Property Taxes

Parent Q&A

Tax assessment implications of major work on our house Sep 18, 2021 (2 responses below)
Adding a new bathroom and property tax reassement Aug 29, 2021 (4 responses below)
Seeking Attorney Specializing in Berkeley property tax law Aug 5, 2019 (1 responses below)
Property in England - IRS Tax questions May 22, 2017 (2 responses below)
calculating basis Nov 4, 2016 (3 responses below)
  • We are considering some major work on our house and would like to understand the impact it will have on our property tax bill. The tax assessor's office has not been helpful. Can anyone recommend an attorney or other advisor who could help with this question? We live in Alameda County. Thanks is advance! 

    Hi there!  Not a attorney but maybe our experience will help.  

    We did a whole house remodel and foundation repair / retrofit a year ago.  It was a big project.  Everything was permitted.  We added one more bathroom during the remodel. We were expecting our property taxes to go up significantly due to the whole house remodel and foundation work but in the end it only went up a total $20k in the assessed value and that was because the extra bathroom we added during the remodel.

    We thought it was a mistake and called to double check with the county assessor’s office and they confirmed that their assessment was correct, they only increased the assessment for the extra bathroom not for the other work.

    They also said they haven’t been adding foundation and seismic work to assessments recently, to encourage homeowners to do the needed seismic safety work for their houses.  If you do get assessed for that type of work, there is a form online that you can fill out to exclude the seismic / structural / foundation work from assessment. 

    I'm sorry the assessor's office wasn't helpful! It's a fairly straightforward process, at least in our experience--once the work is complete and your permit is final, your city will notify the County that you have made changes that may affect your value. The County then sends you paperwork to complete documenting what was added to the home; they may also do a site visit depending on the scale of the changes. They then determine the additional value added to the home by looking at comparable sales. (For instance, if you have a 2BR and add a bedroom, they'll compare the market value of a 2BR and a 3BR in your neighborhood, and add the difference to your base year value.) As part of that process, they also adjust the County records to accurately reflect your home size or room counts. I would guess the County can't tell you in advance what the increase in value would be for your project, but a local realtor could give you some guidance on what the current comps look like so you know what to expect. The messiness comes in if you disagree with the comps the County has chosen to use for their analysis--but for the projects we worked on that triggered this review, we actually found that they were pretty conservative in their assessment, so I'd wait to see if it's a concern before worrying about that. The real estate market could look quite different a year or two from now, too, so it's hard to predict. Good luck with your project!

  • We live in a small house in Albany with one bathroom. We need to add one bathroom eventually, and we have a small dead space in or house in which we can put the new bathroom. I want to check if anyone just added a new bathroom recently. Cost, GC, etc. We are fine with adding one with shower. Also, want to check how that impact property tax re-assement. It's my main concern, because I feel our property tax is already high, and our base number (with minimum yearly increase) is using our house price from 2018. TIA. 

    No direct recommendations to meet your need. But would invite you to advocate with Nancy Skinner and local officials to upzone the Bay Area/legalize housing construction. Increased ==> Increased # taxable parcels ==> decreased per-parcel tax revenue needed

    Your property taxes will most definitely increase, if you do the job with permits - any time a permit is pulled, that information goes to the County, and your home value is re-assessed.  Depending on the scope of the job (and your comfort level), you could possibly have the job done without permits.  Some contractors will refuse to do the work without permits though.  Doing construction with permits means your property taxes will go up.  

    When you add on to a house, only the new added space is reassessed at market rate, the rest of the house remains at the current tax rate. I'm not sure if the same is true when you add a bathroom to an existing space.  But even if you were reassessed on a new bathroom it most likely would not dramatically impact your total property tax bill.  But you can always call the Assessor's office and ask.

  • We are looking for a recommendation for an attorney who knows Berkeley property tax law and civil tort law. 

    A little background - In paying our city property taxes we discovered the City of Berkeley is incorrectly calculating home owners property taxes.  We took the City of Berkeley to court and won, $12,000.  But the judgment is only for the overpayment of back taxes not future taxes.  We are looking for an attorney to represent us and probably several of our neighbors in a civil tort claim to order the city collect the correct dollar amount on our property taxes.

    We think this will go to trial as the city has been very secretive about the tax information when this is public information. 

    Does anyone have any experience and reconditions for an attorney who knows
    + Residential property tax law
    + Has civil tort law experience
    + Courtroom trial experience
    + And experience with class action lawsuits against city government.

    We think this should be a very easy case as we already have a judgment against the city.

    Thank you

    I can’t speak to his specific experience in the areas you are looking, but I’d suggest you call John Gutierrez. He was extremely helpful when we were considering a lawsuit against the City of Albany.

  • Property in England - IRS Tax questions

    (2 replies)

    My Mother wants to add me as co owner of her house in England, so that when she passes away the house will automatically become mine. I would like to know how this will affect my taxes and tax reporting requirements, here in California. Any personal experiences on how  you handled this situation or referral to experts in this area would be greatly appreciated.

    Without getting too specific as this public forum and the basic information you provided is not conductive to being able to provide targeted tax advice, I would urge you speak to a tax professional on this topic.  This could potentially give rise to several tax issues both here in the U.S. and in the U.K.  There are certain benefits to inheriting real property as opposed to receiving it as a gift, and then your mom has gift and estate tax to consider (likely only in U.K., but potentially in U.S. too).  A tax professional would be able to walk you through all the pros and cons of doing this and consulting an estate and trust attorney in U.K. might provide your mom with other alternatives to ensure you get the house if a current gift turns out to not be a smart move. 

