 13, passed in 1978; and Proposition 58, passed in 1986 – enabling middle class families to avoid CA property reassessment… making tax breaks available to homeowners and beneficiaries such as property tax transfer; with the ability to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property while keeping a low property tax base; with the right to keep parents property taxes basically forever… inheriting property taxes without issue from Dad or Mom whenever they pass. 

Giving beneficiaries the ability to avoid CA property reassessment through parent to child transfer and a parent-to-child exclusion is a major asset to middle class residents in California; as well as being able to  take advantage of Proposition 19, in conjunction with a loan to an irrevocable trust to buyout siblings’ share of inherited property – keeping a close eye on mistakes to avoid when transferring a property tax base.  Now, the ability to avoid CA property reassessment and other property tax relief  benefits are under serious threat.  

All of  this was planned, launched and protected by Howard Jarvis and his famous  Taxpayers Association, as well as others who joined in the effort beginning in the mid 1970s, when property tax increases were basically out of control… often forcing elderly widows and others living on a fixed income, literally onto the street with their furniture piled up around them on the sidewalk!

Not the way anyone with a conscience would want elderly Californians to end up, in the Autumn of their life – simply to benefit a few real estate firms who will make more money from increased sales (with more homes for sale due to increased inability to pay rising taxes), with the CA Legislature piling up tax revenue higher and higher as property tax revenue increases. Perhaps helpful to a few in the short term… but with dire consequences in the long term for the entire state.

Experts Weigh In on CA Property Tax Relief

“In 1978, California voters approved Prop. 13, a constitutional amendment known as ‘The People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation’ that was meant to protect older residents who were unable to keep up with large property tax increases”, Gaye Chun tells us; and adds, “Several propositions since then have tinkered with property taxes.”

Homeowners who plan to transfer their residence to their children now or as part of their inheritance should seek professional advice, so they understand the impact of the new property tax rules”, asserts Bruce Macdonald, the well known attorney in El Segundo.

Current changes in property tax rules could be significant for some families, because it’s not that unusual in California to have a house that was assessed at $150,000 when the parents bought it, to be worth $5 million 40 years later,” Mr. Macdonald, Esq. explains; adding, “When the kids could inherit their parents’ house at the assessed value of $150,000, the property taxes would be approximately $1,500. Now, if the house is assessed at $5 million, that would incur a significantly higher tax bill!”

Experts in California tell us that this points to all the more reason for repealing Proposition 19… as well as adding more concrete protections to keep Proposition 13 safe from anti-property-tax-relief realtors and the politicians that are firmly in their pocket.

What Has Made Proposition 13 So Popular, from 1978 to Now?

Proposition 13 Saves Californian Property Owners Thousands

Proposition 13 Saves Californian Property Owners Thousands when compared to property tax systems in other states.

CA Proposition 13: Consistency and Necessity

In the 1970s property tax hikes were completely out of control. Especially for working families and middle class folks who were dependent on a fixed income… retired veterans and other government and municipal workers like retired postal workers; homeowners receiving Social Security, and retirees living on a modest pension; etc.

During the past twelve months the average home price in California accelerated by over 19%, the California Association of Realtors reports – seemingly unaware that this very statistic belies what they believe is a good thing (the unraveling of Proposition 13 and property tax relief generally in California), in actual fact it’s a good thing for realtors… not the middle class and working families across the state! In fact it shows that Proposition 13 is as necessary as ever.

Stabilizing CA Property Taxes Throughout All 58 Counties  

Kris Vosburgh, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association exec director tells us: “It [Prop 13] resulted in the stabilization of neighborhoods and allows people to stay in the neighborhood where they bought homes and not be forced out by increasing tax. The basic benefit to both new and old home buyers is that you know what your taxes are going to be from year to year.  One doesn’t have to shudder in fear.”

And shuddering in fear was exactly what middle class families did when tax time tolled around every year.  You never knew what your tax hike was going to look like. There was no stability in property taxation… No consistency you could rely on.

Before Prop 13: An Epidemic of Elderly & Retiree Foreclosure

In Los Angeles County in 1975 and 1976, over 400,000 senior  homeowners, many who were elderly, in their 80s or 90s, could not pay off their property taxes, simply because they couldn’t afford the accelerated tax rates and were either at risk of being forced onto the street – or literally were put out onto the street with clothes, furniture and all! Many who were elderly folks and nowhere else to go. Not a pretty picture.

Elderly couples and other older individual homeowners living on a modest fixed income were impacted most of all by these arbitrary property tax hikes. Many were living free and clear but were in grave danger of losing their home, despite the lack of debt, mainly because they simply could not afford excessive property taxes.

And as millions of older middle class Californians were being pushed out of their homes, onto the street, the heroic Howard Jarvis assembled over 1,500,000 signatures to qualify a statewide tax measure that would finally end excessive property taxes – and protect home ownership for working families and middle class homeowners – namely, Proposition 13.

California Property Tax Relief: Facts and Case Studies

One story tells the tale aptly, with respect to the urgent, pressing  need California had for fair and equitable property tax relief… It  concerned a 56 year old criminal defense attorney by the name of Cameron Quinn, a Lido Isle resident, who lives there with his wife and 18-year-old daughter.

