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California Initiative Creates Property Tax Surcharge

by Scott Donald, Irvine, September 2015

 

Owners of multimillion-dollar homes and businesses in California could end up paying higher property taxes if a citizen initiative becomes law.

 

Initiative 15-0043 was filed by several social welfare activists including former State Board of Equalization Member Conway Collis.

 

The measure titled the "Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act" institutes a tax surcharge on properties with an assessed value of $3 million or more. After being filed, the initiative was amended to exclude rental property.

 

The surcharge, commencing with the 2017-2018 fiscal year, would be imposed as follows:


  • Assessed value of $3 million but less than $5 million - 0.3%

  • Assessed value of $5 million but less than $10 million - 0.6%

  • Assessed value of $10 million or more - 0.8%

The initiative includes a sunset provision that would make the entire measure inoperative on January 1, 2040.

 

The revenue from the property tax surcharged would be spent on a number of different programs including an earned income tax credit intended to reduce poverty.

 

Critics say this approach to tax high-valued properties could be a viable threat. Lobby groups may be testing the waters to determine if a property tax increase on multimillion-dollar properties would be more favorable to voters than a split-roll property tax that includes different tax rates on commercial properties and homesteads.

 

It's not known whether the sponsors of the initiative have the resources needed to gather enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.