Jeff Prang: February is tax-saving month on your primary home

Jeff Prang, Los Angeles County assessor
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This month I want to take a moment of your time to visit about a property tax savings program my office offers that’s just waiting to reduce your budget.

I’m speaking about the Homeowners’ Exemption that can automatically reduce your tax burden by $7,000, which translates to an actual reduction of $70 to a homeowners’ tax bill.

And all the homeowner has to do is fill out the application at assessor.lacounty.gov and they are good to go. The deadline is Feb. 15 to get the entire savings but if you miss the deadline, please file anyway and you will get it prorated this year and the full amount the following years.

However, nearly one in three homeowners in Los Angeles County do not take advantage of this tax savings program, leaving $30 million unclaimed each year. Across the county, an additional 435,000 families can be saving on their tax bills.
In fact, in the past because I feel so strongly about this savings program I have along with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors proclaimed January as Homeowner Exemption Awareness Month.\

The countywide initiative promotes the property tax savings program and is part of my broader effort to raise awareness about ways in which Los Angeles County property owners can save on annual tax bills.

This exemption reduces a property’s taxable assessed value by $7,000, provided that the property is the owner’s principal place of residence as of Jan. 1. The result is a $70 savings on the annual tax bill. Homeowners need only apply once in order to receive these savings each year. Savings continue until a change (such as a sale) is recorded.

I also have been partnering with officials in all 88 cities to facilitate similar outreach. Although the largest number of unclaimed exemptions usually falls within Los Angeles, the highest rates of unclaimed exemptions have been in Palmdale, Lancaster, Lynwood, Pomona and Norwalk.

There are several other savings programs that homeowners should investigate. These programs are designed to benefit the taxpayer.

In last month’s column I addressed the Misfortune and Calamity that will provide eligible homeowners tax relief. The requirement is that your property’s damage is at least $10,000, and you must apply within 12 months of the disaster. My office has spent significant hours both doing outreach and processing applications for the most recent wildfires.

Then there’s the Parent-Child program that allows parents, and in some cases grandparents, to transfer not only their property, but also their property tax-base to their kids/grandkids. If you have owned your home for a long period of time, your lower tax could be worth a substantial amount of savings.

And we cannot forget our veterans. We have two programs that save money for our vets, especially those in need. The Veterans’ Exemption is for unmarried veterans with assets less than $5,000; married veterans with assets less than $10,000; or an unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran. The exemption could be as high as $4,000. This exemption must be filed annually as the Homeowners’ Exemption only has to be filed once.

The second veterans’ exemption is for the disabled vet. Here’s how that works: Disabled veterans may be eligible under certain conditions including when blind in both eyes; loss of use of two or more limbs; totally disabled as a result of injury or disease incurred while on active military service. Unmarried surviving spouses of certain deceased veterans may also qualify. Although it is unnecessary for the veteran to reside on that property in order to qualify, this exemption claim must be filed every year.

And still another program allows anyone 55 and older to move, and take their low tax base with them. This is particularly helpful if you are looking to downsize in retirement, or after the kids leave home.

This is just a partial list of the savings program offered by my office. For additional property tax relief programs, visit assessor.lacounty.gov/exclusions-tax-relief or call 213-974-3211.

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang has been in office since 2014. Upon taking office, Prang implemented sweeping reforms to ensure that the strictest ethical guidelines rooted in fairness, accuracy and integrity would be adhered to in his office, which is the largest office of its kind in the nation with 1,400 employees and provides the foundation for a property tax system that generates $17 billion annually.

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