Beneficiaries of Proposition 13, Cameron’s parents bought his house in 1966 for $45,000. After they died, the house passed to Cameron and the benefits of Proposition 13 were his to take advantage of.  Last year their property taxes were $966 for a home assessed at $95,403. “Where else could we go where it would be less?” Mr. Quinn tells us, “The fact that the taxes are low is a salvation!” 

And of course this eventually included a property tax amendment called Proposition 58.  So with robust property tax transfers in California intact, and both official property tax relief measures working – to avoid property tax reassessment – beneficiaries and homeowners could take full advantage of parent to child property tax transfer opportunities to keep parents property taxes with unfettered ability to transfer parents property taxes; officially known as a basic parent-to-child exclusion from reassessment – all to avoid property tax reassessment on one’s primary residence.

Mr. Quinn calls Proposition 13 “a financial security blanket and a far cry from the Costa Mesa condominium where we first lived, with not much more than a television, a bed and an old piano.”

This home is more than just a product of property tax relief for Me. And Mrs. Quinn. This is where they went after their first date, where his mom, a piano-teacher, and friends serenaded the couple. And just as it passed from Mom to them, this home will be passed again from Dad to daughter. “We wouldn’t move,” said Mr. Quinn’s 57 year old wife Neeta Quinn, “This is where we’re going to live forever.”

Understanding New Prop 19 Rules & Calculating Taxable Value

California Proposition 19 Property Tax Transfer

California Proposition 19 Property Tax Transfer

Parent-to- Child and Grandparent-to-Grandchild Transfers

Prop 58 & Prop 193 allowed parents, and in certain qualified cases grandparents, to transfer their existing property assessments of a “principal” or “primary” residence of any value  without  triggering property reassessment, which is generally required upon a change in ownership – even when real property was used as a rental property by [offspring] beneficiaries.

Prop 58 & Prop 193 enabled assessments of inherited residential or commercial property up to $1,000,000 – covering additional real estate being gifted to, or inherited by, an heir.

Now, under CA Proposition 19 (as of Feb 16, 2022), parents and grandparents can leave their home, with Proposition 13 base year value intact, to their children or grandchildren – as long as inherited property was the primary residence of the parents or grandparents – as well as the primary residence of  the beneficiaries moving into the home that is now being inherited…

Moreover, a beneficiary has plenty of time to move into an inherited home as a primary residence (12 months), plus a good deal of time to file a Homeowners’ Exemption (one year) to qualify for a parent-child or  exclusion.

A Prop 19 exclusion from reassessment of a primary residence of  a parent or grandparent, keeping a low property tax base when inheriting a home, plus all updated requirements, qualify beneficiaries for these types of base-year-value transfers; avoiding property tax reassessment and enabling these new homeowners with the right to transfer property between siblings through a loan to an irrevocable trust; plus all the usual property tax relief bells & whistles that go along with property tax transfer. 

Naturally, this includes the right to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes by inheriting property taxes generally through a parent-child transfer and parent-to-child exclusion (from paying currently reassessed property taxes).


Selling An Old Home – Distributing Cash Equally Among Heirs

A trust loan from a trust lender, to create equal cash distribution for co-beneficiaries looking to sell off their inherited property, can help those beneficiaries  become sole primary owners of an inherited residence.  Moreover, a primary residence homeowner in California over age 55 can transfer a low property tax base to a “replacement residence” (that is also a primary abode).

In order to qualify for a CA Prop 19 exclusion from reassessment (of your property taxes) – at the same time keeping your parents’ low property tax base – distribution of your trust funds to all beneficiaries have to be equal… especially when it comes to beneficiaries that are selling their inherited property shares to a co-beneficiary inheriting the same property. Each sibling must get the same amount whether it is cash, equity or other assets – to qualify for a Prop 19 exclusion from reassessment.

Many times the trust or estate will not have enough cash or other assets to make an equal distribution.  In these situations the trust or estate can borrow the money from a third party (not the person taking the property) and use the loan proceeds to pay off the other siblings’ share.

A Commercial Loan Corp calculator will demonstrate “how long it will take for the property tax savings to cover the costs of a loan from a third party. One needs to be fairly certain they will live in the home longer than the time it takes to break-even on third party loan costs or have a plan to transfer the low tax base to another property after the sale of the parents’ home.”

Are Benefits from CA Proposition 19 Mainly for “Elites” in 2022 as the Press Tells Us – or for the Middle Class?

Property Tax Transfer in California

Property Tax Transfer in California

California is the only state in America that provides genuine  property tax relief, as opposed to deceptive tax deferment, to residential and commercial property owners and middle class families – specifically in the form of Proposition 13, and now Proposition 19 – for instance a Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion – along with capping yearly property taxes at 2%… when transferring a parent’s low property taxes to an inherited home,  moving into their old family home as a primary residence, with a comfortable 12-months to settle in.  

The problem is, critics of property tax relief in general continue claiming that these tax breaks are mainly helpful to homeowners that are well off… as they out it, “elite homeowners”. With no statistics to back up this often repeated claim.   We hear quotes such as, “Instead of helping the middle class, property tax relief in California allows a wealthier class of citizens to take greater advantage of their predecessors investments.”  This simply is not accurate.

First, as we all know, wealthy folks make up a small percentage of the general public – and the same simple equation applies to homeowners. In microcosm, the majority of families that take advantage of property tax relief in California, that avoid property tax reassessment, are in fact middle class or upper middle class… Not millionaires as the LA Times or San Fran Chronicle would have you believe.

