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Saving On Your Property Taxes

Homeowners, you know that Proposition 13 limits how much your property tax can rise. But did you know that another proposition, Prop. 8, could actually lower your property taxes when real estate prices fall? Here is some important information, especially in today's economy.

Prop. 13 prevents the county from raising your property value from the "base value" (generally the purchase price) by more than 2% per year.  Prop. 8 gives property owners another protection. If the market value of your property falls below the Prop. 13 value, the county must base property taxes on the current market value instead of the Prop. 13 value.

The Prop. 8 assessment is temporary - the county will re-assess your property each year, and raise (or lower) it as the market values change. Unlike the Prop. 13 value, the Prop. 8 value may go up by more than 2% market values in your area go up and down. But your Prop. 13 value is still the cap - your assessment it will never go above that limit.

If you think you qualify for re-assessment, contact your county assessor's office.  Each county has slightly different procedures. Here is information for Sacramento and surrounding counties: 

Sacramento County: Contact the assessor's office at (916) 875-0700 between the hours 9am-4pm or visit their website at Decline in Market Value (Prop 8)  for more information. The assessor's office may also initiate the review on its own. 

Surrounding counties: 

El Dorado County If you purchased or built on your property between June 2004 and December 2007, the assessor's office should automatically review it for Prop. 8 adjustment. You can also submit a request for review online at the El Dorado County Assessor's website   or contact the assessor at 530-621-5719  (530-573-3422 for Lake Tahoe property).

Placer County:  Submit a "2008-09 Request for Decline in Value Review" form  to the Placer County Assessor's Office.  For more information, visit "Prop 8: Temporary Decline in Value"  or phone 530-889-4300 between 8 am and 5 pm weekdays.

Sutter County: Submit an "Application for Changed Assessment," available on the Sutter County Assessor's website. For more information, visit the Assessor's site or call 530-822-7160.   

Yolo County: If you purchased or built on your property between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2007, the assessor's office should automatically review it for Prop. 8 adjustment. If your property qualifies for a reduction, a "Notice of Property Valuation" postcard should be mailed out in June.  If you believe your property was eligible for this review but do not receive a notice, call the assessor's office at (530) 666-8135. For more information, visit "Market (Prop 8) Valuations" and  "Taxpayer Remedies."

Yuba County:Contact the assessor's office for a review. A comparable sales analysis will be done on your property to determine whether you qualify. For more info, visit   the Yuba Count Assessor's office website  or call 530-749-7820.

Each county also has its own appeals process if you disagree with the assessment. For instance, in Sacramento County, if the owner disagrees with the assessment, they can file an appeal between July 2 and November 30. The State Board of Equalization has a booklet on "Residential Property Assessment Appeals" that may be helpful.

By Kate Fitz, Public Services Librarian