Lowering Your Property Taxes

California’s Proposition 8 was passed by California voters in 1978, allowing a temporary reduction in assessed value when real property suffers a "decline-in-value". A “decline-in-value” has occurred if the market value of the property as of January 1, 2009 is lower than its assessed value (generally the property’s purchase price plus automatic 2% per year and other legislative adjustments.) The most recent assessed value of any real property that you own will be reflected on your 2008 property tax statement.

Any adjustment to the assessed value, calculated using the market value of the real property as of January 1, 2009, is prospective only and will be reflected on your 2009 annual tax bill mailed in September 2009. It is not possible to retroactively adjust your 2008 property taxes (including the installment due April 10, 2009) for any such decline in value.

A Proposition 8 reduction is a temporary reduction that lasts one year and does not change the assessed value of your real property. If property values remained depressed, you may need to request reassessment in subsequent years as well.

You may file a Decline in Value Reassessment Application form to trigger a Proposition 8 review of the 2009 Current Assessed Value of your property. Applicable forms are available at your county assessor’s web site and there is no charge for the review. In addition, most counties in California are conducting automatic reassessments of home values. In all cases, you will be notified by the county assessor of any reduction in the current assessed value of your real property as a result of your application or as a result of any automatic reassessment program.

If you disagree with the county assessor’s reduction to the current assessed value, you may file an appeal with the local appeals board to have the property re-valued again.

Meanwhile, be sure to pay your property taxes on time during any review or appeals period. Each county has its own reassessment form and filing period, as well as its own appeal process and filing period. See this spreadsheet for forms, contact information and deadlines specific to your county.

Note: Various private companies are sending mailings to property owners offering their services to pursue a reduction in their property taxes. These companies may charge hundreds of dollars to file for a reduction in value on behalf of the property owner. Some companies are even imposing late fees if the application is received after an arbitrary deadline. Solicitations from private companies offering to pursue a reduction in property taxes must clearly indicate that they are not a government agency and that their services are not approved or endorsed by any government agency. Failure to provide such notice is a violation of California law.

Many of these services are scams and, except in unusual cases, there is no reason to pay for a review that is a relatively simple process and is provided by your county free of charge.