County Assessor Warns Public: Do Not Be Scammed

  Do Not Be Scammed In these unsettling economic times as the values of homes decline, it is my responsibility to ensure that no property owner pays more that their fair share of property taxes.

  People worry about foreclosures and paying property taxes even with the protection of Proposition 13. Now, they have to worry about being ripped off by companies offering the lure of lower taxes for a fee.

  Private companies are taking advantage of the situation with a scheme charging property owners an unreasonable fee for a service they do not need. I am always distressed when private companies use questionable tactics to obtain fees from unsuspecting property owners. Companies using clever names like “Tax Adjusters”, “Tax Review”, or” Tax Reassessment” are mailing misleading solicitations which arrive in official looking envelopes. They are written in language with deadline warning, which can easily be mistaken for an official government form.

  For the 2009/2010 tax year, we will be reviewing over 35,000 single-family residences in Tulare County without the property owners ever having to ask us. In addition to the properties that will be automatically reviewed, we have over 3500 property owners that have filed assessment appeals and over 500 value review requests to review their property as of December 31, 2008. Proposition 13 set the guidelines or determining property taxes. The assessed value of property is established when it is either purchased or built. Most refer to this as their Proposition 13 base year value. Lesser known is Proposition 8 which allows a temporary reduction in assessed value when the current market value of a property is less than the value previously shown on the property tax bill (their Prop 13 base year value). Owners who purchase their home or condominium at or near the top of the market may have a Proposition 13 value that is higher than its market value. They clearly deserve a temporary reduction in the property tax.

  Last year, I initiated a review of single-family residences and condominiums. Over 12,000 homes were reviewed, resulting in tax savings for 10,225 homeowners.  The market downturn, however, does not mean everyone will see reduced property taxes. So, if you have an old Prop 13 base year value, it is highly unlikely that your property taxes will be reduced, as your base year valued will still be below current market value. Do not be mislead into paying someone to file an application for you when we will be reviewing your property for free. My advice for those concerned about their property values is to wait until you get your actual tax bill (usually by November).  If you disagree with the values, you will have ample time to either file an Assessment Appeal Application with the Assessment Appeals Board  (these Applications are available from the Board of Supervisor's Office, located at 2800 W. Burrel Ave.; contact them for any fees charged to file) by November 30, 2009, or if late, file a value Review Request with the Assessor between December 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009  (there is never a fee charged by the County of Tulare for a Value Review Request). So, please do not get ripped off by some scam.