    Unless there is income from the property, there are no tax consequences nor tax reporting requirements. FINCEN requires reporting of foreign bank accounts. I am an attorney and master tax advisor. 

  • calculating basis

    (3 replies)

    I am wondering where would be a good place to look for information about calculating the basis of a property.What kinds of things add to and subtract from the basis? Is there a class I can take? This is for a family member so I'm trying to learn this stuff around my health care job, kids, etc and don't really want to pay someone to do it for me if I don't have to.


    RE: calculating basis ()

    The concept of calculating the tax basis of real estate for sale is simple. It is the purchase price, plus capital improvements, less depreciation taken or available. As a practical matter the simplicity of the concept may be offset by poor records, lack of records, confusion about depreciation if any.

    RE: calculating basis ()

    The easiest way is to hire an accountant or someone who does tax returns for a living (like enrolled agent), but if you don't want to pay anyone and the situation is pretty simple (i.e. real estate with normal capital improvements) I would look at the IRS website for guidance.  Publication 551 will likely be especially useful -- you can access it by googling or directly from the IRS website. Good luck. 

    RE: calculating basis ()

    It's more than taking classes.  You need a very good experienced honest realtor or an appraiser.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

I received an offer to appeal my property tax assessment

July 2008

I received an unsolicited offer from Cooligan & Assoc. to appeal the tax assessment on my property on a success-only fee. I'm curious if anyone has a) appealed their property tax assessment recently and how it went and/or b) if anyone has used one of these firms to do the appeal for them what the experience/outcome was. Thanks. Berkeley homeowner

I appealed to Alameda County last year and was successful. You just get the forms off the Alameda County website. To find the information I needed to appeal, I went on Zillow and found lower sale prices for property within a three-block radius that had about the same square footage and bed/bath as our place. That was it. I don't think the process is complicated enough to hire a firm, which will take half of your ''winnings.'' Good Luck
I fell into the trap of responding to one of those mass mailings offering to submit a tax assessment appeal on my behalf earlier this year. The assessment they sent back to me was worthless, and in fact could have subjected me to significant liability had I submitted it and attested to my belief that it was valid (they used vacant unimproved property as comparable properties (my house is only three years old and in a development with some empty lots) and came up with a number that was $650,000 less than the assessed value. They also used the wrong forms, as Alameda County had its own form that has to be completed, and I doubt that Alameda county would have accepted the useless form the assessment by mail company sent me back. I ended up tossing the forms from the mass- mailer Tax Assessment Corp. and using the Alameda County form I printed online at the Alameda County Tax Assessors office website instead. I completed it online, and found the comparable properties myself using and I also sent a letter to the assessment company refusing to pay their fee, and succeeded in getting them to waive the bill (I threatened legal action). The bad news is that I lost my appeal (the assessor told me that they only consider comps close to December and that several sold in my neighborhood close to the assessed value late last year.), but I am hopeful that I will succeed next year. My advice - do it yourself. There was an article in the Chronicle about the process a few months back you may be able to find online, and the tax assessor's office has advice online. But don't respond to those mailers and waste your money. It's a scam. Lesson learned
You can contest your property tax assessment yourself, for free. You don't need to pay anyone. Find some local recent ''comparables'' (homes similar to yours) that have sold recently for less than your house's assessment. Your property tax assessment notice that you get in the mail tells you where to contact and what to do. anon

Reassess House to Lower Property Tax ?

June 2008

Has anyone gone through the process of having their house reassessed to lower their property taxes? On the Contra Costa website, it says we have to demonstrate the market value of the house--what's the best way to do that? Can we use or one of the other house-value website? Sue

We bought our house in 1990, and within a few years, since 1991 was a peak, we had it ''reassessed''. This simply meant writing in and requesting that our tax be lowered. Nobody ever contacted us or visited the house--they knew what the average decline was and I presume just used that. You could submit zillow--why not? They did lower our taxes, pretty much automatically. If zillow is not sufficient, I'm sure they will let you know, and I don't know of any reason why you can't try again.

If you have some specific amount in mind and it is arguable, I think it would be more complicated. But if you are willing to take what they are willing to do, and you bought your house in the last few years, I don't think it will be any trouble. There are all kinds of ads and stuff for companies that will help you--but they make it seem much more complicated than it is. The tax assessor, after all, is supposed to assess your house and know its value.

Now, we have owned our house since 1990. NO WAY would we be able to get our assessment lowered even though the house has declined in value in the last 2 years, because due to prop 13, our taxes are based on a much lower value than what it is worth now. So only if you bought your house recently, and its current value is less than what you paid, will this work. householder

I was hesitant to do this but did it anyway. I am so happy I did because our property tax was lowered by over $1100. All you have to do is send in a letter to the County Assessor. I first called and they told me what to do. They said that it may take some time as a lot of people were doing it, but it only took one month and I received a revised tax statement. I plan on doing it again if prices keep falling. This is what I wrote: Due to the current housing market, I disagree with the current assessment of our property and would like to request an assessment review of our property at XXXX Street, City, CA 94XXX. Good Luck. ARA