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San Jose, CA property tax attorney for Proposition 19Tax laws in the United States change regularly at both the federal and state levels. In the 2020 election, California voters passed a ballot measure that made some changes to how property taxes are addressed when a person moves to a new home or transfers ownership of real estate property. Taxpayers will want to understand how this new law will affect them and what they can do to avoid tax increases.

Proposition 19 and Property Tax Reassessment

Under Proposition 13, which passed in 1978, property taxes in California are based on the purchase price of a property, and they are subject to small annual increases. When a property is sold or transferred to a new owner, property taxes are reassessed based on the market value of the property. However some homeowners have been allowed to transfer their property tax assessments to a new home. In addition, parents or grandparents could transfer a primary residence to their children or grandchildren without the need for reassessment, and they could transfer other types of property with the first $1 million in value being exempt from reassessment.

Proposition 19 has expanded some homeowners’ ability to transfer their tax assessment to a new home of an equal or lesser value. While this type of transfer was previously only allowed within the same county, a tax assessment will now be allowed to be transferred anywhere within the state of California. An assessment can also be transferred to a new home of a higher value while making adjustments to reflect this increase. Homeowners over the age of 55 were previously limited to one tax assessment transfer, but they will now be allowed to transfer a tax assessment up to three times.

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San Jose property tax attorneyProperty taxes are an issue that affects many taxpayers in California, and changes to these taxes may be coming in the near future. In the 2020 election, voters will be able to decide if Prop. 13 should continue to apply to businesses. The measure would increase property taxes that businesses have to pay the state of California.

What is Prop. 13?

Prop. 13 is a ballot measure approved by California residents in 1978 that placed a limit on real property tax reassessment on all types of properties allowing reassessment only on completion of construction or when properties are sold. This means that currently, property owners pay taxes that are based on the value of a property when it was purchased, regardless of the property’s current market value. In effect, Prop. 13 prevented increases in property tax rates on homes, businesses, and farms by about 57 percent. 

The proposed measure calls for businesses to have their properties reassessed to market values every three years or less. The reassessments would result in higher taxes on commercial properties. The laws regarding residential property taxes would remain unchanged. This setup is called a “split roll,” since commercial property would be treated differently than residential property.

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San Jose, CA property tax assessment attorneyIn the face of receiving dramatic annual increases in property tax bills, in 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which has limited the rate of property tax increases for the past 40 years, so long as certain criteria are met. 

About Prop. 13

Prop. 13 limits property tax increases to 1 percent of the property’s assessed value. Assessed value cannot be increased more than 2 percent per year. Prop. 13 also provides that property taxes may include any bond payments or special assessments as approved by voters. All special assessments must receive a two-thirds vote. Importantly, a key provision of Prop. 13 for tax planning purposes is that properties will only be reassessed after an ownership transfer or if substantial improvements have been made to the property.

Efforts to Change Prop. 13

Recently, the voters of California rejected an effort to expand protections for property owners as set forth in Proposition 5. Prop. 5 would have allowed some homeowners to take lower property taxes with them when moving.

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