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-   -   Neighbor not paying her fair share of property tax? (https://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f28/neighbor-not-paying-her-fair-share-of-property-tax-77930.html)

NW-Bound 07-11-2015 08:22 PM

Talk of the bad idea of basing RE taxes on market values and having it fluctuate with housing bubbles and busts reminds me of the following story.

In 2008, during the gasoline crunch that sent the price to $5/gal in the US, the Europeans suffered much higher prices due to higher taxes. To add insult to injury, some of the taxes are based on price, not on the volume or per liter, making fuel even more expensive.

Thus, when the price went up because of a world-wide shortage, some governments enjoyed a "windfall" profit. That drove fuel consumers nuts, and I read about frequent riots by European truckers, fishermen, etc... Here in the US the gasoline excise taxes are based on volume, I believe. This is "fairer", as it does not increase the tax burden when the price goes up because of external factors which affect world-wide prices.

wolf 07-11-2015 08:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by samclem (Post 1612510)
You suspect someone is evading local property taxes, but you don't really know for sure (she could be in a nursing home, she could even be in the house.)
You also don't know the whole story about what is going on with the people there. There could be a very good, decent reason why the owner of the house is inviting these members of her family to live there. She could be caring for her dying sister for a year, her mail still comes to the house, and has let these people live in her house for now--maybe that isn't allowed for in the rules, but the city would have virtually no way to enforce their rules in that case.

It doesn't sound like the family is causing any trouble for you personally. Maybe it's not as quiet as it used to be when the spinster was there alone, and maybe that's bothersome. If Mrs Smith is forced to sell the house to pay the taxes, you don't really know who will move in there. And if she wants to keep the place, she may have to rent it out to pay those taxes (rather than let her kin live there for free or reduced rent). Either way, you could end up with a worse situation next door.

Yes, it would bother me that somebody might be cheating on their property taxes, and I'd resent paying more than they do. I'd have to really examine my motives and decide if I'm upset about the property taxes or if the increased "buzz" at that house is really what's got me peeved, and reporting her for tax issues is a way to get things back the way I liked it before. Maybe you are entirely different, but I suspect that's how I'd perceive things. But given the totality of the factors, I don't think I'd feel comfortable reporting it, and wouldn't feel any obligation to do so.

+ 1. Agree. MYOB. There are bigger issues to worry about.:)

Running_Man 07-11-2015 08:43 PM

From Powell property tax specialists in Houston:
Qualifications for the Over-65 exemption and tax ceiling include:
You are age 65+
Own the home on January 1 of the tax year
Claim it as your primary residence
Claim no other property as a homestead

So as long as SHE considers it her primary residence she does not and does not have another homestead she cannot be proved to be in violation of the law, now do you have anything that shows she is claiming another property as her primary residence? Or do you expect her tax returns to be a matter of public record? This entire thread is a canard, who she lets live in her house is not a matter of discussion as it is irrelevant in determining primary residence.

Running_Man 07-11-2015 08:54 PM

And there is a paucity of legal definition of "primary residence" from one legal website:
There have been very few court cases in which principal residence has been defined, but in those cases, the courts provide the same answer: "we will investigate the facts of each case, and make our decision based on those specific facts, on a case-by-case basis." The IRS has a less complex response: it is "usually the home you live in most of the time".
however the IRS also will allow a home to be defined as a primary residence so long as you have lived in the house for 2 of the past 5 years, even if you rented it out for the other 3!!!!!
So the chance of this woman getting this exemption ruled invalid is near zero since she is over 65 and all she really needs to be doing is not claiming this on another house.

pb4uski 07-11-2015 09:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Another Reader (Post 1613152)
As someone that spent some years managing a local government agency department that was a target for tattletales and self-righteous busybodies, this law was written to make sure the Assessors won't have to chase down every report of abuse. My instructions to my front line staff in this situation would be to respond as follows.


