The types of situations triggering an individual’s right to a property tax refund have expanded in 2019, with some slight changes to California’s property taxation laws.

Individuals who might seek a property tax refund include:

  • disabled veterans who are retroactively exempt from paying property taxes;
  • property owners who paid taxes erroneously or more than once; and
  • property owners who have had their property reassessed and the assessment value reduced, and are seeking a refund on taxes paid in that assessment year. [Calif. Revenue and Taxation Code §§205.5; 5096]

Previously, tax refunds were able to be collected and verified by:

  • the person who paid the tax (including the last recorded owner) or their guardian;
  • the property’s executor; or
  • the property’s administrator.

With the passage of SB 1246, beginning January 1, 2019, a trustee of the person who paid the tax is also able to collect a tax refund. [Rev & T C §5097(a)(1)]

Further, the law changes authorize a property tax refund to be granted without a verified claim when:

  • the property has not been transferred the same fiscal year the taxes were collected; and
  • the refund is for less than $5,000. [Rev & T C §5105(a)]

Property tax refunds may only be granted without a verified claim in counties where the board of supervisors adopts a resolution or ordinance allowing such unverified claims to be granted tax refunds. [Rev & T C §5105(b)]

Verifying a claim typically takes a lot of work on behalf of the taxpayer, as the onus is on the taxpayer rather than the county to get a refund they are entitled to on property taxes. Now — in counties choosing to adopt the law change, which will likely be many due to the lack of opposition to the bill — the county will be able to simply issue a refund without the taxpayer needing to first file a claim.

Anything that simplifies the property tax collection — and refund — process is positive news. These changes make the property tax refund process more efficient, avoiding extra steps and needless headaches.

Related article:

Is a taxpayer required to exhaust administrative remedies before claiming a refund of taxes assessed on property they do not own?