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California Tax Relief for Catastrophic Wildfires

by Scott Donald, Irvine, October 2017

 

More than a dozen fires broke out across California in early October destroying at least 1,500 structures and scorching nearly 100,000 acres of land. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee. It is considered one of the deadliest wildfire outbreaks in the state's history and three counties have already been declared a State of Emergency.

 

California’s property tax laws provide a mechanism for the Assessor to adjust assessed values to recognize destruction caused by a calamity or misfortune which damages real or personal property.

 

Here are some frequently asked questions about the process:

 

What are the requirements to qualify for a property tax reduction?

The damage must be $10,000 of market value or more and a completed Application for Reassessment must be filed with the Assessor’s Office.

 

What type of property tax relief is available?

Current property taxes may qualify for a reduction based on the percentage of the property damaged or destroyed beginning with the month the damage occurred. Eligible properties will have their taxable values prorated based on the number of months in an undamaged condition and the number of months in a damaged condition.

 

What type of property is eligible for reassessment when damaged by misfortune or calamity?

Taxable property such as: land, buildings, unlicensed mobile homes, orchards, vineyards, business fixtures, business personal property, boats, and airplanes.

 

What type of property is not eligible for reassessment when damaged by misfortune or calamity?

Non-taxable property such as: furnishings, licensed vehicles, business inventory, individual personal property, and livestock used to produce food or fiber.

 

After my property is rebuilt or repaired, will property taxes be increased?

No. The previous taxable value will be restored if the improvements are rebuilt in a like manner, regardless of the actual cost of rebuilding. Property taxes will be returned to the prior values by means of a supplemental assessment following the month the property is repaired.

 

When must an application be filed?

Applications for Reassessment should be filed within 12 months of the damage. In no case may the claim be filed later than one year after the disaster.