Transferring Property Tax Base in California: Everything You Need to Know

By Trevor McAmis | October 12, 2023

Transferring Property Tax Base in California: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Trevor McAmis on Oct 2, 2023 4:30:30 PM

Understanding Property Tax Base Transfers

What is a Property Tax Base Transfer?

In California, property tax base transfer refers to the ability of a property owner to transfer the assessed value of their current property to a new property. This mechanism is particularly beneficial when the current property has a lower assessed value than the market value, allowing homeowners to potentially save on property taxes when they move.

Why Every Californian Homeowner Should Know About Tax Base Transfers

For long-time homeowners in California, the assessed value of their property may be significantly lower than its current market value, thanks to Proposition 13, which caps annual property tax increases. When moving to a new home, this can result in a sharp increase in property taxes. However, with property tax base transfers, homeowners can carry over the assessed value from their old home to their new one, ensuring continuity in their tax obligations and potentially saving thousands of dollars annually.

The Different Avenues: From Person-to-Person to Legal Entity Transfers

Property tax base transfers aren't just limited to individual homeowners. They can occur between individuals, from a person to a legal entity, and vice versa. Understanding the nuances of each type of transfer is crucial to ensure compliance with California's tax laws and to maximize potential tax savings.

Base-Year Value Transfer: Maximizing Your Tax Benefits

Who Qualifies for a Base-Year Transfer?

To be eligible for a base-year transfer, homeowners must meet specific criteria. For instance, they might need to be over a certain age or have lived in their current home for a minimum number of years. Additionally, the new property's market value should typically be equal to or less than the old property's sale price.

Navigating the Base-Year Transfer Application Process

Applying for a base-year transfer involves several steps. Homeowners must first ensure they meet the eligibility criteria. Next, they need to file an application with the county assessor's office, typically within a specified timeframe after purchasing the new property. It's essential to provide all necessary documentation and ensure accuracy to avoid potential delays or denials.

Unlocking Significant Tax Savings with Base-Year Transfers

By successfully transferring their property's base-year value, homeowners can unlock significant tax savings. This can be especially beneficial for retirees or those on a fixed income, ensuring they aren't priced out of their new homes due to rising property taxes.

Key Propositions and Their Impact: A Deep Dive

Propositions 13, 19, 60, and 90: What Every Homeowner Should Know

California's property tax landscape has been shaped by several key propositions. Proposition 13, passed in 1978, capped annual property tax increases, ensuring that homeowners wouldn't face sudden, exorbitant tax hikes. Propositions 60 and 90 expanded on this by allowing older homeowners to transfer their tax base when moving within or between certain counties. The more recent Proposition 19 has further refined these rules, offering more flexibility for transfers while also changing inheritance tax rules.

Breaking Down Each Proposition: Benefits, Limitations, and More

  • Proposition 13: This groundbreaking proposition limits property tax increases to 2% annually unless there's a change in ownership or new construction. It provides stability for homeowners, ensuring predictable tax bills year after year.
  • Proposition 60: Aimed at homeowners aged 55 and over, this proposition allows the transfer of a property tax base to a new home of equal or lesser market value within the same county. It's a boon for retirees looking to downsize without facing a tax penalty.
  • Proposition 90: Building on Proposition 60, Proposition 90 permits tax base transfers between certain participating counties, offering even more flexibility for eligible homeowners.
  • Proposition 19: This recent change allows homeowners over 55, those with disabilities, and victims of natural disasters to transfer their tax base anywhere within the state, with certain conditions. It also alters how inherited properties are taxed, potentially increasing taxes on certain inherited homes.

Proposition 19: A Game-Changer for Property Tax Transfers

Proposition 19, passed in 2020, has significantly impacted property tax transfers in California. By expanding the eligibility and flexibility of tax base transfers, it offers potential tax savings for a broader range of homeowners. However, its changes to inheritance tax rules mean that some families could face higher taxes on properties passed down to them.

Inheritance and Property: How Proposition 19 Changes the Game

Before Proposition 19, parents could transfer primary residences (and other properties, with limits) to their children without triggering a reassessment. Now, unless the child uses the inherited property as their primary residence, the property could be reassessed at its current market value, potentially leading to higher property taxes.

County-Specific Regulations: Local Nuances Matter

Mapping Out Counties That Welcome Property Tax Base Transfers

While Propositions 60 and 90 provide a framework for tax base transfers, the actual implementation can vary by county. Some counties have opted into the inter-county transfer system of Proposition 90, while others have not. Knowing which counties participate is crucial for homeowners considering a move.

Proposition 19's Role in Harmonizing County Regulations

With the passage of Proposition 19, the landscape is shifting. Now, base year value transfers are allowed across all 58 counties in California, making it easier for eligible homeowners to find a new home without worrying about a significant tax increase.

Tips for Navigating County-Specific Transfer Rules

Even with statewide propositions, local nuances can affect the transfer process. Homeowners should consult with local county assessor offices, understand any specific documentation requirements, and be aware of deadlines to ensure a smooth transfer process.

Transferring Property Between Family: A Closer Look

The Importance of Parent-Child Property Transfers in Estate Planning

Transferring property within the family, especially between parents and children, is a common estate planning strategy. It allows families to pass on valuable assets, often with significant sentimental value, while also potentially benefiting from tax advantages.

