property tax reduction appeals

Posted by Leslie Bauer on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 2:54pm.

Property Tax Reduction Appeals

If you believe your home may be eligible for a reduction in property taxes based upon a decline in value, there are two ways you might proceed: an informal review by the Assessor's office and/or a formal appeal with Assessment Appeals Board. The formal appeal, in particular, can be a complicated and time consuming process but may be worth the effort for the savings in property taxes. If you need help gathering comparable sales data with which to make your case, I am happy to be of assistance. Typically, the Assessor's "valuation date" is January 1, 2009 and any sales comparables submitted must have closed before March 31, 2009.

Very generally speaking (it all depends on the neighborhood and other details of your purchase), homes purchased 2006 through mid-2008 probably have the best cases for a property tax reduction. The less affluent areas of the city typically peaked in value around 2006 and the more affluent in 2007 - 2008. Declines from peak value generally run in the 10% to 30% range, with the less affluent southern neighborhoods being hit with the largest reductions. (For a broad analysis of value changes by neighborhood, see the Newsletter link at the bottom of this page.)

Please note: If your appeal is successful, the reduction in assessed value only applies to the 7/1/09 - 6/30/10 tax year. A decline-in-market appeal is only good for 1 year, the year for which it is filed.

Informal Review

The Assessor's Office is now accepting, through 8/28/09, "Requests For Informal Review Of Assessed Value" for tax year 2009/2010. This applies only to single-family dwellings, residential condominiums, townhouses, live-work lofts and cooperative units.

The SF Assessor's website offers information regarding Decline-in-Value Informal Reviews:


  • SF Assessor's Office Forms and FAQs


  • Formal Appeal
    The next open formal appeal filing period for San Francisco will be July 2, 2009 to September 15, 2009 -- to appeal the 2009/2010 assessed value of your property. A formal appeal can be made for multi-unit and commercial properties, as well as for houses, condos & cooperative units.

    These 2 websites offer details regarding the filing of a formal appeal - the instructional videos are highly recommended for those who wish to proceed:

  • SF Assessment Appeals Board

  • Informational Videos on Property Tax Appeals
  • Warning on Scams

    There are a number of property-tax-appeal service companies, who have been sending out their solicitations on stationery that suggests a government agency affiliation. SF Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting has stated the following:

    "We've received reports from dozens of taxpayers who have received a letter from companies offering to facilitate the property tax reassessment for $179 [or more]. This is unnecessary and deceptive. Taxpayers can fill out a simple, one-page application for a review of their property in my office, free of charge, starting on April 15. There is no need to pay for this service." Many of the solicitations received by San Francisco homeowners may be illegal.

    More on this subject:

  • Home Reassessment Scams


  • Excerpted FAQs

    How is the amount of my property tax determined?

    In order for the amount of your tax to be determined, the Office of the Assessor/Recorder must first assess the value of your property. Generally, the assessed value is the cash or market value at the time of purchase. This value increases not more than 2% per year until the property is sold or any new construction is completed, at which time it must be reassessed. For more information on how the assessed value is determined, contact the Office of the Assessor/Recorder at (415) 554-5596.

    After the Office of the Assessor/Recorder has determined the property value, the Office of the Controller applies the appropriate tax rates, which include the general tax levy, locally voted special taxes, and any city or district direct assessments. The general tax levy is determined in accordance with State law and is limited to $1 per $100 of assessed value of your property. After applying the tax rates, the Office of the Controller calculates the total tax amount. Finally, the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector prepares property tax bills based on the Office of the Controller's calculations, distributes the bills, and then collects the taxes.

    Neither the Board of Supervisors nor the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector determines the amount of taxes.

    Do I have any recourse if I disagree with the valuation placed on my property by the Assessor?

    Yes. If you disagree with the assessed value of your property you may contact the Office of the Assessor at (415) 554-5596. They can provide you with information on how the value was established.

    If you still disagree with the assessed value of your property after reviewing it with the Office of the Assessor/Recorder, you may contact the Assessment Appeals Board for the purpose of appealing your assessment.

    If you choose to appeal your assessment, you must still pay your property tax in full by the appropriate deadlines; otherwise, you will incur penalties while the case is on appeal. If your appeal is granted, a refund will be issued to you.

    Appeal applications and further information about the appeal process can be obtained by contacting the Assessment Appeals Board.

    Before You File a Formal Appeal with the Assessment Appeals Board

    You may not need to file a formal appeal with the Assessment Appeals Board. Beginning April 1, 2009, the Assessor's office will be accepting requests for an Informal Review of your 2009/2010 property value. The Informal Review forms can be obtained from the Assessor's website. If the Assessor's staff discovers an error, they may be able to correct that error, and you may not need to file a formal appeal with the Assessment Appeals Board.

    If, however, you and the Assessor's office cannot reach an agreement, you can usually appeal your assessment to the Assessment Appeals Board during the appropriate open filing period. If you want to file a formal appeal for the value of your property, you must complete an "Application for Changed Assessment," and your application must be filed with the Assessment Appeals Board in a timely manner.

    Who Can File a Formal Appeal

    An assessment appeal can be filed by the property owner or the owner's spouse, parents, or children, or any person directly responsible for payment of the property taxes; this person becomes the "Applicant". An application may also be filed by an authorized agent. If an application is filed by an agent - other than a California licensed attorney - written authorization, signed by the applicant, is required.

    How to File a Formal Appeal

    Obtain, complete, and return an "Application for Changed Assessment" from the Assessment Appeals Board of San Francisco. We do not accept versions of the form from other counties or the State Board of Equalization. Completed applications must be postmarked on or before the deadline date to be considered as timely filed.

    All information is from sources deemed reliable but subject to error and omission, and not warranted. Interested parties should contact the appropriate government agency to confirm all pertinent guidelines and procedures


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