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James Bone, CPA, MBA, CMI

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Jim's Book

A plain-English explanation of how the California property tax system works


The California property tax links, news, and information on this site have been provided since July 4, 1996 as a public service of James Bone, CPA


Excellent Internet Resources Now Available from the BOE Property Taxes Department [9/01]
(if the BOE changes its link structure, we'll keep these links current, so bookmark this page) 
PROPERTY TAXES LAW GUIDE - Great on-line resource for property tax information! Contains all applicable Constitution, Revenue & Taxation Code, Property Tax Rules (California Code of Regulations), and sections of other California codes relating to property taxes. All codes and regs are are binding on assessors, appeals boards, and taxpayers alike. Also includes Annotations, which are non-binding informative tidbits of information that the BOE staff excerpts from court cases, OAG opinions, etc.
PROPERTY TAX RULES - These "Rules" are actually regulatory laws adopted by the California Board of Equalization to interpret and implement Revenue & Taxation Code statutes adopted by the Legislature. This site has each rule available as a separate document.

The complete California Code of Regulations including the property tax rules is available from the Office of Administrative Law on the Internet. Property tax rules are contained in Title 18. Public Revenue Chapter 1. (Click on the CCR infobase at the site). The rules are also available in the PROPERTY TAXES LAW GUIDE

PRACTICAL INDEX TO PROPERTY TAX RESOURCES - A very comprehensive, very helpful supplement to SBE's Property Taxes Law Guide Volumes 1 & 2, and includes references to selected Letters to Assessors, Attorney General Opinions, court cases, and other assorted citations. A key to property tax research.
ASSESSORS' HANDBOOK - Handbook sections that provide information and advice to assessors, assessment appeals boards, and property owners.
LETTERS TO ASSESSORS - Information provided to assessors and others on current topics ranging from specific advice on technical issues, deadline calendars, to news about county and BOE staff changes. Years from 1978 to present.
PUBLICATIONS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS - Source for various publications and arcane information. For example, did you know that the total assessed value of California property on the 2000 roll was $2,243,320,000,000? That's $2.2 trillion dollars!!!! At 1%, property taxes raise $20 BILLION dollars! (That's from the 1998-99 Annual Report.)
STATE-ASSESSED PROPERTIES PROGRAM - Calendar, forms, newsletter, all applicable to state- assessed properties (utility companies, railroads, other cross-county or -state entities. If you're really technically oriented, read ¡®Valuation of Microprocessor-Controlled Telephone Switch Software' right before bedtime.
SPECIAL TOPIC SURVEYS - Timely, informative BOE surveys of assessors (most respond) on major issues that keep surfacing in interested parties meetings on handbooks, rules, and other BOE policy issues.
PROPERTY TAX COMMITTEE WORK PLANS - Schedule of the Committee's planned work on property tax issues
FORMS - mostly forms applicable to state assesses.
SPECIAL REVENUE DISTRICTS - Primarily forms relating to special revenue (assessment) districts.
PRIVATE RAILROAD CAR PROGRAM - A special section for those of you who either own, want to ride in, or work for somebody who owns, a private railroad car.

BOE Property Tax Committee The Board of Equalization has revised most of the major sections of the Assessors' Handbook, but budget considerations have impacted the board's work plans. The 2004 Property Tax Committee work plan contains the current issued the committee is considering. [3/04]
Annual Assessments: The annual Assessment Rolls for real and personal property assessments are based on values as of 1/1 of each year. January 1 is called the lien date because that is when the following year's taxes become a lien on the property. Generally, rolls close on June 30. Tax collectors mail unsecured bills through the summer, and the secured bills in October. Unsecured assessments are due August 31. Secured taxes are due 11/1 (delinquent 12/10), and 2/1 (delinquent 4/10).[3/04]

Regular Assessment Appeals: Regular assessment appeal periods run from July 1, of each year either through September 15th, or NOvember 15th. The deadlines for each year are available at the board's web site.

