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Santa Clara County Abolishes Appeal Fee

by Scott Donald, Irvine, December 2015

 

Taxpayers will no longer be charged a fee to appeal their property tax assessment in Santa Clara County, California. The Board of Supervisors repealed the fee, calling it a fundamental issue of fairness.

 

"Charging a member of the public a $40 fee for the right to appeal, and then keeping the fee even after we acknowledge our error - there's just no way to justify that," Supervisor Joe Simitian said. "It's patently unfair to make a mistake and then charge a member of the public who has to go to the time and trouble of getting us to correct it. That's just adding insult to injury."

 

Santa Clara County collected $218,000 in fees from the 5,400 appeals files last year. About a third of the appeals resulted in an assessment change.

 

Initially, officials wanted to refund the fee only to taxpayers who won their appeal. "Candidly, this has taken longer to resolve than I expected," Simitian explained. "Ultimately, the easiest solution turned out to be eliminating the fee altogether."

 

Assessor Larry Stone supported the change. "The appraisal of real property is more an art than a science, and sometimes we do over assess property. My appraisers want to get it right. Charging a property owner a fee for what ultimately may be a legitimate over assessment sends the wrong message."

 

The repeal of the fee comes after the county's 2015 appeal deadline and at a time when the market is rebounding. There are hopes that other counties will follow Santa Clara's lead and vote to abolish their assessment appeal fees.