"Sir, we appreciate your concern. However, we have no proof that your neighbor has established another permanent residence and that s/he has no intent of returning. Without proof that your neighbor has established another permanent residence and proof of his/her intent not to return, there is no legal basis for further action. Thank you for your concern and have a nice day."

Well then I'm glad you are not in municipal management here. Do you really think that the burden of proof belongs to the whistleblower? WADR, that's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of. Like reporting a crime to the police and the police saying thanks for letting us know but unless you have proof we won't do anything. If the suspicion has merit it is your job to investigate, not the whistleblowers. If your attitude was adopted then essentially there is zero enforcement.

pb4uski 07-11-2015 09:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NW-Bound (Post 1613252)
Talk of the bad idea of basing RE taxes on market values and having it fluctuate with housing bubbles and busts ....

But you have it wrong, if the municipal budget is stable then property taxes will be stable even if market values rise (or fall) dramatically. The tax rate is the budget divided by the grand list, which is the fair value of all properties in the municipality.

So if the budget is $10 million and the grand list is $500 million then the tax rate will be $2 per hundred... if your home is valued at $250k then your property tax will be $5,000.

If the budget is $10 million and property valued increase 40% then the grand list is now $700 million and the tax rate drops to $1.4285 per hundred and the tax on your now $350k home is still $5,000.

PhrugalPhan 07-11-2015 09:47 PM

Let me come at this from a different view point. I too work for local government, in my case writing software that in one case was for the county's group that tracked cases of overpayment of benefits (i.e. usually fraud) to county residents and their negotiated repayments. The amount per year was in the 10's of millions (8 years ago - it may have hit 100 million by now). We take any type of fraud seriously and investigate it. Any manager saying don't bother us without directing them to the appropriate investigative group wouldn't be a manager here very long.

That money does of course go into the general pool of funds, but there are so many useful programs that need money, and without these funds who knows which ones would end up getting cut (or kicking the funding can down the road). Personally I would not like to have our government finances end up like Greece, but that's just my opinion.

As for the family in the OP, if they are as needy as some hypothesize, there are most likely legal benefits they can apply for that will give them just as much money as they may be saving in other ways. All they need to do is apply for it. The OP doesn't have to feel bad at all for letting the local government know about the current situation. That's exactly what should be done.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Another Reader (Post 1613152)
As someone that spent some years managing a local government agency department that was a target for tattletales and self-righteous busybodies, this law was written to make sure the Assessors won't have to chase down every report of abuse. My instructions to my front line staff in this situation would be to respond as follows.


"Sir, we appreciate your concern. However, we have no proof that your neighbor has established another permanent residence and that s/he has no intent of returning. Without proof that your neighbor has established another permanent residence and proof of his/her intent not to return, there is no legal basis for further action. Thank you for your concern and have a nice day."


Another Reader 07-11-2015 10:00 PM

It's not my job if there is no point to it. In a County agency, I would not have the staff or time to chase after someone that only has to state it is her intent to return to the property to win the argument. Intent is a VERY slippery slope.


Now if you mailed me a copy of her senior citizen exemption in another jurisdiction, that would merit a phone call to the other jurisdiction to verify the duplication and then a matter of fact letter to the individual stating she had two exemptions, and asking her to verify which property was her primary residence. I'm sure the two agencies involved would make the necessary corrections to insure only one exemption was granted.


This happens with the homeowner's exemption in California. Often someone moves to another County, rents out their house, forgets to notify the Assessor they moved, and applies for the exemption in the new County. IIRC, there is a matching state database now that turns up duplicates. A letter is sent to verify primary residence, and the other exemption is canceled.


It's not fraud, it's a lack of knowledge or inattention. Heck, half the homeowners out there don't know if they are getting an exemption for their primary residence. My guess is there is no intent to defraud in this case either.

pb4uski 07-11-2015 10:13 PM

But she has to do more than just state it is her intent to return to the property to win the argument.

