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California Property Taxes – What You Need to Know


California property taxes, like those in many other states, do not fund the budget of the state of California. Rather, California property taxes are assessed at the local government levels, and all the money collected is used for funding local governments. Fifty three percent of the money collected in California property taxes is used to fund schools. Another eighteen percent is used for county governments, eleven percent goes to city governments and the rest funds special districts.

California property taxes are some of the lowest in the country, ranging from 3.61% per $1000 in assessed value to 6.48% per $1000 of assessed value. Property values are assessed by the county assessor, a locally elected official. Once property values are determined, the taxes are assessed to each home based on the value determined by the tax assessor. California law states that property taxes be no more than 1% of the assessed value of the home plus the following:

1) the amount necessary to make annual payments due on general obligation bonds or other indebtedness incurred prior to July 1, 1978
2) any bond indebtedness for the acquisition or improvement of real property approved by a two-thirds majority of voters after July 1, 1978
3) certain bond indebtedness for school facilities approved by 55% of voters

The law allows for certain exemptions from California property taxes. A homeowner’s exemption is available to all homeowners on their primary residence. The homeowner’s exemption reduces your home’s taxable value by $7000. To get your homeowner’s exemption, you simply make a one time filing with the tax assessor’s office. The homeowner’s exemption only applies on your primary residence; you must reside in the home to qualify.

Disabled veterans also receive an exemption in California. According to California law, a disabled veteran is eligible to receive a basic exemption of $100,000 on the principal place of residence if he or she has specified disabilities. This exemption also applies to the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran, provided that spouse has not remarried. The exemption is raised to $150,000 if the veteran’s income is $40,000 or less per year. Amounts of the exemption and of the income limits are adjusted annually for inflation.

Farmers are also eligible to receive tax exemptions on property used for growing crops. Grapevines are exempt for the first three years after planting and orchards are exempt for the first four years after planting. Standing timber is exempt, but is taxed when harvested.

If you live in California and are the victim of a natural disaster, you will also gain relief from property taxes. Check with your local taxing agency to determine how this will affect you.

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