California property tax exemptions are one of the most popular topics for Veteran homeowners in the state, so this guide will cover how you can reduce your property tax burden as much as possible.
First off: The Veterans Exemption
The California Veterans Exemption may sound like the right option based on the name, but the fact is that most Veteran homeowners in the state are not eligible for it. This is because the program has tough restrictions on personal assets. If you own property valued at $5,000 or more, you won’t be eligible for the Veterans Exemption, even if you’ve been honorably discharged. While this number doubles for married couples, most Veterans who own homes in California will exceed this personal wealth limit.
Instead of using the Veterans Exemption, most non-disabled Veterans in the state will use the California Homeowners Exemption. This exemption lowers the taxable value of your home by $7,000. Since property tax is calculated as a percentage of your assessed home value, a lower taxable value means you pay less in property taxes each year. Available to Veterans and non-Veterans alike, this program will most likely be your best bet, unless you qualify for the Disabled Veterans Exemption.
The Disabled Veterans Exemption
The Disabled Veterans Exemption offers more advantageous terms than both the Veterans and Homeowners Exemptions. Veterans who are rated at 100% disability by the VA, are blind in both eyes or who are paraplegic due to a service-connected disability are eligible for this exemption. Those who are below the 100% rate but are compensated at the full rate due to unemployability are also eligible. In addition to the Veterans themselves, unmarried surviving spouses of service members who have died in the line of duty can also apply.
This exemption reduces the taxable value of an eligible Veteran’s home by over $100,000. This number is significantly higher for low-income Veterans who are disabled. Both the basic and low-income Disabled Veterans Exemptions follow a cost of living index, so the actual exemption amounts go up each year. The California Board of Equalization will have the latest numbers.
Other Types of Exemptions
You may be eligible for other types of California property tax exemptions based on your living situation. On top of state-wide exemption programs, there can be additional exemptions at the county level, such as those aimed at low-income homeowners and those who use their property for agricultural purposes. There are also exemptions for religious properties, tribal housing and even public works of art. You’ll want to speak with someone from your county assessor’s office to determine your eligibility for these special exemptions.
How to Apply for California Property Tax Exemptions
When it comes time to apply for a California property tax exemption, you’ll need to request the appropriate forms from your local county assessor. You can usually download these forms from the assessor’s website, fill them out and mail them in without needing to step foot into their office. To find out what your local assessor’s website is, find your county on this list and click on the assessor’s name. For example, Veterans in San Diego County can find out more information about property tax exemptions on this local government page.
Keep in mind that only Veterans with “other than dishonorable” discharges are eligible for the Veterans and Disabled Veterans Exemptions. If you’ve received a disability rating of 100% from the VA, your local assessor will not need any additional evidence of your disability, such as medical forms or proof of service. You can only have one property tax exemption at a time, so choose the one that is most advantageous to you.
In many cases, new homeowners will find an application for the Homeowners Exemption in their mailbox not long after moving in. County assessors send these out as courtesy whenever there is a purchase or transfer of real estate because they know that the Homeowners Exemption is appropriate for most residential properties. Per California law, a property owner can only claim one Homeowners Exemption, even if they own multiple properties.
Your Resource for Veteran Homeownership
At SoCal VA Homes, we’re committed to helping Veterans reach their homeownership goals. This is why we provide information on how to make the most out of your military benefits at every step of the way. Our team of Veterans helping Veterans is at-the-ready to assist you throughout the home buying process, so speak with a VA loan expert today!