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Unfair deadlines prevent taxpayers from correcting mistakes

POSTED May 7, 2010 10:02 p.m.

The deadlines for tax appeals illustrates one way California law creates a hostile work environment for taxpayers.

Believe it or not, the deadline for local property tax appeals varies from county to county in California.  Even in the same county, the deadline can change from year to year without any real warning to taxpayers.

If property owners get confused and miss the deadline, they are completely out of luck, even if their tax assessments are incorrect.  They cannot appeal to their county assessment appeals board and they cannot file a lawsuit to fix the problem because they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies as the law requires.  The Board of Equalization has no power to help them if they missed the deadline.  We can only say, “Better luck next year!”

This situation is caused by Section 1603 of the California Revenue & Taxation Code, which sets the annual deadline for property tax appeals as September 15 in counties where the assessor mails notices by August 1 to all property owners.  If the assessor misses the Aug. 1 deadline to mail notices, then the law gives taxpayers until Nov. 30 to file their appeals.

The Board of Equalization keeps track of the deadline for each county, so you can find your deadline on the Board website at:

www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/filingperiods.pdf

I am told that this strange law was requested by county assessors because they wanted to cut down on the number of tax appeals.  I wish the Legislature and the assessors valued justice to taxpayers above administrative convenience for assessors.  Ironically, each county has three years to resolve assessment appeals, and that deadline can be waived by agreement with the taxpayers, so it is not obvious to me why it would matter if we gave all taxpayers a few more weeks to prepare their appeals.

I recommend that we adopt a consistent statewide deadline for property tax appeals.  We have a standard deadline for income tax returns and a standard deadline for property tax statements, so we should be able to adopt a single, statewide, standard deadline for property tax appeals.  If you agree, I hope you will call your legislators.  This is one tax problem that the Board of Equalization cannot fix, since it requires Legislative action.

— Barbara Alby

Acting Board of Equalization member

 

 

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