Property Taxes The Simple Story
This page provides an overview of the property tax system. This information should be especially helpful to new homeowners who are paying property taxes for the first time.
Property taxes are collected by the County Tax Collector for schools, county government, cities, and special districts. The California Revenue and Taxation Code governs the collection of property taxes in the State of California.
As a property owner, what are my responsibilities for the payment of taxes?
As the owner of property in Santa Cruz County, you are responsible for the payment of your property taxes. If you are a new owner, taxes may have been prorated between the buyer and seller in escrow. THESE FUNDS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN WITHHELD FOR PAYMENT to the County Tax Collector. Ask your escrow officer or real estate advisor, or call our office.
When are the annual tax bills mailed?
Annual tax bills are mailed once a year by November 1st, and can be paid in two installments. Every effort is made to get a copy of the tax bill to each new property owner. To avoid penalties, you should check the status of your property taxes and/or request a duplicate bill by calling our office. Don't wait until it's too late and you are required to pay penalties. Change the Mailing address on your tax bill.
You may also be responsible for payment of supplemental property taxes. When property changes ownership or new construction occurs, the property is reassessed. If the property has been reassessed at a higher value, you will receive one or more supplemental tax bills in addition to the annual tax bill. If the property has been reassessed at a lower value, you may be due a refund. For more information regarding supplemental tax bills, please refer to our page titled "Supplemental Taxes...Who, What, When, and Why"
Annual tax bills are mailed by November 1st. To request a change to the Mailing address on your tax bill, click here. If you do not receive your annual tax bill by November 10th, you should contact the County Tax Collector's Office. Please have your Assessor's parcel number available. Supplemental tax bills, which are in addition to the annual tax bill, are mailed throughout the year.
What information is included with my tax bill?
The annual tax bill identifies the following:
- The owner of record as of the legal lien date (January 1).
- The property location, when available (also known as situs).
- The assessed value of the property.
- The amount and type of exemption, if applicable.
- The amount of taxes due on the first and second installments, as well as the total of taxes due.
- A breakdown of the types of taxes being collected, including the general tax levy (the constitutional 1% levy), locally voted special taxes, and city or district special assessments.
If your bill bears the statement "Prior Years Taxes Unpaid", this in an indication that there are delinquent taxes from prior years, which are not included in your bill. Please see our page titled "Delinquent Taxes…A Cause for Redemption" for more information.
What are the due dates and delinquent dates?
You may pay your annual tax bill in two installments. The first installment is due November 1st and becomes delinquent if not paid at the County Tax Collector's Office by the close of business on December 10th*, or if the payment is not postmarked by that date. You may, if you choose, pay the entire tax bill when the first installment payment is made. The second installment is due February 1st and becomes delinquent if not paid at the County Tax Collector's Office by the close of business on April 10th*, or if the payment is not postmarked by that date. The second installment cannot be paid before the first installment.
Supplemental tax bills are mailed throughout the year, and have various due and delinquent dates.
What happens if I fail to pay my taxes on time?
If you do not pay the first installment of your annual tax bill at the County Tax Collector's Office by the close of business in office on December 10th*, or if the payment is not postmarked by that date, a 10% delinquent penalty is added to the unpaid installment.
If you fail to pay the second installment at the County Tax Collector's Office by the close of business in office on April 10th*, or if the payment is not postmarked by that date, a 10% penalty plus a cost of $20.00 is added to the unpaid installment.
If you fail to pay any installment at the County Tax Collector's Office by the close of business in office on June 30th*, or if the payment is not postmarked by that date, then the property becomes tax defaulted and additional penalties and fees accrue. Please see our page titled "Delinquent Taxes…A Cause for Redemption" for more information. for further information.
If you fail to pay the installments of your supplemental tax bill(s) by the applicable delinquency date, the same penalties and costs accrue as for delinquent annual property taxes. Please see our page titled "Supplemental Taxes...Who, What, When, and Why for more information.
* If either December 10th, April 10th or June 30th falls on a weekend or holiday, taxes are not delinquent until 5 p.m. the next business day.
What is the best way to pay my taxes?
The best way to pay your tax bill is electronically using e-check. It is quick and easy and can be completed at home. You receive an immediate email confirmation of payment and best of all it is FREE. Visit the County Tax Collector's web site to pay for FREE by e-check. http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Departments/TaxCollector.aspx
Another way to pay is by mail. Your tax bill will have a payment stub for each installment. To ensure prompt handling of your payment, please use the return envelopes provided. Make your payment payable to: County Tax Collector. The billed Assessor's parcel number should be written on your check. Your canceled check serves as your receipt. PLEASE DO NOT SEND CASH. Mailed payments must be postmarked on or before the delinquent date. Mail early to avoid penalties due to late postmark. