- The Property Tax System
- Who collects property taxes?
- What is a "secured" property tax and how is it determined?
- Who must pay property taxes?
- When are annual property taxes due?
- What is a supplemental tax bill?
- What if I fail to pay my property taxes by the deadline?
- How do I request for a Cancellation of Penalties?
- Why is a USPS Postmark important?
- How much will I be charged for making a payment using my credit card?
- Why is there a convenience charge fee for credit card payments?
- What is the difference between paying by e-check vs. online banking?
- Property Tax Calendar
- Why do taxpayers overpay their property taxes?
- Why do refunds go unclaimed?
- How much time do I have to claim a refund
- General Information
- What is a supplemental assessment?
- What is a supplemental tax bill?
- What is a negative supplemental tax bill?
- If I receive a supplemental tax bill, will I also receive an annual tax bill?
- If I pay taxes through an impound account, will my supplemental tax bill be sent to my lender?
- Do I have the right to appeal the supplemental assessment?
- What types of property result in the issuance of an unsecured tax bill?
- Why do I have to pay taxes on my boat?
- How does a sale, removal or disposal of my business equipment, boat or aircraft affect my tax bill?
- What happens if I don’t pay my unsecured taxes on time?
- Do I need to pay the tax bill while appealing or talking with the assessor about a reduction in the value assessed?
- Why did I receive an unsecured tax bill, when I don’t own any personal property?
- Important Information About Your Unsecured Tax Bill
- Glossary of Terms That Pertain to Your Unsecured Tax Bill
- Can I mail in a bid for a property?
- Can I obtain a property at the public auction tax sale by paying the delinquent taxes prior to the tax sale date?
- How do I find or "see" a property I would like to bid on at the tax sale?
- How do I pay for a property at the tax sale?
- Can I go to my bank to get the cash or certified funds after I am the successful bidder?
- What are the conditions of payment for a property at the tax sale?
- How can I determine what use I can make of a tax sale property before I purchase it?
- How soon can I take possession of the property after my purchase at the tax sale?
- How is the minimum bid on a tax sale property determined?
- What is the deadline to pay back taxes to prevent a taxdefaulted property from being offered at auction?
There are two types of property taxes: Secured (real property) and Unsecured (personal property), either of which may affect you. There are four steps in the property tax process. Here is how each County department affects you as a homeowner.
- The Citizens Of San Diego
A change of ownership or completion of new construction on real property will trigger the property reassessment process.
- County Assessor
The County Assessor reassesses the property and gives the new assessed value of your home to the County Auditor/Controller.
The County Auditor/Controller applies the applicable tax rate to the new assessed value to determine the amount of property tax owed.
- Treasurer-Tax Collector
The Treasurer - Tax Collector mails the tax bill(s) and collects the payments.
A: The San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector is responsible for billing and collecting all County property taxes.
A: “Secured” refers to a property tax that is assessed against real property (e.g. land or improvements).
San Diego County’s real property tax is an “ad valorem tax,” a tax according to value. Proposition 13 established the tax rate as 1% of current assessed value, plus voter approved bonded indebtness.
Real property is assessed when there is a change in ownership or completion of new construction. Proposition 13 also provides that the assessed value of property can increase no more than 2% annually, based upon the California Consumer Price Index.
A: All owners of real property must pay property taxes unless exempted by state law. Lessees must pay property taxes if they are leasing real estate from an owner whose property is exempt. Owners of business, industrial, agricultural and residential property must all pay property tax.
A: The first installment of secured property tax is due on November 1st and becomes delinquent after December 10th. The second installment is due February 1st and becomes delinquent after April 10th. If the delinquent date falls on a weekend or holiday, you have until the close of the next business day to pay your tax bill.
The annual secured property tax bill are mailed beginning in October of each year.
Please note that is your responsibility to obtain your tax bill. Failure to receive a bill will not prevent penalties from being imposed on a late payment. If you have not received your tax bill by November 1st, please contact the Treasurer - Tax Collector's office.
A: A supplemental tax bill is an additional bill that reflects the increase or decrease in the assessed value of real property. Supplemental tax bills are generated and mailed throughout the year, and must be paid in addition to the secured tax bill by the stated due dates.