You wouldn't check to see where her home address is on her driver's license, where she is registered to vote, the address shown on her latest tax return, the home address on vehicle registrations, so on and so forth? Even if she states that she intends to return to the property, that is not sufficient if the preponderance of evidence indicates otherwise.

Another Reader 07-11-2015 10:19 PM

Welfare fraud is a completely different matter. Intent is not the standard applied.


When all the person has to do is state that it is her intent to return to the property as her primary residence to meet the test, doing anything other than making sure two exemptions are not granted is a waste of the Assessor's resources.


I'll bet that the remedy where PhrugalPhan works is repayment, not prosecution, unless the fraud is egregious. You would be laughed out of the DA's office if you wanted to prosecute every welfare recipient that got an extra check by mistake and failed to report it.

Another Reader 07-11-2015 10:26 PM

If the law says statement of intent is sufficient and she has not claimed the exemption in another jurisdiction, that's the end of the discussion. I likely do not have the legal authority to ask for any of the things you suggest.

Running_Man 07-11-2015 10:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pb4uski (Post 1613278)
But she has to do more than just state it is her intent to return to the property to win the argument.

You wouldn't check to see where her home address is on her driver's license, where she is registered to vote, the address shown on her latest tax return, the home address on vehicle registrations, so on and so forth? Even if she states that she intends to return to the property, that is not sufficient if the preponderance of evidence indicates otherwise.

When Hillary Clinton ran for senator of New York and listed New York as her primary residence, where was she registered to vote and what was the home address on her vehicle registration? What address was on her last income tax return?

All she had to state was it was her INTENT to make New York her primary residence and she was eligible to run as senator, you think there is a higher standard for primary residence for property taxes than US senator of a state? She purchased a home AFTER she declared her candidacy.

Calico 07-11-2015 10:37 PM

I smell bacon.

pb4uski 07-11-2015 10:44 PM

See post 111 where the exemption requires that the home be the taxpayer's principal residence and post 112 wher principal residence is defined. Also see below.

Quote:

Treasury regulations section 1.121-1(b)(2) requires an examination of all facts and circumstances to determine a taxpayer’s principal residence. The regulation says the property a taxpayer used the majority of time during a year will ordinarily be considered his or her principal residence. In addition to usage, other factors include the (1) taxpayer’s place of employment, (2) location of family members, (3) address listed on tax returns, voter registration, driver’s license and vehicle registration, (4) taxpayer’s mailing address, (5) location of the taxpayer’s banks and (6) location of religious organizations and recreation groups.
From the IRS reg:

(2) Principal residence. In the case of a
taxpayer using more than one property
as a residence, whether property is
used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer’s
principal residence depends upon all
the facts and circumstances. If a taxpayer
alternates between 2 properties,
using each as a residence for successive
periods of time, the property that the
taxpayer uses a majority of the time
during the year ordinarily will be considered
the taxpayer’s principal residence.
In addition to the taxpayer’s use
of the property, relevant factors in determining
a taxpayer’s principal residence,
include, but are not limited to—
(i) The taxpayer’s place of employment;
(ii) The principal place of abode of
the taxpayer’s family members;
(iii) The address listed on the taxpayer’s
federal and state tax returns,
driver’s license, automobile registration,
and voter registration card;
(iv) The taxpayer’s mailing address
for bills and correspondence;
(v) The location of the taxpayer’s
banks; and
(vi) The location of religious organizations
and recreational clubs with
which the taxpayer is affiliated.

Texas Proud 07-11-2015 10:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Walt34 (Post 1613215)
I'm not sure you know the history of why Prop. 13 was enacted. People were being forced to sell their lifelong homes because they couldn't afford the rapid rise in property taxes in the 1970's. During that time growth of the size of the state government was also an issue, and Prop. 13 was seen as a way to slow that down. People had just "had their fill" of the perceived greedy state government. But the rapid rise in property taxes was a real problem for huge numbers of people and Prop. 13 did accomplish that goal - Grandma could afford to keep her house.

