Jeff Prang: Property taxes help in pandemic fight

Jeff Prang, Los Angeles County assessor
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I want to visit with you about a subject that is of the utmost importance to the Santa Clarita Valley: property taxes.

First, though, I want to give you a snapshot of how the property tax process works. When you buy a house, you record a deed with the Registrar-Recorder, who then sends my Office a copy of that deed. We then assess the property accordingly.

All of those values are added to the Assessment Roll — basically the list of all taxable property and their values, which we compile each year and send to the auditor-controller, who then applies the relevant tax rate.

Prop. 13 mandates a statewide property tax rate of 1%, but various local ballot measures, including voted indebtedness and parcel taxes, increases the average effective rate to about 1.25%. Once the Auditor-Controller applies the tax rate, the amount owed is given to the Tax Collector, who sends out bills and collects taxes.

I encourage everyone in the SCV to visit the tax collector’s website for more information on the property tax deadline of April 10. Keith Knox, Los Angeles County’s Treasurer and Tax Collector, has posted an informative statement about property taxes and COVID-19.

It’s obvious so forgive me when I point out that the economic impact of COVID-19 has affected almost everyone. Businesses have closed and individual income for many has plummeted or dried-up completely, making annual income and property tax payments a struggle. The Santa Clarita Valley is not immune to this.

My colleagues and I, who have a role in the administration of the property tax system, understand this — we have been working diligently to identify and develop plans to provide relief to taxpayers, in particular, payment delays and penalty waivers. The challenge is that many solutions are not within our scope of authority and we will need permission from the state. I will tell you that the dialogue with the Legislature is robust and ongoing about this issue.

Despite all of these challenges and our efforts to support individual taxpayers, the government must still provide vital public services that we all rely upon; in particular, public health and safety, the very thing we need the most now.

Public hospitals are still open and getting busier by the hour. They are staffed with doctors and nurses employed by Los Angeles. They are toiling long hours away from their families and doing so without enough supplies and equipment. They deserve our support and thanks for their heroic work to save lives. I know you agree.

But, in order to pay them and for the supplies and equipment they need, especially masks and ventilators, the L.A. County needs revenue. For its 88 independent cities and 81 school districts, property taxes are a primary source of that revenue.

While I fully understand and appreciate that countless taxpayers need our help to provide property tax relief during this crisis, it remains that vital government services, especially public health, need to be funded.

That is why it is critical for taxpayers who are able to pay their property taxes and business personal property taxes to do so. Many will need our assistance, but many will not — and this message is for those who do not. We need you now more than ever before.

The next approaching Assessor deadline is for the 571-L, Business Property Statements, which is April 1. However, businesses have until May 7 to file without penalties.

Business property tax bills entered on the unsecured roll as of July 31 are due on Aug. 31.

During WWI and WWII, there was a famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing to the reader and saying, “I Want You!” Well, he wants you again now.

If you can pay your taxes on time, please do so. The services we need the most right now depend on it.

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang has been in office since 2014. He oversees 1,400 employees and provides the foundation for a property tax system that generates $17 billion annually.

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