A: Failure to meet each installment deadline results in a 10% penalty immediately following the delinquent date. A $10 charge is also added to the second installment. If payment is not received for either the first and/or second installments by June 30th, the property becomes “tax defaulted.” Penalties begin to accrue on July 1st, an 18% annual interest rate (1.5% per month), and a $33 redemption fee is added to the bill.
A: Please note that, pursuant to the relevant sections of the California Revenue & Taxation (R&T) Code, penalties attach by operation of law, and may only be cancelled under specific conditions as authorized under the R&T Code.
A taxpayer may request cancellation of a penalty assessed on a secured or unsecured property in writing, or by submitting a completed and signed Request for Cancellation of Penalties form. In general, the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTC) will respond to a request within 4 to 6 weeks. Requests may take longer during peak period collection periods.
- Approval of a Penalty Cancellation Request
If the request for penalty cancellation is approved, the Treasurer-Tax Collector will respond in writing to the taxpayer confirming the cancellation.
- Denial of a Penalty Cancellation Request
If the request for penalty cancellation is denied, the Treasurer-Tax Collector will respond in writing to the taxpayer explaining the reason for the denial.
A: Property tax payments must be received or United States Postal Service (USPS) postmarked by the delinquency date to avoid penalties. According to California law, the postmark date is used to determine if the payment was mailed on or before the deadline. If you are waiting until just before the delinquent date to mail your payment, it is recommended that you personally witness the postmark being affixed to your envelope. If a payment is received after the delinquency date with a late or missing postmark, the payment is considered late and penalties will be imposed in accordance with California State law.
POSTMARKS are imprints on letters, flats, and parcels that show the name of the USPS office that accepted custody of the mail, along with the state, the zip code, and the date of mailing. The postmark is generally applied, either by machine or by hand, with cancellation bars to indicate that the postage cannot be reused.
Taxpayers who send their payments by mail are cautioned that the USPS only postmarks certain mail depending on the type of postage used, and may not postmark mail on the same day deposited by a taxpayer. Payments received by mail are deemed received based on the USPS postmark date stamped on the envelope containing the payment. If any payment is received without a USPS postmark, they are deemed received on the date they are actually received by the Treasurer-Tax Collector.
Postage That Is Postmarked
USPS Standard Postage Stamps: Standard Postage Stamps can come in a variety of styles. Stamped envelopes are generally cancelled at the main USPS processing center on the day that they are delivered from the post offices they originated from.
Postage Validated Imprint (PVI): Postage Validated Imprint (PVI) is postage that is printed and affixed at the post office by the postal clerk at the service window and not returned to the customer. This stamp has the date and time of the acceptance already printed so it does not need to be cancelled at the processing center.
Postage That Is NOT Postmarked
Metered Mail: Metered mail is mail that a meter stamp is applied to. Metered mail allows the user to manually adjust the date. This mail is not cancelled at the USPS processing center.
Pre-cancelled Stamps: Pre-cancelled stamps are stamps that do not need to be cancelled by the machine at the processing center. These are stamps bought by bulk mailers who receive a discount for mass mailings.
Automated Postal Center (APC) Stamps: APC stamps can be purchased at self-service kiosks, which are located in Post Office lobbies and have 24 hour a day access. All APC stamps and shipping labels are printed and dispensed at these kiosks. APC stamps can be mailed at any time; therefore, the date does not necessarily reflect the date they were actually mailed.
Permit Imprint: Permit imprint is postage that is paid for at the time of mailing through a USPS bulk mail acceptance facility. This mail is not postmarked and the permit holder is charged per piece and per weight. CAUTION: Online bill payments made through online banking systems are often sent by bulk mail using a permit imprint and do not include a postmark. These payments can take 5 or more business days to reach our office. Please schedule accordingly.
Independent mail delivery (FedEx, UPS, etc.): Independent mail delivery is not postmarked. The shipping date is used to determine the date mailed.
