California Property Taxes
Overview of California Property Taxes
Property taxes are annual taxes homeowners pay to local governments. Many local governments depend entirely on property taxes to fund their operations. The State of California and local governments collect $455 billion in revenue every year. Of that total, $63 billion comes from property taxes. This is equivalent to 13.9% of total revenue. Although California is usually thought of as a high tax state, it actually has a fairly low average property tax rate. California has the 34th highest property tax rate in the country, and its average property tax rate is 24.7% less than the national average of 1.06%. Put another way, the property tax bill paid by a California homeowner is $3,846, which is on an average home value of $479,695. By this measure, California homeowners pay 0.80% of their home value as property tax annually or about $8.02 for every $1,000 in home value.
California property taxes are much lower than the national average because of a law called Proposition 13, which limits property tax rate to 1% of the property’s market value and caps increases in assessed value to 2% per year. These provisions help keep property taxes far lower than they otherwise would be.
Overall, property taxes are determined by two factors; assessed value and tax rate. Assessed value refers to your home’s value as determined by the County Assessor. This value comes from a process called Computerized Mass Appraisal (CAMA), a software application. Using the software program, the Assessor compares similar properties to yours that have been sold recently and location data to determine your home assessment. Your property tax rate, on the other hand, comes from the levy set by your local government, which depends on the amount of money they intend to raise through property taxes. Note that while it is possible to appeal property taxes, you can only appeal the assessed value, not the tax rate.
If you are planning to buy a home in California and want to understand how much your property tax bill could potentially cost, check out our California Property Tax Tool to see what your bill would be.
California Property Tax Due Dates
State statute governs California property taxes, meaning that although there are different variations of what homeowners in other parts of The Golden State pay, there are some similarities usually a common ground.
Properties are assessed on January 1st, which is the time in which your property’s assessment is set to determine your property tax bill. But when are property taxes due in California? In California, the tax calendar runs from July 1st through June 30th. Homeowners are required by state law to pay property taxes in two installments. The first installment must be paid by December 10th, with the second due by April 10th
Failure to pay by the California property tax due date results in a 1% to 1.5% penalty depending on the amount owed. If the property tax bill remains unpaid for five years, the state law authorizes the local tax collector to initiate the process of auctioning the property to recover the due taxes and any additional penalties.
As a homeowner, you can file to appeal your property taxes if you disagree with the assessment. The first day to file this application is on July 2. The last day of filing an assessment appeal application varies across different counties in the State. In Los Angeles County, the last day falls on November 30. Should that day fall on a weekend or legal holiday, it is usually pushed to the next business day. More information regarding the important dates in LA County can be found on Los Angeles County’s office of the assessor website.
California Property Tax Exemptions
Besides offering you the ability to appeal home’s assessment value, the State of California also provides several tax exemptions to various parties depending on their qualifications. The most common are senior and homestead exemptions. However, it is noteworthy that while exemptions ultimately reduce the amount of California property taxes owed by homeowners, they don’t apply to direct levies or special taxes. Additionally, those eligible for exemptions are still subject to California’s property tax due dates.
California Homestead Exemption
The homestead exemption applies to property owners who own a home and use it as their primary residence. Those who qualify are only taxed on their home’s value minus the exception. A single homeowner gets a $75,000 equity exemption. The head of a household, on the other hand, receives a $100,000 equity exemption. If you qualify, California’s constitution allows you to receive a $7,000 reduction in your home’s taxable value. This would significantly reduce the amount of California property taxes you owe the State. To claim the exemption, homeowners must file with the County Assessor where the property is located.
California Senior Citizens Exemption
California’s senior exemption is also known as Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief. This exemption reduces the property tax bill for California residents that are 62 or older, blind, or disabled citizens. Qualified individuals are exempt until they die, move, sell the property, or pass the property’s title to an ineligible person. The individual’s household income must not exceed $24,000. They are also required to file a claim with the state controller's office.
