New Web Site CaliforniaPropTaxAppeal.com Helps Last-Minute Filers Ask for a Property Tax Reduction in California

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September 15th is the last day for many California homeowners to file a property tax appeal. The location of your property determines whether next Monday is the last day to appeal your property taxes.

Under Proposition 8, homeowners are entitled to a temporary reduction in their property taxes due to a decline in property value. This reduction is only available if the assessed value is more than the market value of the home as of January 1, 2008.

A new Web site, CaliforniaPropTaxAppeal.com has been developed to help homeowners economically streamline the appeal process. The site, at http://www.californiaproptaxappeal.com allows homeowners to answer interview style questions then print a residential property tax appeal form along with comparable sales. This can all be done within 10 minutes for $29.99. Last minute filers are using the site to prepare their appeals quickly before the looming deadline.

While homeowners in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino, to name a few, have more time, homeowners in San Francisco, Orange County, Santa Clara only have until Monday, September 15th file a property tax appeal.

The confusion about appeal dates stems from the differences between the formal and informal process for a property tax reduction. The informal appeal is handled through each County's Assessor's office. This is the most expeditious means of appealing a property's assessed value. In most Counties, there is a form used to prepare a Prop. 8 temporary reduction in value request.    Generally, homeowners may supplement this form with comparable sales from your neighborhood that will be evaluated by the Assessor. If a reduction is granted, then you'll get refund or a smaller property tax bill.

Since the process is informal, the published dates are not locked in stone and vary considerably by County. This chart (most populous Counties), shows practices for informal property tax appeals vary widely from Orange County which locked the doors at the end of April 2008 to Alameda where the doors are open until the end of until April, 2009. On the other hand, formal appeals are either due on September 15th, 2008 or November 30th, 2008.

County Assessment Appeal Filing Periods For 2008

County, Formal Process Deadline, Informal Process Deadline
Alameda 9/15/08 4/10/09
Contra Costa 11/30/08 12/31/08
Fresno 11/30/08 12/31/08
Los Angeles 11/30/08 12/31/08
Orange 9/15/08 4/30/08
Riverside 11/30/08 9/1/08
Sacramento 11/30/08 12/1/08
San Bernardino 11/30/08 11/30/08
San Diego 11/30/08 5/30/08
San Francisco 9/15/08 8/15/08
Santa Clara 9/15/08 9/15/08
Ventura 11/30/08 12/31/08

While informal appeals should be the first step (if available), homeowners should also file a formal property tax appeal if the Assessor's response will not be known before the formal appeal deadline. Unless homeowners file a formal appeal, then they'll have to accept the Assessor's opinion. With a formal appeal "Request for Changed Assessment", homeowners will have the advantage of an independent review by either a Hearing Officer or the Assessment Appeals Board. Generally, it makes sense to request a Hearing Officer and not go through the formalities of the Assessment Appeals Board for a residential property appeal.

The disadvantage of a formal appeal is that it will take longer, estimated to be at least 6 to 9 months. However, homeowners don't have to go on to the formal appeal if they can reach agreement with the Assessor before the hearing. If homeowners reach agreement with the Assessor or if they go to the Hearing and a lower value is granted, they will get a refund with interest. Since all formal appeals must be filed by either September 15th, 2008 or November 30th, 2008, homeowners should consider filing both appeals at the same time.

No surprise, but home buyers from 2004 forward have the best opportunity for a property tax reduction. Last March DataQuick reported the median Southern California sales prices had declined to $380,000 from peak value of $505,000 and that statewide, prices had declined 14.8% in 2007.

By now homeowners should have received a notice with the assessed value of their property from the Assessor. Homeowners in Orange County, Santa Clara, San Francisco or any other County with a September 15th due-date should file a formal property tax appeal now. Homeowners in any other part of the state have until November 30th to file a formal appeal and, in some cases, even more time to file an informal appeal.

CaliforniaPropTaxAppeal.Com is headed by Jeffery Morris who is a CPA with 25 years experience and has served as an adjunct professor of taxation at Golden Gate, CSUF and USC. The inspiration for the site came from his experience as a Tax Partner at a Big 4 firm where technology was used to simplify preparation of tax forms for a variety of tasks for clients. The site is online at http://www.californiaproptaxappeal.com.

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Jeffery L Morris
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