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Get ready for a big fight over California’s property taxes in 2020

A big battle over property taxes in California is shaping up for the 2020 ballot.

Supporters of a bid to increase taxes on commercial land announced Tuesday they’ve collected more than 860,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue in two years.

“This is a defining moment for California,” Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, said in a statement. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state.”

Backers, including the California Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and community organization California Calls held news conferences Tuesday in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Fresno, San Diego and San Bernardino to demonstrate support across the state for the idea. Of the signatures turned in to the Secretary of State’s office, 585,407 must be deemed valid for the measure to qualify for the November 2020 election.

The initiative would make dramatic changes to the tax system established four decades ago by Proposition 13, which capped how much property tax bills could increase every year. The proposed measure would boost property tax revenues from commercial and industrial properties by assessing them at their current market value. Property tax protections would remain unchanged for residential properties.

The changes could net $6 billion to $10 billion annually in new property tax revenue statewide, according to an estimate from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The analyst’s office also warned that the measure could have significant downsides for California’s economy by causing businesses to leave or opt against relocating to the state.

Business groups are girding for the fight over the tax hike, known as “split-roll” because it assesses residential properties different from commercial and industrial properties.

“California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country,” Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Assn., said in a statement. “A split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.”

 

 

 

Read more on LA Times

 

 

 

Richmond vacant property tax headed to November ballot

Richmond voters in November will decide whether to tax vacant properties to pay for homelessness services, affordable housing and other things.

The vacant property tax measure was inspired by one in Oakland, which was approved for the November ballot a few weeks ago, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. If Richmond voters pass the measure — it needs a two-thirds majority vote — a special parcel tax will be placed on vacant properties at the rate of $3,000 a year per vacant developed parcel and $6,000 a year per undeveloped parcel.

The tax would generate an estimated $5.4 million a year for the next 20 years, according to a report from Butt and Councilman Eduardo Martinez. That money will be earmarked for homelessness services, housing, blight, fighting illegal dumping and other specific programs.

There are 980 to 1,180 vacant parcels in the city and 250 vacant structures — most of which are abandoned homes, the report said. About 998 would be subject to the tax.

“In addition to creating a dedicated funding source, by taxing vacant properties, this measure will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus increasing the housing supply,” Martinez and Butt said in the report.

The measure passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Only one member of the public spoke on the measure; she was concerned that a vacant lot that she has owned since the 1980s and had turned into a garden would be taxed. City officials at the meeting said it would not be subject to the tax.

Property would be classified as vacant and subject to the tax if it is used less than 50 days a year. The tax would not apply to properties used as gardens or to host farmers markets, the report said.

A hardship exemption would be available to people who qualify as “very low-income” under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Very low-income is defined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as households who make 50 percent of the area median income. For Richmond in 2018, a family of four with an income of less than $58,100 would be classified as very low-income.

Vacant property owners who can prove that specific circumstances prevent the use or development of the property are also eligible for an exemption. For example, if a natural disaster damaged the property, or if an undeveloped property was being used as a yard for an adjoining property, it would be exempt. If the measure passes in November, the City Council would include details of that exemption in a  separate ordinance, the report said.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

Property Taxes Surge on Higher Values

Rising property taxes can be a problem for both tenants and landlords.

Corporations that have been focused on the potential windfall that tax reform will bring are getting a reality check when they look at their property tax bills. Commercial and multifamily properties across the country are seeing a spike in property taxes as assessors continue to reset values to higher levels.

It has taken property tax appraisals time to catch up from the bounce back in values that has occurred after the recession. Some jurisdictions assess commercial property values every year, while others reassess values on a two or three-year cycle. In some cases, such as with the Carolinas, assessments occur every seven years, notes Dorothy Radicevich, a principal in the state and local tax practice and national property tax leader with accounting firm BDO. Most markets are now up to speed on property values, which have now exceeded pre-recession levels in many areas of the country.

“There have been major re-evaluations in commercial properties in all of metro Atlanta for the past two years and especially this year,” says John Hunsucker, owner of Property Tax Consulting LLC in Atlanta. Some of the lower valued properties don’t get as much attention. But this year most of the counties in metro Atlanta reassessed values on higher-end properties that resulted in tremendous increases, he says.

Although some states and jurisdictions do have a cap on how much taxes can be raised annually, such as 2.0 percent to 3.0 percent, Georgia has no such cap. Some taxing authorities in metro Atlanta have gotten very aggressive with tax assessments that have jumped by more than 300 percent, notes Hunsucker. In Fulton County, for example, some of the 2018 assessed values on high-end apartments are higher than what properties could trade for in the current market, he says.

