Property Tax Relief 2021 Forward

California Property Taxes

California Property Taxes

It would be worthwhile, for once, to provide interested property owners with a breakdown of little-known details on the property  tax relief system in California. The California Legislature has implemented numerous property tax relief measures that many residents know very little or nothing at all about, such as a CA parent-child transfer for example. Furthermore, some of these programs are complicated, with voluminous forms to fill out — which is why consulting with a tax attorney, a property tax specialist or trust lender is crucial, when inheriting a home in CA or moving from one home to another. 

However – despite mixed feelings from property owners, that is what the County Assessor’s office is for,  besides happily taking your cash – to assist with difficult, complex issues. Unless you have deep pockets and can get all of your tax questions answered by a pricey tax attorney… which most middle class residents are not in a position to do. 

For example, claims have to be filed with the County Assessor for any new construction, to ensure this will be excluded from property tax reassessment – if it concerns modification of any existing structures, for instance to make sure a certain structure is more easily accessed by anyone who is physically disabled or impaired in any way.

Disaster Relief Protections & Exclusions

Properties that have been substantially damaged or destroyed by a so-called “natural disaster” such as wildfire, a massive flood or an earthquake can be reassessed to determine if the damage has reduced the value of the property. If the county where such a property is located has a “disaster relief ordinance”. Written claims for this type of relief has to be filed with a County Assessor inside the time-frame allotted in the ordinance paperwork – or within 12-months from the date the property was damaged or destroyed (whichever is later).

The reduced value of a damaged property like that remains reduced until the property is completely restored. At that point, the factored base year value can be restored – as long as it’s similar to the way the property looked before it was damaged. If a county has no disaster relief ordinance, a taxpaying resident can ask the County Assessor for a “Proposition 8 reduction in value”. But only if the natural disaster occurred in an area validated by the Governor as an area in a state of emergency and the resident decides not to restore the damaged property. 

The taxable value of damaged or destroyed property can be transferred to a reasonably comparable replacement property that is in the same county and was purchased constructed within 5-years after the natural disaster. The County Assessor will accept claims for this exclusion. 

Replacement Residence Transfers

The taxable value of a principal residence that is genuinely damaged or destroyed can be transferred to a “replacement residence” in another county, as long as the alternative residence is in a county that has an ordinance permitting taxable value transfers like this.

Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Modoc, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, and Ventura Counties have all signed onto ordinances that accept transfers of base year value. And naturally, all County Assessors accept claims for this type of exclusion.

Parent-Child and Grandparent-Grandchild Exclusion

The purchase or transfer of a principal residence and the first $1 million of other real property between parents and children is not subject to reassessment.  Under the CA parent-to-child exclusion, to avoid property tax reassessment, CA parent-child transfer allows for a full year to move into a home inherited from a parent, as long as it is a primary residence, and the parent had used it as a principle residence as well – enabling  a beneficiary to transfer parents property taxes on a standard property tax transfer when inheriting property taxes.

At least one beneficiary can keep parents property taxes, as well as being able to buyout a sibling’s share of inherited property on a transfer of property between siblings, in concert with a Proposition 19 enabled CA parent-child transfer and an irrevocable trust loan for homeowners and beneficiaries inheriting property in California

The CA parent-child transfer and exclusion also applies to property  transfers from grandparents to grandchildren when both qualifying parents are deceased, subject to certain limitations. As usual, claims for this exclusion have to  be filed within a certain time-frame.

Eminent Domain Exclusion
 
Eminent Domain is the right of a government to expropriate private property for public use, with compensation. The taxable value of property may be transferred to a comparable replacement property if the person acquiring the real property has been displaced from property by eminent domain proceedings.

This is basically an acquisition by a public entity, or by some sort of pointed government action that resulted in an adverse legal judgment of some kind. The replacement property does not have to be located in the same county as the property that was taken; or as it’s referred to in polite company, as “removed”.  Claims for this exclusion has to be filed with the County Assessor within four years of the displacement.

Property Tax Exclusion for Residents Age 55+ or Disabled 

People over the age of 55 or who are severely and permanently disabled can transfer the taxable value of their principal residence to a replacement property if it is of equal or lesser value, located within the same county, and purchased or newly constructed within two years of the sale of the original residence. This type of unique  property tax relief can be utilized only once in a lifetime.

There is one exception to this one-time-only limit. If a candidate for this exception proves to be permanently disabled, after transferring the taxable value, and is under age 55, he or she can transfer the taxable value a second time under the disability requirement if the move is directly related to the disability.

Lastly, the taxable value can be transferred to a replacement property located in the same county, or to a replacement property in another county – as long as that property is in a county that has an ordinance that allows transfers like this. Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Tuolumne, and Ventura Counties all have ordinances that allow transfers under this program. 

However, claims have to be  filed with the County Assessor inside of three years after the purchase of the replacement property, or after the completion of construction of the replacement property.  It’s critical to pay attention to this deadline.

Solar Exclusions

The construction or addition of a solar energy system (with the exception of a solar swimming pool heater or hot tub heater) is excluded from being viewed as “new construction”, and cannot be charged property tax until the property changes ownership.

