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California Property Tax

By Tim Nguyen · Nov 25, 2014 · Real Estate Data

California Property Tax

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rachel Elaine

Although Proposition 13 set property taxes in California at a flat 1% you may find that your effective property taxes are much higher. Here is how California property taxes work.

Seasoned homebuyers are smart to consider property taxes when buying a new home, especially in California, where high average home prices can add thousands and tens of thousands to the yearly cost of homeownership.

Proposition 13 Set a Flat 1% Tax Rate

In 1978, Proposition 13 (officially name the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation) was passed by voters which amended the Constitution of California to set a maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property to 1% of the full cash value of property.

Property Tax = Assessed Property Value x 1%

County Assessor Sets Your Property Value

Each county in California has an Assessor who is voted into office. They are responsible to identify all taxable properties and set an assessed value, the value of your property for which your property taxes are based upon.

Under California State law, assessed property value only changes when:

  1. Market value declines below assessed value,
  2. New construction occurs, or
  3. A change in ownership occurs.

If none of the above occurs, the assessed value of your property can increase by no more than 2% per year.

Property Taxes Are Due Twice Annually

Property taxes are due in two equal installments as follows:

Due Date Delinquent Date
First installment due November 1 December 10
Second installment due February 1 April 10

Homeowners Exemption for Owner Occupied Properties

If your property is owner-occupied there is a $7,000 deduction from the assessed value of your property. For example, if your property is assessed at $400,000 and your property is owner occupied, your assessed value will be reduced by $7,000 to a new assessed value of $393,000.

Be aware this is an exemption you need to manually file with your county. It is not automatic.

Proposition 60 Allows You to Transfer Your Assessed Value to a New Property

Passed by California voters in 1986, Proposition 60 allows you to sell your current property and transfer its current assessed value into a new property if certain conditions are met:

  1. You or your spouse must be at least 55 years of age when the original property was sold.
  2. The original property and new property must be within the same county.
  3. You can only use the transfer once in a lifetime.
  4. The new replacement property must be of equal or lessor value than the original property sold.
  5. The replacement property must be built or bought within 2 years of selling the original property.

There are additional requirements. Click here for an in depth look at Proposition 60 and 90.

Effective Property Taxes Are Greater Than 1%

Proposition 13 sets a ceiling for property taxes at 1% statewide, however when it's time to pay your property taxes you'll notice what you actually pay is almost always greater. This is because the county is allowed to add bond indebtedness and special assessments when collecting your property taxes, thereby effectively increasing your tax bill according to the following formula:

Effective Property Taxes = 1% + Bond Indebtedness + Special Assessments

Bond Indebtedness

Included in your property tax bill are payments for taxpayer approved bonds, usually for schools and special projects. For example, if you live in tax rate area 17-001 of Alameda County you'll pay an additional 0.4376% as follows:

Bond Tax Rate
CITY OF OAKLAND 1
SCHOOL UNIFIED
SCHOOL COMM COLL
BAY AREA RAPID TRANSIT
EAST BAY REGIONAL PARK
EBMUD SPEC DIST 1
0.2042%
0.1745%
0.0412%
0.0045%
0.0085%
0.0047%
TOTAL BOND INDEBTEDNESS 0.4376%

Special Assessments

But wait, there's more! Included in your property tax bill you will also pay for fixed charges and special assessments. Continuing the example above, if you live in tax rate area 17-001 of Alameda County you'll pay an additional $845.64 as follows:

Fixed Charge or Special Assessment Fee
MOSQUITO ABATEMENT
CSA PARAMEDIC
CSA VECTOR CONTROL
CITY EMERG MEDICAL
CITY PARAMEDIC SRV
CSA LEAD ABATEMENT
SCHOOL MEASURE G
PERALTA CCD MEAS B
VIOLENCE PREV TAX
FLOOD BENEFIT 12
HAZ WASTE PROGRAM
CSA VECTOR CNTRL B
MOSQUITO ASSESS 2
AC TRANSIT MEAS VV
CITY LIBRARY SERV
EBMUD WETWEATHER
EAST BAY TRAIL LLD
EBRP PARK SAFETY/M
CITY LANDSCP/LIGHT
$1.74
$29.04
$7.20
$13.26
$10.56
$10.00
$195.00
$48.00
$99.76
$16.00
$9.54
$4.08
$2.50
$96.00
$93.54
$89.34
$5.44
$12.00
$102.64
TOTAL SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS $845.64

List of Property Tax Rates by County

Your property is located within a specific Tax Rate Area (TRA) designated by the county. Each TRA has differing tax rates depending on different bond indebtedness and special assessments. This means that tax rates can vary from area to area, even within the same county and city.

Below is a list of the tax rates for largest counties in California. Click here for a complete list of counties.

Alameda County Property Tax

Source: Alameda County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.0703% 0.4376% 1.0703% 1.4376% 1.25395%

Contra Costa County Property Tax

Source: Contra Costa County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.0382% 0.4632% 1.0382% 1.4632% 1.2507%

Los Angeles County Property Tax

Source: Los Angeles County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.0035% 0.579985% 1.0035% 1.579985% 1.2917425%

Orange County Property Tax

Source: Orange County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.0035% 0.40897% 1.0035% 1.40897% 1.206235%

San Francisco County Property Tax

Source: San Francisco County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.124% 0.124% 1.124% 1.124% 1.124%

Santa Clara County Property Tax

Source: Santa Clara County effective fiscal year 14-15.

Base Tax Rate Bond Indebtedness Effective Tax Rate
Low High Low High Mid
1.000% 0.1226% 0.2926% 1.1226% 1.2926% 1.2076%

Note: Data collected as of November 2014. Above data only considers the base tax rate of 1% and bond indebtedness, and does not include special assessments. Click here for a full list of tax rates for all counties in California.


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