Public Comment

Meaningless Homeowners Exemption

Paul M. Schwartz, attorney at law
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:25:00 AM

With the recent skewering of high tax states by the federal government, the state government needs to step in and provide California homeowners property tax relief by restoring a meaningful homeowners exemption. Since we homeowners in California are now limited to a $10,000 property tax deduction on our federal taxes, it is time for the state legislators and the governor to restore us a state benefit that has been inflated away. 

Regarding your homeowner property taxes, you are entitled to a $7,000 exemption to be deducted from the assessed value of your home. This exemption has been in effect for at least 50 years and has never been adjusted for inflation. It has basically become meaningless and amounts to a joke, a joke on us. 

In 1972, the median value of a home in California was close to $35,000. With the homeowners exemption of $7,000 you were receiving a 20% reduction on your property taxes related to the assessed value of your home. 

I am assuming today, in 2018, the median value of a home in California is approximately $750,000. In Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, it is significantly higher. This means the $7,000 homeowners exemption is now worth less than 1% as a reduction on your homeowner property taxes. 

The legislature and the governor need to adjust the exemption. It should not be a flat dollar amount as it currently is, but should be adjusted to a percentage of the assessed value. Consequently the exemption would not need to be adjusted to future fluctuations in the value of your home. It would maintain its value. 

In 1972 the homeowners exemption was worth 20% of your home's assessed value. The exemption needs to be reset at a percentage rate of 20% to provide homeowners what it was worth decades ago. 

I am sure our elected officials will scream they can't afford to receive less money from us. The reality is they have been quietly allowing the homeowners exemption to become worthless. They have taken away one of the few tax benefits available to us. In the process they have been receiving large infusions of cash every time a home in California changes hands.