New 2021 Rules: How Parent-Child Transfers Have Evolved

With the introduction of Proposition 19 in 2021, the rules surrounding parent-child property transfers underwent significant changes. Previously, parents could transfer a home (and up to $1 million of other property) to their children without triggering a property tax reassessment. Now, unless the child uses the inherited property as their primary residence, the property might be reassessed at its current market value, leading to potentially higher property taxes.

Step-by-Step Guide to Facilitating a Smooth Parent-Child Transfer

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure that the property in question qualifies for a parent-child exclusion.
  2. Prepare Documentation: Gather necessary documents, including proof of relationship and property details.
  3. File a Claim: Submit a claim for the parent-child exclusion with the county assessor's office.
  4. Stay Updated: With changing regulations, it's essential to stay informed and consult with professionals when considering a transfer.

Choosing the Right Deed: Quitclaim vs. Grant vs. Transfer on Death

When transferring property, the type of deed used can have implications for both the giver and the receiver:

  • Quitclaim Deed: Transfers property without any warranties about the title's clarity. It's a quick way to transfer property but offers less protection for the recipient.
  • Grant Deed: Provides assurance that the property hasn't been sold to someone else and that there are no undisclosed liens against it.
  • Transfer on Death Deed: Allows homeowners to specify a beneficiary who will inherit the property upon their death, bypassing the probate process.

Financial Implications: Making Cents of Property Tax Transfers

Decoding the Documentary Transfer Tax: What You Need to Know

When property changes hands in California, the Documentary Transfer Tax (DTT) often applies. This tax is based on the property's sale price or value and can be a consideration when transferring property, especially in sales or market value-based transfers.

Who Foots the Bill? Buyer or Seller?

Typically, the party responsible for paying the DTT is stipulated in the property's purchase agreement. In many California counties, the seller usually pays the DTT, but this can vary based on local customs and negotiations between the buyer and seller.

The Retiree Advantage: How Lower Tax Bases Can Boost Retirement Savings

For retirees, maintaining a lower tax base when moving can translate to significant savings. Given the fixed incomes many retirees live on, these savings can make a considerable difference, allowing for a more comfortable retirement and freeing up funds for other essential expenses.

Intra-County vs. Inter-County Transfers: A Comparative Analysis

Intra-County Transfers: Keeping It Local and the Benefits

Intra-county transfers refer to the process of transferring a property tax base within the same county. This type of transfer is often more straightforward, as homeowners are dealing with a familiar local tax system. The benefits include:

  • Familiarity: Homeowners remain within the same county, ensuring a smoother transition with local regulations and processes.
  • Savings: By transferring their tax base, homeowners can potentially save on property taxes, especially if they've lived in their original home for a long time.

Inter-County Transfers: Expanding Your Horizons Across California

Inter-county transfers allow homeowners to move between counties while still benefiting from a transferred tax base. This offers greater flexibility, especially for those looking to relocate for work, family, or other reasons. Key points include:

  • Flexibility: Homeowners aren't restricted to staying within their current county to benefit from a transferred tax base.
  • Participating Counties: Not all counties in California accept inter-county transfers. It's essential to check which counties participate in programs like Proposition 90.

Which California Counties Allow Property Tax Transfer?

As of November 7, 2018, the following ten counties in California have adopted an ordinance enabling intercounty base year value transfers:

  • Alameda
  • Los Angeles
  • Orange
  • Riverside
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Clara
  • Tuolumne
  • Ventura

Key Differences, Benefits, and Considerations for Both Transfer Types

While both intra-county and inter-county transfers offer potential tax savings, there are distinct differences:

  • Eligibility Criteria: The criteria for transferring a tax base can vary between intra-county and inter-county transfers.
  • Application Process: The process might differ slightly based on local county regulations.
  • Potential Savings: The amount of tax savings can vary based on the property's location and the difference in market values between the old and new homes.

Conclusion: The Future of Property Tax Base Transfers in California

Recap: The Key Takeaways from Property Tax Base Transfers

Transferring a property tax base in California offers homeowners the opportunity to save on property taxes, especially when moving to a new home. With various propositions shaping the landscape, it's crucial for homeowners to stay informed and understand the benefits and limitations of each.

Staying Ahead: The Importance of Keeping Updated with Regulations

As with many tax-related matters, regulations and rules can change. Homeowners should regularly consult with professionals or county assessor offices to ensure they're making informed decisions.

Expert Advice: Why Consulting Professionals is a Wise Move

While this guide offers a detailed overview, individual circumstances can differ significantly. At Paramount Property Tax Appeal, we understand the intricacies of property tax base transfers in California. Whether you're contemplating a change of ownership, have recently finalized one, or are already navigating the process, our dedicated team of experts is here to assist you. We provide tailored guidance to ensure you make the best decisions for your unique situation. If you have any questions or concerns about the change of ownership process, don't hesitate to reach out. We're just a phone call or email away.


Topics: Property Tax Reduction, Change In Ownership

We specialize in reducing your property tax expenses through appeals. Our services are free until we deliver a refund or tax savings – No Savings = No Fee. Committed to defending your rights, we take pride in the trust our clients place in us.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Enter Your Property Information For an Instant Evaluation

 Take the first step to lowering your property tax bill. Request a free consultation. Let Paramount handle all aspects of your appeal.