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TAX BILL: OPEN IMMEDIATELY. Thus reads the envelope of the property tax bills now showing up in mailboxes. Note the imperative mood, the tone of “let’s hand over the wallet, Jack.” While embattled taxpayers deal with this bill, Robert Gutierrez of the California Taxpayers Association offers a few points to ponder.
“Californians are paying more than $1.9 billion per year in parcel taxes,” he explains, “yet this form of property taxation continues to fly under the radar, with little transparency or accountability for how the money is spent.” The California Taxpayers Association wanted to know how many local governments impose parcel taxes, a form of property tax based on characteristics of a “parcel,” rather than on actual assessed value of property. Politicians use it to get around the voter-approved Proposition 13, which limits property tax increases.
“We quickly discovered that local governments are not eager to share information about the parcel taxes they impose,” Gutierrez writes. Government stonewalling forced the association to file hundreds of public records requests. Some local governments never responded at all and others “gave only partial information,” claiming that documents the association wanted were “unavailable.” Even so, the association learned that the rates vary dramatically, that the formulas are hard to understand, and that “about 26 percent of the parcel taxes in California do not have a sunset date, so they will be imposed indefinitely – and many of these are increased annually for inflation, so they keep going up, up, up.”
In their report, Piecing Together California’s Parcel Taxes, the California Taxpayers Association calls for more transparency, consistency, and fairness. With an election at hand, taxpayers might want to grill their candidates on the parcel tax issue. Would they perhaps favor a measure that eliminates parcel taxes? For taxpayers, the overall lesson should be clear. No ruse is off limits to a parasitic ruling class, which wants your money by any means necessary. Taxpayers should expect continued assaults on Proposition 13, one of the few measures that limit how much government can take. Meanwhile, property taxes are higher this year, without any increase in government services. And don’t forget, the tax is due on December 10. Happy Holidays, everybody!