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Timing is Everything for Protesting Taxes

by Scott Donald, Irvine, January 2016

 

A judge's ruling in Alameda County, California proves that timing is everything when it comes to protesting property taxes, even if the tax violates state law.

 

Background

 

Two school funding measures were approved by voters in Albany, California in November 2009. They included a new $149 parcel tax for residential property and a commercial levy of 3 cents per square foot.

 

In March 2013, an appeals court heard a challenge to a similar tax measure for Alameda schools. It ruled that state law requires new parcel taxes to set uniform rates for residential and commercial properties. Rates must also be uniform for properties of different sizes.

 

Albany Lawsuit Filed

 

Four months after the Alameda appeals court ruling, an Albany development company, which paid more than $197,000 in new taxes over a three-year period sued for a refund. The suit argued that Albany's taxes also violated state law because they imposed higher rates for commercial property and for larger parcels.

 

An Alameda Court judge said the company waited too long to file its lawsuit and the appeals court agreed. California property owners have only 60 days to challenge new tax levies. If no one objects within 60 days, "the public is forever barred from contesting the validity of the agency's action," the First District Court of Appeal said.

 

The Albany taxes expired last year and were replaced by a new tax levy that applies only to residential property.