Below is general discussion of various factors impacting property taxes in San Diego, California. The reader should consult their tax advisor for definitive guidance about property tax issues and not rely soley on the informaton below.
Property tax rates are capped in California due to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 (Prop 13). Prop 13 was a ballot measure approved by the voters of California to limit property tax increases. The legislation also mandated that any future increases in property tax rates have the support of two-thirds of the Legislature for approval. This provision dramatically limited the ability of the legislature to increase taxes.
The property tax rate in California is 1% of the assessed value of real estate, plus any bonds, fees and special charges. Properties can only be reassessed when there is a change in ownership or when new construction is completed. Unless one of these reassessment conditions exists, Prop 13 allows for annual increases of up to 2% of a propertys value.
The passage of Prop 13 dramatically limited the legislatures ability to increase taxes. Despite this, municipalities desired a mechanism to subsidize the building of infrastructure for new developments, so in 1982, the Capital Facilities Act was passed. The act is better known by its legislative authors, Senator Henry Mello and Assemblyman Mike Roos (i.e. Mell-Roos Assessment).
According to the San Diego County Assessor, Mello-Roos districts are established by local governments at the request of a developer to finance specific public facilities and services such as schools, roads and libraries. Mello-Roos districts were authorized by state law in 1982. This law allows any public agency to establish a Mello-Roos district, which then can issue the necessary tax-exempt bonds and impose fees to pay off these bonds. Communities or districts that impose a Mello-Roos fee are distributed throughout the County but are most common is large new subdivisions.
In addition to the 1% tax rate allowed by Prop 13, Mello-Roos fees are a separate charge on the property tax bill. The duration of Mello-Roos fees are linked to the amount of time needed to pay off the bond, which is typically 20-25 years. Mello-Roos fees range from $174 to over $3000 annually, and the average fee for San Diego communities was $1,488 in 2006.
To get a general idea about the amount of property taxes you would owe annually on a property, multiply the purchase price of the property by 1.2%. For example, if you purchased a $400,000 home, your annual tax due would be around $4,800, plus special assessments (if applicable), and Mello-Roos fees (if applicable).
Consumers should be aware that tax rates for a particular area can increase as news bonds are added or decrease if bonds are paid off. In addition, Special Asssessments (if any) for new infrastructure can also impact tax rates.
When considering the purchase of real estate, single-family homes, condominiums or townhomes in San Diego (particularly in newer communities), propspective buyers should find out if the property has Mello-Ross or other Special Assessment fees, how long these fees will continue, and if the fees increase annually.
Over 1 million tax bills are sent out every year in San Diego County by the County Tax Collector. The tax period in San Diego covers the period from July 1st to June 30th. The amount owed is based on the assessed value of the property as of January 1st. The tax bill is mailed out in September or early October, and is due in two equal installments; first payment is due December 10th and the second payment is due April 10th. State law does not allow for extensions to pay the tax bill and late payments are subject to a penalty of 18% APR. For those wishing to pay by credit card, the Discover Card is the only option at this time.
For more information about property tax issues in San Diego or to obtain a definative answer to your property tax questions, contact the San Diego County Assessor or your tax professional.
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Article Added on Wednesday, August 16, 2006
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