In most cases, forms (see below) are due by during the regular appeals period. There are very few exceptions. In a few cases the time is extended:

Sale after 1/1 & before 7/1: For changes of ownership after the lien date, if the new owner did not receive the assessment notice, then the time for filing is extended 60 days to 11/15. (The assessor will also issue a supplemental assessment which will also open up the same time period.)

Increase more than Prop. 13 limitation and no notice: If the assessor increased the value more than the maximum under Prop. 13 and did not notify the property owner, then the owner has 60 days from receipt of either notice or a tax bill showing the increased assessment. [6/01]

Other Appeals: Most other appeals including notices of supplemental assessment and escapes or audit bills are due 60 days after notice. Casualty appeals are still due two weeks after notice from the assessor of a revised assessment due to an earthquake, fire, etc. Property owners should continue to watch for supplemental assessments and escape bills. These should be reviewed and appealed if necessary within the 60-day time limit because there are no extensions of time to appeal. [10/00]
Assessment Appeal Forms: The SBE has mandated new standard forms for assessment appeals. All counties have new forms that must be used. Check with your local county appeals board for the forms. Some, including Orange County, have forms that can be downloaded directly from the internet. Some counties have also changed their local rules for processing appeals. Make sure to read the rules that accompany the forms from each county.

Assessment Appeals Rule Revisions

During 1999, 2000, and into 2001, the BOE Property Tax Committee revised its rules affecting local assessment appeals hearings and procedures. The last of the current batch of rules was decided by the Board in June, 2001.

Assessment Appeals Manual, (9-98) Some of the revisions to the rules are the result of the work on the new appeals manual. The manual, issued as 'instructions' to assessors and appeals boards in accordance with California law, will be updated to incorporate the rule changes and other developments since 1998.

Assessors' Handbook Revisions: Between 1996 and 1998, the California Board of Equalization Property Tax Committee under Chairman Dean Andahl implemented revisions of the main Assessors' Handbooks. The staff of the State Board (formerly the Assessment Standards Division, now the Policy, Planning, and Standards Department) led the effort. The California Taxpayers Association, or Cal-Tax coordinated industry comments and suggestions, and the California Assessors' Association provided input from their position. As you can see by the links above, the Property Tax Division is using the Internet as its main distribution process.

Brief Descriptions of New Handbooks:

  • AH 501, Basic Appraisal, (2002)
  • AH 502, Advanced Appraisal, (12-98)   This handbook addresses complex issues in all three basic appraisal approaches, plus new construction, intangible assets and rights, and the assessment of complex business properties.
  • AH 504, Assessment of Personal Property and Fixtures, (2002) This manual includes application of mass appraisal techniques to business property, special problems in appraising and assessing business equipment and tangible personal property, situs, and classification of property between exempt inventory and taxable supplies or equipment. Special sections deal with classification issues between structural fixtures and other fixtures that are valued using declining value methods.
  • AH 267, Welfare, Church, and Religious Exemptions, (2002) This manual was revised concurrently with the more visible and contested 501, 502, and 504 manuals. It contains updates which reflect court decisions and legislative changes since the last revision almost 20 years ago. The URL is:
  • AH 521, Assessment of Agricultural and Open-Space Properties, (2003) This manual covers the unique valuation and assessment problems that arise in agriculture and open space appraisal for California property tax purposes. The URL is:
  • AH 560, Assessment of Mining Properties, (3-97) This manual and the related manual AH566, present the unique assessment problems and solutions created by Proposition 13. The URL is:
  • AH 566, Assessment of Petroleum Properties, (1999). This manual was the first of the modern sequence to be issued, in August, 1996, through the cooperation of the petroleum industry, the Assessors' Association, and the BOE staff. Its success set the standard for the later handbook sections. The URL is:
  • Assessment Appeals Manual, (2003) The BOE has issued this manual as 'instructions' to assessors and appeals boards in accordance with California law. It is effective immediately.

 Work in Process:

  • AH510 Possessory Interests The manual covers the appraisal, assessment, and taxation of private interests in otherwise exempt government property.

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