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Understanding property taxes

Property taxes have been around for thousands of years. Centuries ago in Boston, Massachusetts, Puritans enacted a property tax system to pay for the construction and operation of the church as well as the religious education of their children. Regardless of your religion you paid the tax and it went directly to the church. If you did not pay there was quick remedy being that the sheriff was the ex-officio tax assessor and collector.

There are many misconceptions of property taxes

and assessments and how we arrive at the ad valorem tax we pay twice a year.

The tax assessor determines the value of the property based either on market value or sales price.

According to Proposition 13 the value could be increased annually to a maximum of 2% per year until it is sold or construction takes place at which time the property is reassessed.

The auditor-controller applies the general levy tax, which is 1%. Locally voted special taxes and any city or district direct assessments are then applied.

The tax collector prepares and sends you your bill and collects your payments. The tax year starts July 1 and ends June 30 and in Napa County divided into two payments: February 1 and November 1.

Did you purchase a property recently? Don’t forget about the supplemental property tax bill you will be receiving. Depending on when during the year the ownership change occurred you will be receiving a bill for the difference between the previous owner’s tax bill and your new assessed value tax bill. Many new property owners overlook this additional expense, which could be substantial if the property had not sold for some time.

Our assessor, John Tuteur, sent a press release last July stating the tax roll for the 2013-2014 tax year is $29.467 billion, a 5.34% or $1.5 billion increase from the previous tax year. Approximately $400 million of this represents the 2% Proposition 13 inflationary adjustment. Another $275 million represents the first upward adjustment in five years on 11,000 properties that previously were in a state of declining value. The balance of the increase, $825 million represents the increase in value of properties that were sold and reassessed.

How does Napa County compare with the rest of the nation when it comes to property tax amount in relation to income? Based on a 2007 study by the Tax Foundation using data from the U.S. Census, of the 788 counties in the U.S., Napa County was ranked 182nd.

The median property taxes paid was $3,000, median home value was $643,400, taxes as a percent of home value was 0.5%, median income for homeowner’s, $80,089, taxes as percent of income 3.7%. Marin County, the highest in the state, ranked 77th with $4,953 being the median property taxes on a median home value of $918,700. Taxes as percent of home value, 0.5%. Taxes as a percent of the median income of $107,269 were 4.6%.

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