The same 2% to 3% of ‘haves’ versus the 97% to 98% ‘have-nots’ equation – reflecting stark wealth disparity among homeowners all across California holds true when it comes to using property tax breaks to avoid property tax reassessment – to save money… that middle class and upper middle class residential and commercial property owners do not have to throw around on unnecessary tax hikes!

Can you picture genuinely wealthy families that own multi-million dollar homes (that the press continues to inform us are the only property owners gaining genuine benefit from Proposition 13 and Proposition 19) – taking the time to go through property tax break processes, simply to save a few thousand dollars every year? Families with 7 and 8 or 9 figure incomes? 

We can cast serious doubt on that one.  Yet newspapers like the LA Times and San Fran Chronicle still continue to pitch this in Op-Eds as a realistic scenario. 

Yes, there are wealthy investors out there who did take advantage of Proposition 13 tax breaks, for investment properties that would rent out to tourists.. However, this is a fraction of the general home-owning public, and the bulk of folks using these tax break are middle income and even upper middle income residents. They’re not famous, wealthy celebrities like, for instance, the Bridges family…

The Bridges family.  The one and only tale of a rich and famous family “taking advantage” of property tax relief to rent out fancy homes on the beach to upscale vacationers.  Repeated over and over and over again as a cautionary tale, in the press, curiously without any similar stories bring referenced about any other wealthy family in California. It is curious that not one other family  has ever been named or blamed for this type of inheritance / tax break activity, over 3 decades.

To the sheer joy of County Tax Assessors – Californians without proper counsel from a trust lender or a property tax consultant, or estate attorney,  stumble into anticipated property tax mistakes. Generally caused by not filing deadlines properly, or not comprehending complicated legal subtleties; or by not claiming an exclusion or exemption from property reassessment which is staring them right in face.

Without advice from a property tax consultants, or life-saving legal counsel from an extremely experienced trust administration / property tax relief attorney like Partner Rachelle Lee-Warner, Esq. — at the Cunningham Legal law firm. Or a reliable lender specializing in loans to trusts and estates,  like Commercial Loan Corp for example, led by inspirational president Kerry Smith, in Newport Beach… Helping heirs inheriting property with a Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion to establish a low property tax base when inheriting a home – also frequently buying out inherited property shares from siblings (co-beneficaries); or helping with the transfer of property between siblings, with a loan to an irrevocable trust… working in conjunction with Prop 19. 

Experts like this specialize in helping beneficiaries and homeowners save on property taxes, avoiding property tax reassessment  with  Proposition 13 and/or Proposition 19; mainly focusing on Property tax transfer, the right to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes basically in perpetuity, when inheriting property taxes through a parent-child transfer, typically the  popular Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion.

It’s worthwhile contacting a trusted expert, rather than accidentally triggering property reassessment that may increase your property taxes five-fold or ten-fold. A significant tax hike to say the least!

Let’s use the North Bay area in northern California as an isolated microcosmic example of how it is chiefly middle class and upper middle class property owners that have responded to property tax relief measure Proposition 19, for example…

The North Bay Business Journal informs us:  

California’s Proposition 19 has prompted a seven-fold increase in requests to county assessors to transfer property throughout the North Bay.  Barbara Green, the  Change-of-Ownership Supervisor  in the Sonoma County Tax Assessor’s office, tells us,   “It’s crazy! We’re just catching up….”

….[Thanks to Proposition 19] middle class homeowners in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties flooded County Tax Assessors with a load of filings. Sonoma County has taken in 917 filings through Feb. 5. The usual rate is 193 for the three-month period when compared to the previous year.  Although a smaller jurisdiction, Napa County’s government offices are in the same boat. Residents put in 175 of the forms to pass down their properties within the family. Marin County has received 600 more property transfer applications than its usual 54 parent-to-child transfers of property….

Proposition 19 allows homeowners over age 55 to keep a better tax rate when they sell one house and buy another. It took effect on April 1 and applies to anywhere in the state. It’s about as far reaching as the housing tax revolt of Proposition 13 that passed 1978.  There is a fever pitch of reaction within North Bay counties… for filing the parent-to-child property transfer.

North Bay banking, accounting & law firms have all been experiencing a huge increase of calls over the past few months from prospects and clients. And we’re not talking about millionaires calling in or strolling into those offices.

Identifying & Accessing CA Property Tax Breaks

California Proposition 19

California Proposition 19

Californians more or less take for granted the fact that the tax breaks provided by property tax measure Proposition 13, passed by a veritable landslide by voters in 1978 – locks in a home’s “base-year value” to reflect what it was when the real estate changed ownership most recently. As we all know, this caps yearly property tax increases at a 2% tax rate – up until the time the property changes ownership again.  All property tax relief measures in California exist to allow property owners of all kind to continue avoiding property reassessment.

As most of also know by now, the portion of property that is transferred, upon changing ownership, is reappraised to current market value. Obviously, if that real property has appreciated in value since the new transfer – the outcome could be a serious increase in the new owner’s property tax bill!