How Will Proposition 19 Impact Middle Class Families in California?

How Will Proposition 19 Impact Middle Class Families in California

How Will Proposition 19 Impact Families in California

Before Proposition 19 existed, parents in California could transfer their primary residence and $1,000,000 per parent of other property to their children without triggering a tax reassessment of  those properties. After Feb. 15, 2021 that exemption, the parent-child exclusion,  was watered down, limiting access to this time-honored exclusion from current property tax rates to moving into an inherited home only as a primary residence;  and limiting a beneficiary’s ability to go about avoiding property tax reassessment in CA to a strict 12-month move-in period. 

As long as this deadline is kept, heirs will be avoiding property tax reassessment in CA without issue.  An heir’s ability to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property taxes, and the right to keep parents property taxes on any property tax transfer from a parent, as Proposition 19 parent to child transfer, or Prop 19 parent to child exclusion, is guaranteed.  As is the right for a beneficiary to get a trust loan from a trust lender to implement a  transfer of property between siblings… In other words, you can lock in a low Prop 13 property tax base plus buyout co- beneficiaries if they want to sell their inherited property.  Amen!  And in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, with rampant unemployment and under-employment… a 6-figure trust loan could be a life-saver.

After Feb. 16, a transfer of a principal residence by a parent to a child (heir) is only exempt if the parent was using the property as their principal, or primary, residence; and the heir is also residing in the inherited home as a primary, principal residence following the parental property transfer.  If that is not a problem, we’ll most likely see an equivalent number of middle class and blue collar families avoiding property tax reassessment in CA as before Prop 19 became law. 

Even if only half as many people as before take advantage of the Prop 19 parent-child exclusion, 50% is still a pretty healthy number.  No other transfers of property between parents and children will be exempt from reassessment, with the exception of a family farm, which is currently defined but as “farmed land” whether the property includes a residence or not. 

Transfers that are excluded from property tax reassessment do have limitations, however.  The exclusion applies only as far as the assessed value at the time of transfer plus $1,000,000. Any property beyond that value would be reassessed at a current market tax value.

Housingwire.com recently wrote: “Prop 19 will deliver needed funding for cities, counties, and school districts when they need it most. It will generate hundreds of millions in annual revenue for fire protection, affordable housing, homeless programs, safe drinking water, and other local services and dedicated revenue for fire districts in rural and urban communities to fix inequities that threaten life-saving response times to wildfires and medical emergencies.”

So how will Proposition 19 impact the middle class, working family  housing market in California, admittedly an expensive state to live in.  Although certain components in California will benefit from a new property tax revenue stream, regular middle class and blue collar families residing in inherited homes may still find it difficult keeping up with the rising costs and expensive lifestyle of California. Yet Prop 58 can still help. Proposition 58 Property Tax Breaks are still in place, despite restrictions.  Providing you intend to occupy an inherited home as your primary residence you can still save as much as $10,000 annually in property tax savings.  

President of One80Reality, Nick Solis, tells us:  ““We are definitely  going to see property taxes rise on inherited homes. California is one of those places where blue collar workers usually pass down homes to kids and other family members. Those homes are now going to be taxed at a much higher rate. It will force their hands to sell, because the properties will be more expensive to retain.”

Mr. Solis said he’s not worried about selling homes, but a new demographic of home buyers is going to emerge. He tells us: “Not     all who receive inherited homes come from money. Many blue collar workers and families bought in previous decades when homes were affordable, and are passing them down to their kids. They will see a tax increase. We’re going to see a different demographic. We were already seeing a major push of middle class and blue collar people,  that could afford a home in places like the Bay area, now moving into the central valley or other more affordable places because they just feel too uncomfortable living in their current homes. And now taxes are going to be even higher on inherited homes.”

A well known California realtor, who preferred to remain anonymous,  recently claimed: “With higher property taxes, keeping inherited homes as rental properties may become unprofitable, estate-planning attorneys are going to be very busy, as this new law may cause many people to decide to sell properties that they intended to pass on to their heirs.” 

Millennials and other younger generations will be impacted as well, avoiding property tax reassessment in CA People in their early twenties might decide to leave California, with no plan to ever return.  This is quite different than recent years, where the state was attracting a lot of young starter-home buyers. The same young adults are now looking carefully for more affordable homes, after graduating from college – even if that means leaving the state completely, with a new job; and perhaps a new family.

Another seasoned California realtor told us, on condition of remaining anonymous:  “It’s a real game-changer.  Both in terms of California properties being sold that would have been passed on through a family trust, or by the beneficiaries who decide they either can’t afford to pay property taxes based on a current assessed value, or just don’t want to pay the higher property taxes. The state’s going to make a lot of money.”

Higher property taxes or not, California will always be an attractive place to live. There is sunshine 12 months per year, an ocean nearby, convenient cities and yet rural areas 30 minutes away… “People are always going to want to live in California, but I can see life getting more expensive here a lot faster than I expected,” Mr. Solis added.