I still remember the rancor over that and I lived in MD at the time so it wasn't a pressing issue for me. But many other people in other states were having similar issues and for a while it was a popular movement in those states as well although it didn't always pass.


The fix for that problem is to lower the tax rate.... IOW, limit the increase in spending to some % or have the issue come to a vote....

Limiting the increase in taxes paid does mean there are people who are not paying 'their fair share'.... I am for limiting gvmt, but I do not think that how long you have owned your house should come into the calculation of how much tax you should pay....


As an example... gvmt has to come up with a budget... then at some point in time they get the value base of the real estate... divide and get the rate... it should not just be the rate from the prior year on the higher value... so if property values doubled, the rate should be cut in half as a starting point...

pb4uski 07-11-2015 10:54 PM

Exactly.

Another Reader 07-11-2015 11:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pb4uski (Post 1613288)
See posts 111 and 112. Also see below.



From the IRS reg:

(2) Principal residence. In the case of a
taxpayer using more than one property
as a residence, whether property is
used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer’s
principal residence depends upon all
the facts and circumstances. If a taxpayer
alternates between 2 properties,
using each as a residence for successive
periods of time, the property that the
taxpayer uses a majority of the time
during the year ordinarily will be considered
the taxpayer’s principal residence.
In addition to the taxpayer’s use
of the property, relevant factors in determining
a taxpayer’s principal residence,
include, but are not limited to—
(i) The taxpayer’s place of employment;
(ii) The principal place of abode of
the taxpayer’s family members;
(iii) The address listed on the taxpayer’s
federal and state tax returns,
driver’s license, automobile registration,
and voter registration card;
(iv) The taxpayer’s mailing address
for bills and correspondence;
(v) The location of the taxpayer’s
banks; and
(vi) The location of religious organizations
and recreational clubs with
which the taxpayer is affiliated.

Treasury regulations apply to the IRS, not the local tax assessor. Most states have a legislative framework, modified by case law, that the local assessors must follow.

In California, the entity that issues property tax rules, writes the manuals for the Assessors and issues interpretive letters is the State Board of Equalization. There is also an Assessors Association. Those folks and their high level managers meet regularly to discuss the changes in the laws and the rules issued by the SBE. The third parties to the discussion are the County Counsels that advise the Assessors. Not everyone does everything the same way, but the basic rules are followed by everyone.

There are rules for exemptions and the process by which eligibility is confirmed. I'm sure other states have rules and processes for their exemptions as well.

In general, the wording of the law or rule will govern the rules and processes. If the law or rule sets a standard, then you must follow that standard. You cannot require that a higher standard be met.

If the rule or law says the standard for granting an exemption is a statement of intent by the titled owner or surviving spouse to occupy the property, then that's all you can ask for. If they give you the statement, you have to accept it at face value. However, if stated or implicit in the law or rule is the uniqueness of the exemption, then you can require the owner to have only one exemption.

daylatedollarshort 07-12-2015 12:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ERD50 (Post 1613232)
First, if everyone was paying the full share, the current rates for new owners would be less. So maybe less sticker shock than you think?

Second, if someone can no longer afford to live in an area, is it really the rest of the communities responsibility to chip in and help? I don't think so, I think the retiree needs to plan and adapt. That includes me. I'm not going to 'ship' anyone anywhere, but if they can't afford the area, they ought to move to a lower COL place voluntarily. Or their children can chip in if they want them near.

BTW, this conversation got me looking into the local tax exemption for seniors, since I'm getting close. It's pretty modest, a $5,000 reduction in assessed value (which is oddly ~ 1/3 of market value for tax purposes - I guess commercial is at full rate?). So a $300K home, assessed at $100K, would get a $5,000 reduction in assessed value, so a 5% discount on their tax bill, no caps otherwise. I know there is a means for seniors to defer taxes and have it charged to their equity plus interest. IIRC, not very attractive rates, but something for an elderly person who wants to live their last remaining years at home.