On the other hand, California does allow for exceptional property tax exclusions to the rules and regulations that now govern a change in ownership for married or unmarried couples, families and property co-owners that wish to avoid property tax hikes. Naturally, there are requirements. California’s property tax exemptions are written into the California State Constitution (Article-13), unlike many other states, which utilize exclusions  from property reassessment that are controlled by state tax laws  or local rules and regulations. 

California initiatives managed by County Tax Assessors, that are based on personal, individual data, as opposed to state statutes, would be, for example:

A primary residence: of which the initial $7,000 of the full value of a home is excluded, or exempt, from property tax.

Combat Veterans: can qualify for a substantial exemption. This can be claimed by someone serving presently in the military who is no longer serving, but has been honorably discharged. The same applies, under similar requirements, to an unmarried surviving spouse or the parent of a veteran that is deceased. Although, whomever is submitting the claim cannot own real estate or personal property that exceeds more than $5,000 if the claimant is single, or $10,000 for a couple that is submitting.

Disabled veterans: can receive a larger exemption. Exactly what that number is depends on income, age, and specifics regarding the disability. BOE website explains as follows – https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/dv_exemption.htm#Description

Senior Homeowners: over the age of 55 who purchase a new primary residence in any of the 58 counties in California, and sell that residence, can transfer the base-year value to the new primary residence – if the value of that property is equal to, or lesser than, the value of the previous home… Or if it is newly constructed inside of 2-years from the sale of the original home. As the BOE discusses on their site

Family transfers: are usually described in real estate or tax literature as children leaving property to parents, and parents to their children, but we all know 99% of the time it is a parent leaving a home or business property to their children/heirs.

Proposition 19: which was Proposition 58, still allows your surviving parent to leave you their primary residence – thereby  avoiding  property reassessment as long as you’re moving in as your primary residence, with an entire year to settle in.  Upon inheriting property taxes under these requirements, property tax transfer will typically result in the ability to transfer parents property taxes successfully – to keep parents property taxes for as long as the residence is resided in by the inheritor.

Avoiding property reassessment, similar to a Parent to Child Property Tax Transfer, is also possible if you inherit a home from your grandparents – however,  only should both your parents be deceased.  If the difference between the inherited property’s assessed value and current market value is over $1,000,000 upon inheritance and property-transfer, the newly assessed value will be its final current market value, minus $1,000,000.

Disaster relief: In some counties, if your home has been substantially damaged or destroyed by a disaster, you qualify for a reduced assessment.

Establishing a Low Property Tax Base in California

Property Taxes in California

Property Taxes in California

Establishing a Low Property Tax Base ~ Who to Turn to in 2022

It’s always interesting, with respect to estate funding and inheritance financing, how different schools of thought come up with different solutions for saving money on property taxes, for out-of-the-box funding solutions against inheritance assets, and for mortgage capitalization. 

Name brand name lenders, setting the tone  for most lenders in California, such as Quicken Loans, e-Loan,  Wells Fargo and Bank of America – are admittedly all high-end, reliable finance-information and lending sources.  Yet – when it comes to important income tax or property tax matters, or inheritance funding solutions – their editors and writers, talented as they may be, still only nibble around the edges on anything but the most conventional, largely ineffective solutions. 

For example, where tax relief is concerned these firms typically dance around the critical issues associated with property tax exemptions, establishing a low property tax base, or avoiding property tax reassessment – when inheriting a home in any of the  58 counties in California. So who do we turn to for help?

Many property owners embrace basics, and enlist assistance from established property tax experts such as Rachelle Lee-Warner, Esq. — well known Partner, Managing Attorney & Trust Administration / property tax relief expert at Cunningham Legal. Or a reliable trust lender like Commercial Loan Corp, led by inspirational CEO, Kerry Smith in Newport Beach – specializing in irrevocable trust loans, avoiding property tax reassessment and establishing a low  property tax base – for middle class California families… guiding them through while showing them all the new advantages that Proposition 19 offers.  Perhaps not as generous as Proposition 58 might have offered… however, lowering property taxes to a greater degree than you might think.

Avoiding Poor Solutions and Time-Wasters 

With regards to lowering property taxes — these are typical solutions from “expert websites” that homeowners might not want to take very seriously, or avoid completely…

  • Limiting your “home improvement” projects;
  • Researching nearby neighborhoods for pricing and home values;
  • Asking uninformed young attorneys or relatives (to save money) if you qualify for tax exemptions;
  • Walking around your neighborhood with your Tax Assessor;
  • Checking your tax bill for inaccuracies;
  • Getting a second, third and fourth opinion from unproven  Assessors and property tax consultants;
  • Meeting with your local Tax Assessor to convince him/her to revise your tax bill;
  • Researching and filing a property tax appeal challenge with your County Tax Assessor without a professional property tax appeal firm – on your own, simply to save money.

Checking for inaccuracies, or getting a second opinion isn’t a bad suggestion.  But walking through your house with your local Tax Assessor?  Researching prices around your neighborhood? With all due respect to the financial websites that hand out this kind of advice, these suggestions would be laughable – if they weren’t so serious.  Limiting your home improvement projects – to lower your property taxes? 

Effective Solutions with a Tax Professional or a Trust Lender

We will never be free from property taxes while we own our own home, but one does need to be on the there are a few simple “tricks” you can use to lower your property tax bill, as certain websites claim. 

