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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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