Civil unrest may lead to property tax relief

photo by BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL
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By Jeff Prang

Los Angeles County Assessor

To say that the year 2020 has been a time of unprecedented challenges is an understatement of Shakespearean proportions.

And it’s still not over. It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is most assuredly not over. We are still adhering to the safety protocols of social distancing and wearing the cloth face coverings. It’s for all of us.

Then we had the unfortunate and totally unnecessary death of George Floyd, which resulted in four police officers charged with various degrees of murder and subsequent days and nights of protests that in the beginning led to violent, civil unrest. Floyd’s death was just another harsh reminder that Black Lives Matter and we all must work toward real, constructive solutions to the social injustice that permeates our society.

I send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd and hold fast to the promise intoned by our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, during his brief Gettysburg Address back on Nov. 19, 1863, when he offered “… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The civil unrest that erupted during those nights of violent protest saw business after business looted, damaged and even destroyed. These very same businesses that were struggling because of the pandemic now are facing more devastation because of uncalled for destruction.

Although I can’t turn back the clock on the destruction, I may be able to turn back the clock on property taxes for those businesses that were looted, damaged and even destroyed. At least on a temporary basis.

To qualify, you must file an Application for Reassessment: Property Damaged or Destroyed by Misfortune or Calamity with the Assessor’s Office within 12 months from the date the property was damaged or destroyed.

The claim form is available online at assessor.lacounty.gov/disaster-relief or you can call us at (213) 974.8658 for additional information.

Property damage must be at least $10,000, and you must apply within 12 months of the damage. You can file the application; however, we also will proactively identify those damaged properties and begin the process of reassessing them.

I want to extend my deepest respect and regards to those property owners who have lost or suffered damages to their business or commercial/industrial buildings because of the civil unrest. I also want to applaud the valiant efforts of the first responders who move toward the danger not away from it. I thank all of them for their tireless efforts protecting property and life.

Yes, you have plenty of time to file the claim, since the deadline is still a year off, but it’s important to do so as soon as possible because the tax relief can come in handy when you are planning on rebuilding or replacing.

The savings can be for a total loss of the property or a percentage of the damage. The percentage is calculated by the appraiser using a standard formula, oftentimes in conjunction with other factors such as existing insurance.

Sometimes, the tax relief may not be a significant amount but it most assuredly helps in a time of need. And we want to help during this time of need.

As an example, my office approved more than $3 million in tax relief for the devastating Woolsey Fire a while back. This relief was by way of refunds and adjustments to the 2018/2019 tax bills. The Woolsey Fire had 1,328 homes and businesses affected. Of those, 797 were entirely destroyed.

Dozens of appraisers were at work around the clock to ensure people received the required reassessment of the property that led to the tax relief. I estimate for that fire alone my staff logged more than 2,500 hours on the job. We will be doing the same thing for this event. It is the least we can do.

Again, the M&C claim forms can be obtained online at assessor.lacounty.gov/disaster-relief or by phone at (213) 974-8658. Please avail yourself of this tax relief program.

And finally, social reform is a must, in fact, long overdue. However, we must not discard the good with the bad. True social reform delineates between the two factions. We have come a long way but there’s still miles to go and together, we can get there. Absolutely.

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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