We can investigate comparable homes in our neighborhood for “discrepancies”. Never making any changes to our property exterior right before a tax assessment, as this can increase the value of our property; hence increase our property tax bill.

Or, we can stroll around our house and chat with our Tax Assessor during our yearly assessment. That makes a lot of sense. Lastly, we can look for local and state exemptions, and, “if all else fails, write up and file a tax appeal to lower our property tax bill”  so suggests a well known financial site.  Listen, if we’re going to file a property tax appeal with a County Tax Assessor, we’d be a lot better off doing it through a professional property tax appeal firm.

If we want to address this issue seriously, and not simple throw silly and unrealistic suggestions out there simply to see what sticks – we have to look at realistic opportunities to take advantage of. 

For example, if we’re an heir of an estate, or a trust beneficiary inheriting a house from our Mom or Dad – and the house is in an irrevocable trust – a loan to an irrevocable trust from a trust lender is likely required if the trust does not contain sufficient cash to make an equal distribution to all of the co- beneficiaries looking to sell off their inherited property shares. This is frequently taken advantage of by beneficiaries, perhaps like yourself, who intend to keep a home inherited from a parent at the original low property tax base.

A loan to an irrevocable trust makes it possible to buyout inherited property shares from co-beneficiaries and greatly speeds up the trust distribution process. A trust loan also saves a great deal of money when you compare selling the family home through a realtor or broker receiving a 6% commission, plus legal fees, and other closing costs.

Inheriting Parents’ Home While Keeping Their Low Property Tax Base

Bottom line, avoiding property tax reassessment  and establishing a low property tax base by transferring property taxes, are property tax relief benefits available to all property owners in California, protected by Proposition 19 & Proposition 13. This should always be taken full advantage of.  You can transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property and inheriting property taxes – and keep parents property taxes basically forever, establishing a low property tax base with Prop 19 benefits as well as taking advantage of a trust loan buyout of property inherited by siblings. Why not?  It’s your right.  Plus, there is no better time than the present to become better acquainted with the parent to child property tax transfer.

This type of property tax transfer is at the foundation of property tax relief for all Californians, generally through a parent to child property tax transfer on an inherited home – usually referred to as a Prop 19 parent-child transfer or parent-to-child exclusion… all the way to a transfer of property between siblings through a loan to an irrevocable trust, in conjunction with Proposition 19 – with an entire year to settle in to an inherited principle residence, or multiple residence (although only one heir is actually required to lock this tax relief benefit in). As long as the parent leaving that property to heirs resided there as a principle residence as well – which is usually the case anyway.      

Using a Trust Loan to Establish a Low Property Tax Base

Buying out sibling property shares while keeping your inherited home at a low Proposition 13 tax base is a popular avenue for many families.  Not only that, if your siblings are receiving funds from an irrevocable trust to sell their inherited property shares, they would receive far less money getting cash from an outside buyer, as opposed to funds from an irrevocable trust. The costs associated with preparing a home for sale, expensive realtor fees, and potential closing costs associated with selling an inherited home can be incredibly expensive.

When a trust loan is used to facilitate a trust distribution, each beneficiary receives an average of an additional $15,000.00 in distribution when compared to selling the home. The person keeping the family home also benefits – saving $6,200+ per year in property tax savings – simply by avoiding property tax reassessment on a nice old inherited home from Mom and/or Dad.

Voters passed CA Proposition 19, just squeaking by with a handful of votes from confused voters in Nov of 2020, and the tax measure became active on April 1, 2021. If you want to intake good advice and avoid mistakes, have property tax experts carefully walk you through Proposition 19, and Proposition 13.

Most middle class and upper middle class California homeowners probably have heard about Proposition 19, the new property tax law that allows seniors and disabled homeowners to keep their current property tax rate when they sell their home and buy a new one. But they may not know how to apply this new law when moving to a new home.

It’s the state’s largest expansion of property tax benefits in decades, basically allowing qualified homeowners to take their Proposition 13 tax base with them anywhere in the state, no matter the price of their new home.

Helping California Middle Class Homeowners Avoid Property Tax Reassessment

Under Prop. 13, tax hikes are capped at 2% a year, meaning the longer you own your home, the lower your property taxes relative to the market value of your home. But some homeowners lose their Proposition 13 tax break when they sell their old home and see their new tax jump to the full market value of their new one.

If you are 55 years or older, a person with a severe disability or a victim of wildfires or natural disasters, you can move to any home in the state, regardless of the home’s price. Your tax is unchanged up to the value of your old home. If your new home costs more than your old one, you pay an additional amount based on the market value over your old home’s price.

When you’re used to a low property tax bill, it can be a shock to your monthly expenses when buying a replacement home includes a huge property tax increase – especially if you have lived in your current home for many years.

Some older middle class homeowners feel trapped because they can’t leave their current home, even if it no longer fits their needs, because they are on a fixed income like Social Security, or a modest pension or military retirement, and can’t afford to move. Taking advantage of Proposition 19 may appear challenging.  But as time passes, more and more tax assessors are providing online links to forms and resources to help homeowners understand how to benefit from these new property tax rules and regulations.

 

Does a Change in Ownership Affect CA Property Taxes?

