By Jeff Prang
Los Angeles County Assessor
The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic downturn have disrupted normal operations for the businesses we rely on for over a year. We’ve seen this disruption across Los Angeles County, from restaurants operating at limited capacity, salons that were forced to close for a significant period of time, motel and hotel rooms that were left empty, to major airlines that had to ground their flights due to a lack of travelers.
California assessors are required by law to appraise both land and buildings, otherwise known as “real property.” However, they also value what is known as Business Personal Property (BPP), which includes furniture, equipment and machinery. During a year of normal operations, these assessments are fair and accurate, but this past year was far from normal. Beginning in March of 2020, many business owners were unable to use their equipment and machinery due to COVID-19-related state and local health orders which negatively impacted their business operations. Some businesses were not affected while others suffered significant losses.
As a result, I directed Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office staff to proactively reduce BPP assessments for impacted businesses to reflect the hardships these businesses are facing. Approximately 47,000 qualifying business owners will see the reduction on their business personal property bills, a considerable number of those being small-business owners. Business owners that did not receive a proactive reduction they may file an assessment appeal.
My office is legally required to assess the value of business personal property valued in excess of $5,000 as of Jan. 1. However, businesses with business personal property valued at $100,000 or more must file a Business Property Statement each year by April 1. This is required by state law. After May 7th a ten-percent penalty will be applied for those who fail to file on time.
Similarly, when the market value of real property falls below the assessed of the property value (also known as the Proposition 13 value) — a “Decline in Value” has occurred and you may be entitled to temporary property tax relief.
Our initial analysis suggests that 7,000 commercial and industrial parcels may qualify for a Decline in Value property tax reduction. Many qualifying property owners will receive a letter from the Assessor requesting additional information to help us make a value determination. However, these owners will still receive their regular, unadjusted property tax bill. Once we have completed our review, those properties with reduced assessments will be issued a corrected bill. Property owners who do not qualify for a proactive review can still file a Decline-in-Value application with our office or file an assessment appeal.
Needless to say, this past year has proven to be very difficult for our small-business community. In fact, the hardship in many cases on business was a result of government intervention to stem the tide of this most deadly virus. I am committed to supporting our small business and reductions in BPP assessments are just one example of how ethical decision making can strengthen the safety net for business owners.
Finally, there is good news across the board as more and more people receive their vaccinations and the numbers of infected people decrease. We still need to be vigilant and wear our masks and keep our distance, but perhaps there are days ahead where we can put this darkness behind us.
For more information on Prop. 19 or other tax savings programs, visit assessor.lacounty.gov 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.