NOTE: A Certificate of Mailing: A Certificate of Mailing is not a form of postage and does not provide sufficient proof that a property tax payment was mailed. A Certificate of Mailing provides evidence of mailing only and is not otherwise associated with the specific item mailed. These are additional services that are purchased at the time of mailing.
Save time! Save money! Pay online at www.sdtreastax.com
A: The Treasurer-Tax Collector accepts Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards, and all American Express cards via online payment or phone payment. All other debit cards, dual-use cards, gift cards and prepaid cards are NOT accepted. A convenience fee of 2.25% will be charged for credit card payments, regardless of the card brand used for payment. This fee is comprised of interchange fees and other transaction fees imposed by the credit card associations, and is passed through to the cardholder through the collection of the convenience fee.
A: Although the convenience fee is collected by the County, the fees are paid to the credit card associations. All merchants that accept credit cards must pay these fees, but commercial merchants will set the price of goods and services high enough to absorb the fees. Commercial merchants typically charge the same price for credit card, check, and cash payments, despite the higher transactional cost of credit card payments. The County cannot raise prices to cover these fees and cannot absorb the cost. The County must collect 100% of the taxes due. Therefore, in order to offer taxpayers the option of paying by credit card, a convenience fee must be charged to cover the additional transaction cost. If you have questions regarding credit card interchange fees, please contact your issuing bank or the card brand directly.
A. An e-check payment is an electronic check payment that is initiated on the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s website at: www.sdtreastax.com by clicking the “Pay Your Bill On-line” button. Paying by e-check is free and there are no additional service charges. Payment is credited as of the date of “submission”. If for any reason an e-check payment is returned unpaid by the bank, record of payment will be canceled and a returned check fee of $25 will be charged. Any subsequent payment will also be subject to applicable penalties and costs.
An Online Banking payment is different in that it is initiated when you log on to your banking institution’s “online banking” system. Payment of this type is submitted to the Tax Collector as a paper check generated by your bank. It may take more than 5-10 business days for our office to receive the payment. Payment of this type is credited as of the date “received” by the Tax Collector. Payment must be “received” by the Tax Collector before 5:00 p.m. of the delinquent date to avoid penalties and should therefore be scheduled well in advance of the delinquent date.
Oct. 1 – Annual Secured Tax bill mailing begins.
Nov. 1st – First installment due Secured Property Tax due
Dec. 10th – First installment delinquent date Last day to pay first installment without penalty (A 10% penalty attaches thereafter)
Feb. 1st – Second installment due Secured Property Tax due
Apr. 10th – Second installment delinquent date Last day to pay second installment without penalty (A 10% penalty and a $10.00 cost attaches thereafter)
May 10th – Treasurer-Tax Collector mails a reminder notice of any unpaid, secured taxes
Jun. 30th – Last day to pay current taxes and penalties prior to default
Jul. 1st – Delinquent secured accounts are transferred to the defaulted tax roll and an additional 18% annual interest charge (1.5% per month) is applied to the base amount, plus a $33.00 redemption fee
California Law requires the reassessment of real property following a change of ownership or the completion of new construction. A reassessment may result in one or more supplemental tax bills being mailed to the property owner. Supplemental tax bills are separate and in addition to the annual secured property tax bill the property owner receives.
A: A supplemental assessment is an increase or decrease in assessed value that is generated by a “supplemental event” such as a change in ownership or completion of new construction.
The Assessor’s office is responsible for reassessing real property. Questions regarding property valuation may be directed to that office at 858.505.6262.
A: A supplemental tax bill is a separate bill that reflects the increase or decrease in the assessed value of real property. Supplemental tax bills are generated and mailed throughout the year, and payment due dates vary.
A: A negative supplemental tax bill is a separate bill that reflects assessment that is lower than the prior assessed value, a senior citizen’s transfer of Proposition 13 values, or other downward assessment and includes a refund check. A negative supplemental bill does not change your responsibility to pay all other property tax bills. However, the refund generated by a negative supplemental bill may be applied to any open bills for the same parcel.
A: Yes. Supplemental tax bills are separate from and in addition to the annual secured property tax bill. They must be paid on time in order to avoid penalties.