California Change in Property Ownership

California Change in Property Ownership

Californians who make it their business to know – now understand that triggering property tax reassessment to “a new Base Year Value” as a result of new construction to a home, or a complete change in ownership – which makes it virtually impossible to establish  a low property tax base; and results in a yearly tax rate that increases abruptly to  current or “fair market” rates.

Translation in everyday language – you pay much higher property taxes every year. For example, the different between $600 per year and $9,000 per year. Significantly higher property taxes.

Every County Tax Assessor in California, in all fifty-eight counties, records and reviews every single property deed in every county, to figure out which homes and various other real properties require reappraisal, and which do not. The Tax Assessors also determine ownership changes with other investigative tools such as such as kept records from homeowner self-reporting, or from records of building permits; from newspaper files; or field inspections.

When a County Tax Assessor has determined that a property has changed ownership, Proposition 13 stipulates that the County Tax Assessor must reassess that property to its current (i.e., fair market) tax rate, as per the date of change of ownership.

Because property taxes in California are based on a property’s assessed value – at the time of acquisition – the property taxes will be increased if the current market rate is higher than the original assessed Prop 13 base year value adjustment. Therefore – if the current market tax rate is lesser than the previous adjusted base year value assessment, then taxes on that property will go down. Which is what everyone wants.

It is important to note, however, that a portion of ownership of that property may be reappraised. Let’s say that 50% of a home is transferred under Proposition 13, and the changes that the Tax Assessor is going to reassess is 50% of the home at the current market rate, as per the transfer date, so 50% will be deducted from the base year value, under Proposition 13 property tax relief… 

Typically, when someone buys a home, the home goes through a “change in ownership” and 100% of the home is reassessed at full current market value.   Even if the outcome of transferring real estate is a change in ownership, there are a number of exclusions from paying current tax rates – and so certain homes or other real estate will often not be be reappraised under these sorts of home transfers.

If a property owner files the proper claim, an exclusion from paying updated current property taxes will kick in as long the owner’s property, or portions of this property, are correctly excluded from reassessment.

The best way to cover changes in ownership that are excluded from automatic reassessment, or reassessment by claim; is to enlist the help of a tax attorney, a property tax consultant, or a trust lender who specializes in establishing a low property tax base for heirs upon inheriting a home from a parent.

Frequently, this will assist beneficiaries in buying out inherited property shares from co-beneficiaries through a loan to an irrevocable trust, which realtors and property tax specialists call a transfer of property between siblings or a sibling-to-sibling property transfer – working in conjunction with a California Proposition 19  parent to child property tax transfer on an inherited home – a parent-to-child exclusion (from property tax reassessment at full, current market rates), to establish a low property tax base.  

Naturally, this line of property tax relief, based on a parent’s property  also includes the ability to transfer property taxes when inheriting property taxes from a parent. Under these tax breaks, a property tax transfer like this can help heirs keep parents’ property taxes basically forever, based on a parent-child transfer; or a parent to child exclusion from reassessment – to legally avoid property tax reassessment.

You can always consult your Tax Assessor, however it is generally in the Tax Assessor’s best interest to charge you the maximum amount possible. A property tax consultant or trust lender, on the other hand, is motivated to save you money on taxes, not see you spend more.

Affect of Disaster Relief on CA Property Taxes

Revenue and Taxation rules and regulations in the state of California now stipulates that homeowners and business property owners can claim a property tax exemption if property is destroyed or significantly damaged by a natural disaster such as a winter storm, drought, earthquake, windstorm, flooding or forest fire –  verified by the CA Governor. You may be eligible if you’re the owner of property impacted by any of these natural disasters.

The CA County Assessors Office in your county will appraise your property to determine how severe the damage is if, when it’s re-built in a similar fashion, the affected property has kept its’ previous value in terms of property assessment.  As of 2021,  under Proposition 19, every county in California has an ordinance for disaster relief, making a property tax exemption possible.  As we all know, it used to be only a few counties that allowed this type of exemption or exclusion.

Revised property tax relief is now accessible to owners of real estate, farms, business equipment and fixtures, orchards and  farms or other agricultural entities, as well as aircraft, boat, and certain manufactured home owners. Tax relief is not available to property owners of state licensed manufactured homes, or household furnishings.

The CA State Board of Equalization now tells us, “To qualify for property tax relief, you must file a claim with the county assessor within the time specified in your county ordinance, or 12 months from the date of damage or destruction, whichever is later. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify the property for this relief. The property will be reassessed according to its damaged state and property taxes will be adjusted accordingly.”

After an application is processed by the county assessor’s office, a “Notice of Proposed New Assessment” will be sent to your address. A supplemental refund will be made based on the amount of reduction. The refund will be prorated from the month  in which the disaster occurred to the end of the fiscal year or completion of new construction, whichever is first. You do not have to file a separate claim for a refund, but you do have to pay your standard tax bill.

The form and its title differ from county to county; therefore, you must contact your county assessor for an application for reassessment for property damaged or destroyed by a specific disaster. Some forms can be downloaded off the county’s website.

You can locate find your County Tax Assessor’s contact info through this list of County Assessors: https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/countycontacts.htm

PART TWO: The History of Property Taxes in California

The History of Property Taxes in California

The History of Property Taxes in California

Socio-Economic Developments Leading Up to Proposition 13

California residents voted Proposition 13 into law (otherwise named “The People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation”) as a property tax limitation measure, after years of arbitrary tax hikes, which were viewed by state economists as an unprecedented statewide mass response to limit property taxes that had expanded to degrees that were seen by the citizens of California as unreasonable and spiraling upwards out of control since the 1960s – which was reportedly creating a statewide revenue surplus of five billion dollars.

