All about County Property Taxes

California property taxes are curious indeed. By the end of this page, you'll be well-equipped to pay them.

How much are property taxes?

Property is taxed at 1.25% of the assessed value, plus any authorized additions. The "assessed value" is determined by the County Assessor. Basically, they use the most recent sale price as the value. If you feel that your assessed value should be less, see below.

For example, if the property just sold for $500,000, expect the taxes to be $6250 per year:

$500,000 x .0125 = $6,250

When are property taxes due?

The yearly tax is billed in two parts: the first bill is issued in November and payment must be postmarked by December 10. The second bill is sent in February and must be postmarked by April 10. Strange timing, but true.

When happens when a property changes ownership?

The customary procedure is that the seller pays the property tax through close of escrow, then the buyer takes over. The title/escrow company pro-rates the amounts for each party.

Now the tricky part- Supplemental Taxes: When escrow closes, the county will send a "supplemental" bill for the taxes due at the new value. Why? The seller was paying taxes at the their old value. Since the new value is (usually) higher, the tax will be re-calculated at the new value and the new owner will receive a supplemental bill for the higher amount. It takes the county a few weeks or months to do the paperwork, but when you receive the bill, don't ignore it. Call us if you'd like to discuss this.

Can the assessed value be contested?

Yes, but they don't make it particularly easy. After you receive the assessment notice in May or June, call the Assessor's office to question the value. If you don't agree with the appraiser, file an appeal between July 2nd and September 15th.

Will my taxes increase?

Yes. Under California law, the increase is limited to 2% per year; you can expect the total bill to increase at about 1% per year.

Are property taxes deductible

Yes. For your personal residence, enter the amount paid on Schedule A. For investment property, enter on Schedule E. For combined property (yes, it's possible!), split the amount according the percent of personal/investment use.

Where can I get more information

Call your County Assessor's office (look in the white pages under "County Government") or county website.

In Santa Clara: 408-299-5300 www.scc-assessor.org/generalinformation.htm

In San Mateo: 650-363-4500 http://www.smcare.org/assessor/

Important disclaimer: This is general information, not tax advice. Federal and state tax laws change frequently. We are not tax or legal advisors. Please consult a qualified tax or legal professional before acting on anything described here.

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