 

 

Read more on National Real Estate Investor

 

 

Cupertino’s ‘Apple employee tax’ put off for one year

Cupertino elected officials have scrapped a controversial plan — for now — to impose an employee tax on Apple and other businesses in the city, saying they don’t want to move forward in haste and will instead ask voters to weigh in during a special election in 2019.

Though the city council intended only to discuss the plan Tuesday night, after impassioned public comment during which several people spoke out against the proposal as either too vague or unfair to businesses, the council voted 3-1 to put off placing a measure on the November 2018 ballot. Vice Mayor Rod Sinks recused himself because his wife is an Apple employee.

Councilman Barry Chang dissented, saying that waiting even another year would prolong the city’s transportation problems. While the council had not yet come up with specific plans to use revenue generated by the so-called head tax, it had broadly earmarked transit and housing improvements.

“I think not only here, the big corporations in the entire nation, the corporations need to take up their fair share to help solve the problems we are facing now,” Chang said. “So that’s why this issue needs to be done and needs to be done now instead of waiting.”

Chang said he proposed a more ambitious plan two years ago — which would have charged businesses $1,000 per employee — but that that proposal was shot down by other council members.

“Two years ago, no council member supported it, so nothing happened,” he said. “Two years passed. If we don’t do anything this time now, another two years will pass, nothing will happen, I guarantee you.”

While Councilman Steven Scharf appeared to be in agreement with Chang about the urgency of addressing the region’s transportation problems, he explained, “We can’t do this justice in two weeks.”

The council would have had to agree by July 3 on the details of the proposed tax in order to get it on the November ballot. Instead, the council now plans to discuss on July 3 whether it should propose a general or special tax on businesses to put before voters in 2019.

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News

 

 

Cupertino to get serious tonight about new business tax that could generate millions from Apple

Cupertino’s City Council tonight will consider what kind of restructured business tax it might place on November’s ballot for Apple Inc.’s headquarters city.

The move comes as nearby Mountain View looks like it’s headed toward referendum to place a “head tax” on Alphabet’s Google and other large employers in its boundaries. Public polling in Cupertino has indicated heavy support for something similar there. Such a tax would mostly hit Apple, by far Cupertino’s largest employer.

Just a week ago, the City Council in Seattle — headquarters to Amazon.com — repealed a controversial head tax that it had put on the books just a few weeks earlier, after opposition from Amazon and others in the business community.

No such public threats have been made in Mountain View, but the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce posted a no jobs tax message on Twitter on Friday and sent out a press release quoting its president, Andrew Walters, calling for no such measure in November’s election.

The impetus for this budding movement in prosperous, tech-dominated cities is the belief that the traffic congestion and housing shortages in those places is due to tech growth, Cupertino Vice Mayor Rod Sinks recently told the Business Journal.

But although no one from Cupertino’s chamber would comment on the record, the organization’s opposition stems from the fact that the tax revenue the city hopes to gain is not restricted to specific projects that would address transportation issues that the chamber sees as most critical, the Business Journal was told.

Tonight’s meeting will be to decide what kind of tax — head tax (based on the number of a company’s employees), payroll tax or an expansion of Cupertino’s existing square-footage tax — might be proposed.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

Powell as Fed Chief—A Win for CRE Investors and Lenders?

As 2017 comes to a close, commercial real estate total transaction volume is over $500 billion according to CoStar. Although, that equates to a 14 percent year over year decline, many forget that those levels are still higher than 2006—a banner year. Regardless, numerous industry observers are holding their collective breath. In fact, Janet Yellen began 2017 indicating a potential bubble in commercial real estate driven in part by today’s extended low interest rate environment.

In response, lenders, investors and regulators remain anxious with the possibilities of cap rates blowing out in the face of rising interest rates. But are these concerns warranted and will the nomination of Jay Powell actually lead to strong levels of commercial real estate price growth?

Read more from National Real Estate Investor

How CRE Investors Could Cash in On the Tax Bill

President Trump signed the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill on Dec. 22, effectively putting the final seal of approval on the most substantive tax law changes that the country has seen in 30 years.

It may take some time to crunch the numbers to determine just how much tax savings the new tax bill could generate for commercial real estate investors. The general view is that provisions specific to property owners and developers will deliver a net positive result—although not nearly the windfall that corporations will see with a drop in the tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Read more from National Real Estate Investor

Trump, Real Estate Investors Get Late-Added Perk in Tax Bill

Lawmakers scrambling to lock up Republican support for the tax reform bill added a complicated provision late in the process — one that would provide a multimillion-dollar windfall to real estate investors such as President Donald Trump.

The change, which would allow real estate businesses to take advantage of a new tax break that’s planned for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called “pass-through” businesses, combined elements of House and Senate legislation in a new way. Its beneficiaries are clear, tax experts say, and they include a president who’s said that the tax legislation wouldn’t help him financially.

Read more from Bloomberg