Many elements brought about Proposition 13. Aging and elderly Californians living on a modest fixed income were experiencing compounding difficulties paying their property taxes… and frequently older homeowners, veterans, retirees and other aging middle class and even upper middle class Californians living on a fixed income were being displaced by foreclosure and sudden eviction, literally with their belongings and furniture on the street!  This certainly brought about greater public interest in property tax relief for homeowners  over 55.  There were also issues arising from population growth in California, and severe inflation during the 1970s, which created a growing demand for homes suitable for starting a family.

Residential properties were reassessed at such high rates that property taxes escalated to such a degree that many retirees could no longer sustain these inflated rates and hold onto the homes they had bought decades before. Naturally, Proposition 13 attracted their votes and protecting older homeowners from property tax hikes, so older Californians would no longer be priced out of their home from egregiously high property taxes, was the image that framed the branding for Proposition 13 in the run up to the Nov 1978 ballot when voters actually had the opportunity to vote property tax relief from Prop 13 into law as an Amendment to the CA Constitution.

Proposition 13: Property Tax Relief Replaces Arbitrary Tax Hikes

Proposition 13 was listed on the ballot through the California ballot initiative process. The Proposition 13 amendment to the CA Constitution, impacting all 58 counties, formally passed on June 6, 1978, with 2/3 of the vote in favor and with the participation of around 2/3 of all registered voters in the state – becoming Article 13-A of the California Constitution.

As Proposition 13 took affect in 1978—1979, California properties were reassessed at current or “fair market” value only when there was a change in ownership or there was completion of brand new construction, referred to as “base year value”.

In addition, Proposition 13 limited annual increases in the base year value of real property to no more than 2% except when property changes ownership or is under construction. Proposition 13 successfully changed a market value-based property tax system to an acquisition value-based system.

Feb 2021: Proposition 13 Morphs into Proposition 19

As the history of present day property tax relief further unfolds, new tax assessment exclusions for inherited property could, in some cases, have a less than positive affect on wealthy homeowners and beneficiaries.

Paul DeLauro, property tax relief specialist and manager of wealth planning at City National Bank, informs us, “Proposition 19 changes several tax rules, but the biggest impact will be on high-net-worth families [impacting heirs inheriting family owned high-end real estate]. Proposition 60, which passed in 1986, allowing property tax relief for homeowners over 55 who wanted to sell their home and move to another house of equal or lesser value in the same county to take their tax assessment with them. The idea was to make it easier for seniors to move without worrying about a huge jump in their property tax bill that might be difficult for them to pay.”

The 1986 Proposition 58 parent to child property tax transfer on an inherited home morphed into Proposition 19, which was, as you probably know, voted into law in Nov of 2020 and adopted other property tax relief benefits such as property tax relief for homeowners over 55, for residents with severe disabilities, and who are victims of natural disasters such as forest fires, floods or earthquakes.

Another property tax relief expert, attorney Bruce M. Macdonald with law firm Carico Macdonald Kil & Benz LLP in El Segundo CA tells us, “If someone over 55 sold a house for $5 million, but they were paying taxes on a lower assessed value based on their original purchase price, they could buy a new house for $2 million and still pay taxes at their original, lower tax assessment”.

Prop 19 Enhanced Certain Benefits While Limiting Others

So while Proposition 19 admittedly limited certain benefits for Californians with respect to avoiding property tax reassessment, especially beneficiaries inheriting a home from a parent, such as property tax transfer, the right to transfer parents property taxes, and the ability to keep parents property taxes after inheriting property taxes from parents with a parent to child property tax transfer; as well as the important and highly popular parent-child exclusion from paying fair market (i.e., current) property tax rates.

However, on the other hand, Prop 19 allowed transfer of property between siblings through a loan to an irrevocable trust, without limitations; and actually expanded property tax relief for homeowners over 55, for residents with severe disabilities, and for victims of natural disasters, as we mentioned a moment ago.

Mr. DeLauro went on to add, “Prop. 19 is highly attractive for eligible homeowners who want to sell their existing primary residence and move to another residence in the state without incurring a higher property tax bill“.

Mr. Macdonald also added, “These new rules allow people to move to any county in the state and not just within their own county. The new house can even be more expensive than the one they sell, and homeowners over 55 can transfer their tax assessments three times in a lifetime.”

Legal Challenges to Proposition 13

After Proposition 13 passed, its constitutionality was challenged. The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 13 in Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization on September 22, 1978. Moreover, in 1992 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Nordlinger v. Hahn, that Proposition 13 did not violate the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. This ruling more or less effectively ended speculation about whether the judicial system could overturn or revise Proposition 13.

State Board of Equalization and the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate

The Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate, appointed by the BOE (State Board of Equalization) is responsible for identifying areas of recurring conflict between taxpayers and property tax assessment officials; as well as determining how effective the BOE’s County Tax Assessors are providing materials to property taxpayers as well as dealing with inquiries, complaints, and challenging issues requiring fast resolution.

