Property taxes too high?

Deadline coming up March 29, 2013 for informal review of property tax value


Although we have seen property values go up in the last year, there may be some people out there with valuations on their property taxes that are higher than what the property would currently be worth on the open market.  If you find yourself in this position, it may be possible to appeal your property tax valuation.

When values are going up, it is possible for your property value to increase much faster than your property tax value.  The flip side, is that if you bought at the height of the market, it’s possible, with the annual increases, to find yourself in the position of paying more in property taxes than you need to.

The amount of your property is based on the value of which you acquire the property, plus direct assessments such as Mello Roos or bond issues, plus allowable annual increases of two percent.  California Proposition 13 set this up system in 1978 to limit how much property taxes could increase.  Property values were rapidly rising at that time and there was fear that people would not be able to afford to stay in their homes as a result of increased property taxes.

There are two processes through the assessor’s office that would allow you to go through either an informal appeal process with a staff appraiser, or go through an assessment appeal with the Assessment Appeal Board.  The processes favor those people who had purchased property after 2003, since most properties acquired prior to that time would more than likely be properly assessed.

The deadline for going through the informal appeal is coming up (March 29, 2013), so you need to get cracking.  The appeal for the March deadline would be for the 2013-2014 tax year.  In this scenario, you would fill out an application and provide comparable sales (your real estate agent can help you with this) and/or an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser (I can give you some referrals-but an appraiser will probably cost you about $600).  Decisions for the informal review are supposed to be reached by the end of July.

It is possible to go through a dual appeal-doing both informal and formal processes.  The dates to appeal through the formal process through the appeals board  is July 2 to September 15th, 2013.  It’s important to realize that it the successful appeal is not a permanent reduction, so you will need to go through this process every year until the property value surpasses the value of your basis plus allowable increases.

To get the informal appeal process going, contact:

Assessor-Recorder, Attn: Informal Review, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., City Hall, Room 190, SF, CA 94102 .  phone number (415)554-5596; fax number (415)554-7915; email-

For the full Appeal Review Board, contact:

Assessment Appeals Board-Clerk of the Board, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., City Hall, Room 405, SF, CA 94102.  Phone number (415)554-6778, website Note there is a $60 filing fee.

The form the informal review I found on line was outdated.  I was able to get an updated form; here 2013-2014 Informal review


Side bar:

I realize that some people may not like or appreciate proposition 13, which limits the property tax valuation on California real estate.   This article is intended to give help to those who are paying MORE in tax than the value of their home, not to undervalue the home given it’s current value.

I know that an article, even those intended to give advise or direction, can be interpreted in a different way, or hit a sore spot if one has a contrary belief.  Please feel free to contact me  if you find yourself in this position; I am open to healthy discussion about a topic that you may find objectionable.

How to save on property taxes

Over 55 Exemption may save you money on your property tax bill

If you own a home you have been in for a long time and are paying low property taxes under California’s Proposition 13, you may be able to keep that tax base when you sell your home and buy another.  This great financial tool was made possible by the passage of two ballot propositions in the 1980’s; 60 and 90.  60 makes it possible to keep your tax base within your home county, and 90 makes it possible to take your tax base to reciprocating counties, of which there are eight.  Of course, it isn’t quite as easy as all that-there are some rules and forms to be completed for making that happen:

  • You must be 55 years old or older at the time of sale or purchase, whichever comes first.
  • This is a one-time exemption (married couples can only do this once).
  • Both the sale (old) and replacement (new) properties must be owner occupied.
  • You must purchase the new house within two years of the sale of the old house.
  • The purchase price of the new house must be the same or less than the sale price of the old house if purchased before the sale of the old house.
  • If the purchase of the new house takes place within one year after the sale of the old house, the purchase price may be 105% of the sale price; if it happens between 1 and 2 years, it can be 110% of the sale price.
  • Practically speaking, this means scaling down in order to make the purchase prices work out-for instance you may move from your single family home into a condominium.
  • Prop. 90 allowed reciprocity between eight California counties.  They are Alameda, Los Angeles, Modoc, Orange, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura.
  • A representative at the San Francisco Assessor’s office said they still reciprocate with the eight counties; but please check before you make any sale or purchase.   With the budget crisis many counties may no longer participate in reciprocity, so please contact them before making any moves.
  • Check out the Board of Equalization’s website to get more information at or call (800)400-7115
  • Also see the San Francisco Assessor’s website at  see form BOE 60-AH or call (415)554-7915

This is a pretty nice financial tool.  It is worth exploration if you have any desire to scale down and the expense of more expensive property taxes has stopped you.  This could be the beginning of your New Year’s Resolution list.