Business & Real Estate

Reviewing the ins and outs of your property tax bill

Like clockwork, your property tax bill shows up in October. Like clockwork, you either pay half or all of the bill and bemoan how high it is or appreciate the savings of Proposition 13.

Following are a few frequently asked questions about property taxes.

Q: When does my property tax bill arrive, and when is payment due?

A: It usually arrives in mid-October. Bills are prepared based on the assessed valuation as of January. You must pay at least half no later than Dec. 10, and the second half no later than April 10.

Q: What time period does this year’s bill cover?

A: July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.

Q: Can I pay it all in December?

A: Yes. To the extent allowable, property taxes are deductible in the calendar year they are paid.

Q: How are property taxes calculated?

A: The lion’s share is ad valorem, meaning a percentage – usually 1% – based on the assessed value.

Q: How much could my property taxes go up each year?

A: Property taxes are generally limited to a 2% increase annually, plus any voter-approved parcel taxes.

Q: What’s a parcel tax?

A: Parcel taxes are levied, usually by a super-majority vote, as a fixed-dollar amount per parcel regardless of size or value. Some parcel taxes have provisions that seniors can opt out of paying.

Q: What do our property taxes pay for?

A: A multitude of things that will vary but could include local public schools, public safety enhancements and road improvements.

Q: What is a supplemental tax bill?

A: By law, your property tax can only increase by a maximum of 2% each year. When you sell your house, the property taxes will increase to the current value – the sales price, in most cases. The new owner will continue to pay the old, lower seller’s rate until the county can prepare a new property tax bill based on the new price. When the county does, usually three to six months later, the new homeowner will receive a supplemental bill.

Q: What happens if the value of my house decreases to less than the assessed value?

A: You can appeal, and if you can show a loss in value, your taxes may be reduced temporarily.

Q: Do I have to pay property taxes?

A: Yes. Property taxes are levied as a lien on your house, so they will eventually be deducted from the proceeds when the house sells.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Text or call him with questions, comments and potential column topics at 492-0062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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