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California Property Taxpayers Have a Bill of Rights

The act is known as ‘The Morgan Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights’

By Chris Micheli, January 18, 2023 6:39 am

In Part 14 of Division 1 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code, there Is the Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Revenue and Taxation Code Section 5900 provides that the act is known as “The Morgan Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.”

Section 5901 includes four legislative findings and declarations that taxes are a sensitive point of contact between citizens and their government, and disputes and disagreements often arise as a result of misunderstandings or miscommunications. It is the intent of the Legislature to promote the proper assessment and collection of property taxes throughout this state by advancing, to the extent feasible, uniform practices of property tax appraisal and assessment.

Section 5902 provides that Part 14 is administered by the State Board of Equalization (SBE). Section 5902 defines the “Property Taxpayers’ Advocate” (PTA) and Section 5902 requires the SBE to designate the PTA, who is responsible for reviewing the adequacy of procedures regarding property tax assessment matters and the prompt resolution of taxpayers complaints and problems.

Section 5905 requires the PTA to periodically review and report on the adequacy of existing procedures, or the need for additional or revised procedures. Section 5906 requires the PTA to undertake, to the extent not duplicative of existing programs, periodic review of property tax statements and other property tax forms prescribed by the SBE. 

In addition, the PTA is required to undertake the review of taxpayer complaints and identify areas of recurrent conflict between taxpayers and assessment officers. This review is required to include specific tasks. Also, the SBE is required to annually conduct a public hearing, soliciting the input of assessors, other local agency representatives, and taxpayers, to address the PTA’s annual report and to identify means to correct any problems identified in that report.

Section 5907 prohibits any state or local officer or employees responsible for the appraisal or assessment of property from being evaluated based solely upon the dollar value of assessments enrolled or property taxes collected. However, nothing in this section is to be construed to prevent an official or employee from being evaluated based upon the propriety and application of the methodology used in arriving at a value determination.

Section 5908 provides that, upon request of a county assessor or assessors, the PTA, in conjunction with any other programs of the SBE, must assist assessors in their efforts to provide education and instruction to their staffs and local taxpayers for purposes of promoting taxpayer understanding and compliance with the property tax laws, and, to the extent feasible, statewide uniformity in the application of property tax laws.

Section 5909 authorizes county assessors to respond to a taxpayer’s written request for a written ruling as to property tax consequences of an actual or planned particular transaction, or as to the property taxes liability of a specified property. Where a taxpayer’s failure to timely report information or pay amounts of tax directly results from the taxpayer’s reasonable reliance on the county assessor’s written ruling, the taxpayer is relieved of any penalties, or interest assessed or accrued, with respect to property taxes not timely paid as a direct result of the taxpayer’s reasonable reliance.

Section 5910 requires the PTA to make specific recommendations to the SBE with respect to standardizing interest rates applicable to escape assessments and refunds of property taxes, and statutes of limitations, so as to place property taxpayers on an equal basis with taxing authorities.

Section 5911 provides two statements of legislative intent that taxpayers are provided fair and understandable explanations of their rights and duties with respect to property taxation, prompt resolution of legitimate questions and appeals regarding their property taxes, and prompt corrections when errors have occurred in property tax assessments.

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