A: No. Supplemental tax bills are only mailed to the property owner of record. You should contact your lender to determine whether it will pay the supplemental tax bill.
A: Yes. Appeals of supplemental assessments must be filed with the Assessment Appeals Board within sixty (60) days of the mailing date shown on the bill.
To contact the Assessment Appeals Board, please call 619.531.5777.
Important: Filing an appeal does not suspend the obligation to pay property taxes due on the property.
If you choose to appeal your assessment, you must still pay your tax installments on any existing bills in full by the appropriate deadlines. Otherwise, you may incur penalties while the case is in the appeals process.
An unsecured property tax is an ad-valorem (value based) property tax that is the liability of the person or entity assessed for the tax. Because the tax is not secured by real property, such as land, the tax is called “unsecured.”
A: Types of personal property which may trigger the issuance of an unsecured tax bill include:
- business fixtures
- business personal property
Other types of property may include:
- pro-rated escape and supplemental tax on real property that has changed ownership
- manufactured housing (mobile homes) possessory interest (leased government property)
- delinquent State Assessed Property (Unitary Tax)
A: All personal business property and luxury property in the State of California is subject to an annual tax. Boats, except for those used in commerce or fishing, are considered luxury items.
A: The owner of personal property as of January 1st is responsible for the unsecured tax bill. Disposal, removal, or sale of the property after the January 1st lien date will not affect the tax bill. Taxes will not be prorated due to the sale or disposal of taxable personal property after the lien date. Any proration of the tax is strictly a private matter between the seller and buyer.
A: If your bill is not paid by the delinquent date, penalties and additional fees may apply.
A: Yes. To avoid penalties, liens, and other enforcement of collection actions, the tax should be paid prior to it becoming delinquent. Should the tax be reduced later a refund will be issued.
A: Property tax assessments on real estate where the real estate was sold prior to the enrollment of the tax bill are not a lien on that real estate. These tax bills are prorated to cover the ownership period of the prior owner(s) and enrolled on the unsecured tax roll as the personal liability of the former property owner(s). In addition, unpaid taxes on mobile homes, possessory interests, and State Assessed Property (unitary tax) tax bills are transferred after June 30 to the Unsecured Tax Roll as the personal liability of the assessee(s).
Sale or Removal of Property
The disposal of property after the lien date (January 1st) does not relieve the Assessee of responsibility for any of the tax assessed for that year. The San Diego County Treasurer Tax Collector’s Office can only pursue collection of the tax from the Assessee.
If not paid in full, a 10% delinquent penalty will be added on September 1st, or on the first business day of the second month following the Enrollment Date. An additional 1.5% penalty will be added on November 1st, or on the first business day of the third month following the Enrollment Date, and each month thereafter (18% annual percentage rate).
Extension of Time
When the delinquent date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the delinquent date is extended to the next business day.
Failure to Receive an Unsecured Tax Bill
If you have not received your tax bill by August 1st of any tax year, it is your responsibility to call toll free 877.829.4732, and request a duplicate bill. Penalties will not be cancelled due to non-receipt of a tax bill.
Enforcement of Collection
Unsecured taxes may be collected by placing a lien on the title to property, registrations, or licenses; Recording of Tax Liens; legal actions; Summary Judgment; or Seizure and Sale of the assessee’s property. In addition to collection of taxes and penalties, the Treasurer-Tax Collector may collect actual costs of collection incurred by the County up to the time the delinquency is paid.
Release of Lien
A Release of Lien is prepared and sent to the party who paid the taxes along with instructions for recording the release of lien with the county recorded. Payment with guaranteed funds is required for the immediate release of liens. Failure to record the release of lien will cause the public record to continue to show that the debt remains unpaid. The San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector does not report to any of the credit bureaus. Documents recorded in the Office of the County Recorder are public record.
Assessed Value: The taxable value of a property against which the tax rate is applied.
Certificate of Tax Lien: A lien that is recorded with the County Recorder that automatically becomes a lien against the assessee and any property they own or acquire, for the amount of unpaid property taxes.
Delinquency Date: The date that penalty is added to an unsecured tax bill.
