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No relief yet for property taxes but lawmakers introduce bill to waive interest, penalties

Although Congress may be trying to hammer together a bill that would offer relief for taxpayers in the light of the government-mandate shutdown of most businesses, and the state’s deadline to file income tax returns has been pushed back to July 15, no one has yet taken any action on state property taxes.

Tuesday, Fifth District Supervisor Jim Desmond partnered with Third District Supervisor Kristin Gaspar to send a letter to the San Diego County Treasurer to seek the waiving of late fees, penalties & interest on property taxes during this pandemic.

The letter begins, “We are writing to implore you to waive late fees for our most vulnerable population who is struggling in so many ways in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.” It notes that since Governor Newsom’s emergency decree, “we have seen communities and businesses grind to a halt and incomes completely diminished. Today, our Board supported an eviction moratorium and several fee deferments pertaining to the restaurant industry. There is also a massive stimulus package currently being negotiated in the United States Senate. All levels of government are trying to do their part to help our citizens cope with this unprecedented pandemic. 

“We understand that you do not have the power to extend the property tax deadline, but know you do have the power to accept late payment and waive mandated late fees on a case-by-case basis. We request that you immediately develop an emergency policy whereby people significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are granted relief of property tax late fees. 

“We appreciate your leadership on this matter.”

The office of Marie Waldron, (the assemblywoman who represents this district) sent an inquiry to San Diego County Treasurer’s office: “We’re getting multiple inquiries from people asking if the deadline can be extended, and some even asking if the amount owed can be cut. I know emergency legislation is under consideration in Sacramento to extend the deadline, but someone told me the county can do this on its own authority if it wants to. Have you heard anything?”

The Treasurer and Tax Collector’s office answered: “Unfortunately the County of San Diego does not have the authority to delay or postpone the deadline.  The statute is in the Revenue and Taxation code governed by the State of California.

“The California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors (CACTTC) released a statement explaining that counties cannot change the April 10 deadline for the Second Installment of Property Taxes because critical county services, school and local financial obligations are dependent on those scheduled revenues. However, treasurer-tax collectors can waive penalties and interest resulting from tax delinquency due to unavoidable circumstances related to the COVID-19 crisis.

“In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak and its uncommon situation, the Treasure Tax Collector will handle all penalty cancellations for businesses and individuals that have been affected on a case-by-case basis. Below is a link to the form that you/taxpayers will need to fill out. The second page explains the code.

www.sdttc.com/content/dam/ttc/docs/request-for-cancellation-of-penalties.pdf

Meanwhile, two California legislators are talking about introducing emergency legislation on property taxes, either delaying it or providing relief. They are members of the assembly, Phil Ting of San Francisco and Autumn Burke of South Bay, Los Angeles. 

They sent a letter to the California Association of County Treasurers & Tax Collector urging them waive late payment penalties and other relief for property owners affected by the Wuhan flu outbreak.

The letter, dated March 20, begins, “In the past few days, we have received numerous questions from constituents concerned about the upcoming April 10th deadline for property tax payments. As you know, the Governor recently issued a ‘stay at home’ order to protect the health and wellbeing of all Californians. Individuals and business owners are dealing with an unprecedented disruption to their daily lives and many are already experiencing financial hardship. Taxpayers who are unable to pay their property taxes by April 10th because of the COVID-19 pandemic should be granted every form of relief available.”

The letter continues, “We understand that tax collectors have the ability to waive late payment penalties and costs for reasonable cause, including the closure of tax collector offices. We appreciate your organization’s efforts to inform property owners of this relief. To the greatest extent possible, we ask that all tax collectors speak with one voice to inform taxpayers that these provisions will be applied consistently and generously across counties to maximize relief during this emergency.”

Ting and Burke in the letter announce their plan to introduce emergency legislation “as soon as practicable to codify this direction and retroactively waive interest and penalties for homeowners and other taxpayers adversely impacted by this pandemic.”

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