Property Taxes Before and After World War Two
California no longer depended on property taxes as its’ principal funding source after 1912. And after 1929, during the depression years, there were massive amounts of unpaid property taxes. In fact, some states excluded certain owner-occupied homes from property taxes altogether. Many taxpayers avoided purchasing tax delinquent homes and properties, and governments in some states enforced limits on property tax rates.
These so-called “homestead exemptions” became rather unpopular with the public at large as they tended to be wealthy homeowners, with what was perceived as unfair property tax relief, and apparently reduced revenue to local governments that depended largely on property taxes from homes rather than other forms of real property.
During World War Two, state and local taxes were stabilized, or decreased, as spending programs were cut back due to decreased needs, or unavailability of building materials and other resources. This was reversed in the post-war years, after 1945, as governments expanded social programs and took advantage of rising property value to increase tax collections. Assessment rose, tax rates rose, and the newspapers ran stories of homeowners forced to sell their house mainly because of rising taxes. No one was keeping a low property tax base from parents when inheriting a home.
Once Germany and Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, and World War Two ended… most states replaced the “homestead exemption” with so-called “circuit breakers” which were state financed and clearly benefited blue-collar and middle class homeowners, senior and elderly homeowners, and disabled persons. In many states renters were included by tax measures that actually viewed certain rental payments as property taxes. (By 1991 there were 35 states with some sort of “circuit breaker” exemption in place).
California Tax Revenue
Property taxes have now created a revenue stream for the state of California that funds changing needs of cities and counties, school systems, and what is referred to as “special districts”.
California’s primary source of state funding is now a combination of sales tax, income tax, excise tax, as well as banking and corporate taxes, and “use tax”, which is a sales tax on purchases made outside one’s state of residence for taxable items that will be used, stored or consumed in one’s state of residence and on which no tax was collected in the state of purchase.
California Property Taxes in the 1960s
During the early 1960s in California there were various scandals involving County Tax Assessors. These particular Property Tax Assessors were caught gifting personal friends and political associates with abnormally low property tax assessments, and unnaturally low tax bills. Not at all like keeping a low property tax base upon inheriting property from mom or dad in 2021!
The Tax Assessor scandals brought about Assembly Bill 80 in 1966, which imposed standards to hold assessments to market value. The return to market value in the wake of AB 80 could easily represent a mid-double-digit percentage increase in assessment for many homeowners.
A huge number of homeowners in California were impacted with a significant increase in property valuation and tax rates, only to discover that this tax revenue was to be distributed to communities far away from where they resided.
California Property Taxes in the 1970s
This type of activity, distributing tax revenue to distant communities created a widespread pessimistic attitude among middle class and blue collar homeowners towards the tax system in general, and it’s reportedly biased view towards wealthy, well-connected families.
This viewpoint grew throughout the state until the 1970s, when it morphed into a tidal wave backlash of anger against the existing property tax system. This gave apt. building magnate Howard Jarvis and his Taxpayer’s Association great momentum towards expanding and popularizing property tax relief in all 58 counties in the great state of California.
California’s Famous Tax Revolt That Led to Proposition 13
Within a few years the country was awash with truly emotionalized tax protests, often referred to as “The California Tax Revolt”. Almost every state imposed some sort of limitation on 111 property taxes, coming to a head with the widely promoted Proposition 13 – an amendment to the California constitution, passed by popular vote in California on June 6th, 1978, with nearly 2/3 of Californians voting for Proposition 13, reducing property taxes by 57% – establishing this to be the most effective assault on property taxes in American history.
The Proposition 13 amendment limited property taxes to 1% of full cash value; requiring real property to be valued at its March 1, 1975 value – or on the date it changes hands or is constructed after that date; limiting subsequent value adjustment to 2 % per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This prohibited the sales impact or “transaction taxes” on the sale of real estate; and required a 2/3 majority vote in each house of the legislature to increase state taxes; plus a 2/3 electorate vote to increase or add new local taxes.
Although Proposition 13 was the most well known initiative to limit property taxes, along with transferring property taxes from parent to child on a property tax transfer from a parent. Inheriting property taxes can offer a great upside, when an heir is able to keep parents property taxes. And of course have the ability to work with a trust lender when taking advantage of property tax relief from Proposition 13 and Proposition 19 (formerly Prop 58) and it’s flagship tax break, the parent-to-child exclusion, to avoid property tax reassessment and keeping a low property tax base when inheriting a home, as well as being able to buyout property shares from co-beneficiaries, typically siblings, with a loan to an irrevocable trust.
Proposition 13 and Proposition 19 make it possible to continue keeping a low property tax base when inheriting a home, however they are not the only property tax measures to limit and control property taxes. Some limit tax rates, or property tax maximums. Other tax measures provide specific groups with limited but significant tax breaks; with some property taxes designed to promote various forms of economic development in various urban or rural areas. Interestingly enough, these tax measures included provisions favoring agricultural land, reduced taxation of owner-occupied homes, exemptions that benefit seniors, or veterans, or the disabled, the elderly, or the poor.
Economic incentives built into some of these property tax laws included lower rates on particular businesses, exemptions covering people of a certain age, tax breaks in developmental areas, and more….
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