Coronavirus: Governor Newsom announces property tax relief order

Penalties for late property tax payments will be waived through May 6 of next year, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, providing welcome relief for property owners battered by job cuts or other economic woes unleashed by the coronavirus.

The governor’s executive order to extend the waiver of a 10 percent penalty and other fees associated with property tax payments for homes, office buildings, and other residential and commercial properties is expected to benefit people who are being squeezed financially due to the deadly bug.

Newsom pointed out that he has been in discussions with county assessors in California to discuss ways to ease the burden on property owners hard-hit by the coronavirus without harming an array of government and public agencies that badly need the cash from those tax revenues.

“We were working with the counties to see if we could coordinate and collaborate in a way that can address the hardship claims that were coming in and allow people to get on payment plans without experiencing that rather sizable 10 percent tax code penalty that is assessed on those property tax bills,” Newsom said during a briefing to discuss California’s battle against the coronavirus.

But county assessors appeared to dodge a bullet because the governor largely left intact an already tight schedule for ensuring that businesses file annual statements for assets they own such as equipment, computers, fixtures, machinery, and other items.

Plenty of money is at stake. The total value of assessed property in Santa Clara County was $516 billion in 2019. The amount of taxes collected on those assessed properties was $5.31 billion for the fiscal year that ended in June 2019, according to the assessor’s annual report.

Property owners should be aware of some key nuances in the governor’s executive order, according to David Ginsborg, deputy to the county assessor.

The waiver of the penalties, for homeowners, applies only to the primary residence of a property owner, Ginsborg said.

Homeowners whose lenders have established impound accounts to collect the property taxes on a monthly basis won’t be able to apply for a waiver since the mortgage company makes the payment to the county tax collector.

Small businesses that operate a business in a building they own might be able to qualify for the waiver of the late payment fees and penalties, Ginsborg said.

Alameda County reported that the total assessed value of properties in that jurisdiction was $321.5 billion for the 2019 fiscal year.

The money from property tax payments is badly needed by an array of public agencies, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone said.

“Public schools, cities, county agencies, county hospitals, special districts, firefighters, police, would all be hurt without the property tax money,” Stone said.

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Author: George Avalos

Mercury News Business