Lisa Thompson is currently the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate. Lisa and the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office staff are independent of the agency’s program staff. The Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office helps taxpayers who are unable to resolve a problem through normal channels. Miss Thompson tells us:
 
We can help if you have a question regarding your rights or if you have a disagreement with the programs administered by the State Board of Equalization, or county agencies involved in California’s property tax system. Some taxpayers contact us to communicate their frustration with aspects of the property taxation system or seeking confirmation that they have been treated lawfully and fairly by a county or state office.

In cases where the law, policy, or procedure does not allow any change to the staff action, but a change appears justified, the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office is alerted to a potential area that may need clarification or modification. Several past recommendations for policy, procedural, and legislative changes have resulted from these types of contacts with taxpayers.

Our office facilitates communication between taxpayers, the State Board of Equalization, and county staff to eliminate potential misunderstandings. Taxpayers are provided information on policies and procedures so they can be better prepared to discuss their issues with the appropriate staff and increase the opportunity to affect a resolution which will satisfy them.

The BOE holds public hearings to address the report and related property tax issues. In addition, the Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights provides measures designed to promote the fair administration of the property tax.

 

Helpful Contact Info for a Property Tax Transfer on an Inherited Home

Property Tax Transfer in California

Property Tax Transfer in California

Commercial Loan Corp – (877) 756-4454 – cloanc.com

As most property owning Californians are aware in 2021, both time-honored and new cost-cutting property tax breaks are accessible to home owners over age 55, who have a severe disability, or who are verified victims of a natural disaster or forest-fire – as far as new property tax breaks are concerned.

Moreover, when inherited property is in an irrevocable trust and additional cash is required to make fair and equal distribution to all beneficiaries determined to sell their inherited property shares – a trust lender like Commercial Loan Corp is where such beneficiaries go for irrevocable trust funding, along with getting help from the firm to work in conjunction with Proposition 19; to insure inheriting a low property tax base, to avoid property tax reassessment both in the short and long run.

This process also allows beneficiaries looking to keep an inherited home to buyout inherited property from siblings at much higher rates than any outside buyer would offer, given that there is no realtor involved, with their 6% fee; and no pricey legal bills and ancillary costs associated with an outside property sale. It costs beneficiaries less in every respect with a Proposition 19 trust loan from Commercial Loan Corp, then it does if they were to use their own cash to complete the property transfer process, to insure inheriting a low property tax base.

Senior Account Manager – trust loan and property tax relief specialist – Tanis Alonso recently shared her viewpoint on this process with us recently. She explained as follows:

Let’s say a property value is currently one million dollars and the current tax base is $1,200. If they were to get reassessed at current value that would be around $11,000 annually. By someone keeping the property and obtaining a trust loan to properly buy out their siblings that allows the beneficiary that is keeping the property to keep parents property taxes, to retain 100% of the Proposition 13 tax base that was paid by their parents and keep that low property tax base of $1,200.

This of course creates much greater affordability than if they were to improperly buy out their siblings and have that property reassessed. The loan to trust goes hand in hand with the Proposition 58 property tax transfer system, creating enough liquidity to equalize distributions, not sell, and allow a beneficiary to keep their parents property with their low property tax base.”

Commercial Loan Corporation loans to trusts give our clients several invaluable benefits. Their terms can be a lot more flexible than an institutional lender like Wells Fargo or Bank of America. Also, Commercial Loan Corp is self funded, and that’s basically why they can extend easier terms to clients. Compliance for both commercial and residential property owners is far less strict. Commercial Loan Corp doesn’t charge any fees up-front, that’s another great benefit. Plus, they don’t require paying interest on their trust loan in advance.

The speed of their trust loans is much faster, typically five to seven days instead of two or three weeks. And if you sold a property outright, without using a trust loan, you have closing costs, legal fees; a commission; etc. It gets very expensive. Going with a firm like Commercial Loan Corp – all costs are offset, unless you plan to keep a property for 2 or 3 years or less. Then it doesn’t make sense. But generally you’re looking at keeping that property for seven or more years, as a rule.”

Cunningham Legal – (949) 386-1340 – www.cunninghamlegal.com

Rachelle Lee-Warner Partner & Managing Attorney for Estate Law and Trust Administration at Cunningham Legal, although a well known Trust and Estate Attorney, also functions to a some degree as a property tax consultant. No matter how many people she helps, Miss Warner never loses sight of the fact that no two cases—or people — are alike; and sums up her role as follows:

I want to be known as an attorney who treats each client like they are my only client. Each situation is unique and each client deserves to be heard and offered the assistance we can provide. I often meet with clients who are in the midst of stressful and emotional situations. Whether it be the declining health or loss of a loved one, my goal is to be a voice of reason, a calm presence, and an encourager through the process. Helping these clients gives me purpose in my career.”

“One of my clients was in hospice care and had an A/B trust with property in the B Trust carrying significant gain since her husband had passed away,” offers Rachelle as an example. “If left intact, her daughters would pay hundreds of thousands in capital gains taxes. I was able to get an ex parte petition filed and granted within two days to eliminate the capital gains taxes for her daughters. My client died a few days later, and her daughters were so grateful we sprung into action to save them money and give their mother peace in her last few days.”

After two pivotal events in my life — becoming a mother and losing a parent — my perspective shifted events helped shape me to understand more clearly the perspective of my clients and my clients’ needs.”