Other California property tax exemptions include a veteran’s exemption for those who have served. Such individuals qualify for up to a $4,000 exemption. Disabled veterans qualify for a more significant exemption depending on their age, income, and the severity of their disability. A detailed breakdown of these and other exemptions can be found on the California State Board of Equalization official website.
How to Appeal Your Property Taxes in California
You can file an assessment appeal in California if you disagree with the county assessor’s valuation of your property. All counties in the State have assessment appeal boards or a county board of supervisors who act as the localized version of the board of equalization. The appeal boards across the counties are independent bodies whose duty is to resolve disputes between homeowners and county assessors. You can use the avenue provided by these appeal boards to potentially lower California property taxes. The boards’ decisions are legally binding and enforceable.
The process of filing an assessment appeal varies across California though it generally follows the same steps from county to county:
- Obtain your assessment
- Determine if you are overassessed
- Complete forms needed to appeal
- File property tax appeal
- Prepare for hearing
- Attend hearing
- Appeal the decision
If you elect to appeal, you are required to obtain form BOE-305-AH, Application from the appeal board’s clerk within the location of your property
How to Appeal Your Property Taxes in Los Angeles County
To demonstrate how you can go about the appeal process in California, here is a breakdown of the process in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States.
Obtain your assessment
All assessor services in LA County are available to the public via the email contact form or phone at (213) 974-3211. The LA County Office of the Assessor’s website has more information on how you can obtain your assessment.
Determine if you are over-assessed
To successfully appeal your property tax, you have to prove that your property’s market value is lower than the Assessor’s. To determine if you are over-assessed, check the selling value of properties comparable to yours. Websites like Zillow or TaxProper’s search tool will help you search for properties similar to yours and establish the market value.
Complete forms needed to appeal
LA County residents can obtain an assessment and valuation forms from the County of Los Angeles website.
File property tax appeal
Following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the LA County assessment board is going virtual. As a result, assessment appeal applications can be filed online at the County of Los Angeles website.
Prepare for hearing
In Los Angeles County, preparing for a hearing requires homeowners to collect compelling evidence that their property has been over-assessed and present it to the Assessor’s office. Evidence should show that if the property in dispute were to be sold, it would be sold for less than the assessment. Evidence can include oral testimony by the homeowner, expert witness, or an agent.
If the property owner and the Assessor’s Office agree on the property’s value, there is no need to attend a hearing. However, the homeowner or an authorized agent is required to appear at the hearing if they disagree with the Assessor’s Office. Failure to appear at the hearing will result in the case being denied for non-appearance.
Appeal the decision
Should you or the Assessor disagree with the Hearing Officer’s recommendations, you can appeal and request a new hearing before an Assessment Appeals Board within 14 days. The request for a new hearing must be in writing.
Property Tax Information for California Counties
The table below provides county-level information about how property taxes work in each California county.
Want to learn more? Click the county links to learn more about a specific California county.
|County||Average Home Value||Average Tax Bill||Bill per $1,000|
|Contra Costa County||$513,686||$4,749||$9.20|
|Del Norte County||$216,454||$1,542||$7.10|
|El Dorado County||$386,107||$3,421||$8.90|
|Los Angeles County||$553,813||$4,196||$7.60|
|San Benito County||$411,221||$3,456||$8.40|
|San Bernardino County||$255,349||$2,501||$9.80|
|San Diego County||$496,167||$3,910||$7.90|
|San Francisco County||$938,428||$6,150||$6.60|
|San Joaquin County||$250,647||$2,529||$10.10|
|San Luis Obispo County||$482,282||$3,480||$7.20|
|San Mateo County||$935,301||$6,271||$6.70|
|Santa Barbara County||$677,584||$4,143||$6.10|
|Santa Clara County||$786,890||$6,023||$7.70|
|Santa Cruz County||$612,189||$4,300||$7.00|