Property tax exemptions prove confusing


Active seniors are living the good life in Marin County. They enjoy gorgeous views to go with their outgoing lifestyle, and they pay high property taxes to match.

But a recent grand jury report found some may be paying more than they should.

"The tax bill is horribly deficient in putting the tax payer on notice as to any or all the exemption to which he or she may be entitled," Jeffrey Walsh , of the Marin County Grand Jury, said.

To understand this you have to go back to 1978 when California voters passed the property tax slashing initiative Proposition 13. To make up the loss revenues, many districts asked voters to pass parcel taxes for such needs as education.

"However in order to sweeten it, they also said, alright, for those individuals that are over 65 and or are low income, we'll put in an exemption," Walsh said.

The problem is, those eligible for the exemptions must apply for it and the grand jury found information about those exemptions isn't easy to find. And that can be costly.

"The one instance where we checked the tax bill, its over $1,300 in taxes that we're on the bill that were exemptions for," Gene Quinones, of the Marin County Grand Jury, said.

We talked to seniors at the Marin YMCA.

"I think for the most part people don't look in detail their parcel tax, property tax," Cameron Case said.

If they're not informing us, how could we find out," Nena Lindquist asked.

The grand jury found the information isn't easy to get even if you call and ask for it.

"In our investigation we actually made a couple of calls like that and we're given incorrect information," Quinones said.

The grand jury recommended that the county compile a list of all exemptions and post on its website.

The Marin County Department of Finance says it's just the tax collector. The responsibility for informing people about exemptions is with each of the 153 special tax districts. Nonetheless, the Department of Finance expects to have its list of exemptions on its website next month.

"That would be great if I'm eligible; if I could find out, it would be very good, excellent," Louis Philippe said.

Information on Property & Parcel Tax Exemptions

Alameda County

Contra Costa County

Marin County
Full list of exemptions expected next month on Marin County Department of Finance website

Napa County

Santa Clara County
Must call individual school district for parcel tax exemptions & assessor's office for veteran's exemptions.

San Francisco

San Mateo County
Must call individual school district for parcel tax exemptions & assessor's office for veteran's exemptions

Sonoma County

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