Demand Date: The date that payment is requested for an unsecured tax bill; and, after which collection notice(s) and/or action(s) may be made to obtain payment of the tax.
Due Date: The due date is the lien date (January 1) of the year the taxes are being assessed.
Fiscal Year: A fiscal year is the County’s accounting cycle. It runs from July 1st of each year through June 30th of the following year.
Legal Owner: The owner of the title, as distinguished from the holders of other interests, e.g. beneficial or possessory interests.
Lien Date: The time when taxes become a lien on property, and the time when property is valued for tax purposes. The Lien Date is January 1st of each year.
Personal Property: All tangible property except real estate.
Transfer Date: The date upon which the ownership of property is transferred.
Unsecured Assessment: State law requires that all business, boat and aircraft and personal property be assessed annually and requires the owner to file a property statement so that a taxable value can be established. Failure to file the statement may result in the increase of the assessment due to penalty for late or non-filing.
Unsecured Tax Rate: Previous year’s secured property tax rate.
Each year on July 1st, the Treasurer-Tax Collector has the “power to sell” properties that have been in default (delinquent) on the property taxes for five or more years and have not been redeemed (paid in full) or enrolled in a Five-Year Payment Plan.
Tax-defaulted property is scheduled for sale at a public auction to the highest bidder at the time and place fixed for the sale. Typically, the Annual Property Tax Sale Auction is held in February or March at a downtown San Diego location.
You may obtain a list of properties to be offered at the next tax sale by sending in the Tax Sale Mailing List Request Form included in this brochure, or by visiting our website at: www.sdtreastax.com
No, not at a public auction. The public auction requires your presence, or that of your representative, to verbally bid on the properties. Anyone wishing to bid on tax sale properties being offered the day of sale must be registered prior to bidding.
A: No. Legal title to a tax-defaulted property subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell can be acquired only through the Treasurer-Tax Collector by being the successful bidder at the tax sale, and by paying the full purchase amount, including the Documentary Transfer Tax.
A: Vacant (unimproved) land has no address and therefore its approximate geographic location may be determined through the use of County Assessor plat maps. Exact boundary lines of a property may be determined by a survey of the property. The County does not have possession or control of the property and cannot grant access. “Improved” properties may bear a street address.
A: Payment must be made in cash or certified funds (cashier’s check, certified bank check, money order or travelers’ checks with proper identification). No other forms of payment are accepted. Personal checks and credit cards are not accepted.
A: You have four years to claim a refund. After four years, unclaimed refunds may be turned over to the County’s General Fund through a process called “escheatment.” While escheatment is the legal alternative, the Tax Collector’s primary goal is to return tax overpayments to their rightful owners.
A: No. You must have the required cash or certified funds with you before you bid on any property at the Tax Sale.
A: Immediately after the bid is declared successful, the purchaser is escorted to a cashier station to make payment. All payments must be in one of the accepted forms of payment. No other forms of payments will be accepted. All successful bids must be paid in full or, if eligible, a deposit paid for a deferred-payment agreement or “Credit Sale.”
A successful bidder who does not have sufficient funds to pay for his or her purchase cannot complete the transaction and will be disallowed from participating in all other bids that day. The property will be immediately re-offered for sale.
A: You may consult the Zoning Department of any city within which a property lies regarding use of the parcel. For property in unincorporated areas of the County, you may refer to the Zoning Section of the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use.
The County Recorder’s Office should be consulted for any recorded easements on a property. In addition, there may be other agencies to consult with based on the current, future, potential, or intended use of the property.
A: The successful bidder may take possession of a property after making payment in full and after the Tax Deed to Purchaser has been recorded. Tax Deeds are generally recorded within four weeks of the sale or upon completion (payment in full) of a deferred-payment agreement.
A: State law requires that the minimum bid on a tax-defaulted parcel offered at a public auction for the first time be no less than the total amount necessary to pay the back taxes on the parcel (redeem the parcel), plus costs of sale. The minimum bid on a parcel previously offered at sale can be set at the Tax Collector’s discretion.
A: The deadline is 5:00 PM on the last business day prior to the scheduled Property Tax Sale Auction.