-ERD50

Prop 13 passed with nearly 2/3 of the vote. Many older residents can afford the area if they have a mortgage free home. Property taxes alone were driving people out of their life long homes. From Wikipedia:

"A large contributor to Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes.[4] The proposition has been called the "third rail" (meaning "untouchable subject") of California politics, and it is not popular politically for lawmakers to attempt to change it."

Voters here do seem to think it is fair that a homeowner should not have to relocate to a new city without friends or family for support at age 80 solely because of high property taxes. Prop 13 certainly hasn't stopped people from moving here anyway. An influx of new residents is causing a housing shortage, and pushing up housing prices further, at least here in here in Nor Cal:

Plenty of Work but Nowhere to Live - The Atlantic.com

NW-Bound 07-12-2015 03:10 AM

Quote:

Talk of the bad idea of basing RE taxes on market values and having it fluctuate with housing bubbles and busts ....
Quote:

Originally Posted by pb4uski (Post 1613268)
But you have it wrong, if the municipal budget is stable then property taxes will be stable even if market values rise (or fall) dramatically. The tax rate is the budget divided by the grand list, which is the fair value of all properties in the municipality.

So if the budget is $10 million and the grand list is $500 million then the tax rate will be $2 per hundred... if your home is valued at $250k then your property tax will be $5,000.

If the budget is $10 million and property valued increase 40% then the grand list is now $700 million and the tax rate drops to $1.4285 per hundred and the tax on your now $350k home is still $5,000.

No, I do not have it wrong. What you just described is how the tax in your state, where ERD50 lives, and in my state works, as I described in my several posts above. The key is to control the public budget, then divide it out using the assessed home values as weighing factors. I described the same thing you just did.

What I said was wrong was the way RE tax worked in CA, prior to their Prop 13. Their old system resulted in the gummint raking in 2x the amount, if a housing bubble caused your home price to be doubly inflated. Again, this would not have happened in your state, where ERD50 lives, or in my state. Of course, CA residents were mad when their gummint got a windfall profit, and I do not blame them.

But then, CA residents tried to fix it the wrong way (as some of us think), and now with two identical tract homes, one can have 1/5 the tax levied on the other. Of course, people who are paying 1/5 the tax of new home owners are not going to have it changed. Note that the new home owners are not always from out-of-state. It could be your children.

But I guess it is the same elsewhere in our system. Young people will have to work longer and pay more SS than geezers, and get less when they retire. Tough luck!

NW-Bound 07-12-2015 03:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort (Post 1613302)
Prop 13 passed with nearly 2/3 of the vote. Many older residents can afford the area if they have a mortgage free home. Property taxes alone were driving people out of their life long homes. From Wikipedia:

"A large contributor to Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes.[4] The proposition has been called the "third rail" (meaning "untouchable subject") of California politics, and it is not popular politically for lawmakers to attempt to change it." ...

The same Wikipedia article also has a long list of negative effects of Prop. 13. See:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Califo...ition_13_(1978). Following is the index.
4.3 Negative effects
4.3.1 On the housing market
4.3.1.1 Sales disincentives, less individual mobility, higher housing costs
4.3.1.2 Effects on commercial property owners
4.3.2 On the state tax structure
4.3.2.1 Unequal assessments based on purchase date result in regressive taxation
4.3.3 On sales and other taxes
4.3.3.1 Other taxes created or increased
4.3.4 On cities and localities
4.3.4.1 Greater effect on coastal metropolitan areas than on rest of California
4.3.4.2 Loss of local government power to state government
4.3.4.3 Resultant planning changes, loss or degradation of services, new fees
4.3.5 On education and public services
4.3.5.1 Effect on public schools
4.3.5.2 Loss of funding for libraries, city services
About the 3rd rail, it is no different than trying to change SS, even when it is projected that the funding is running out. Once people get some benefits, it's impossible to take it away. We have just seen Greece's problem.


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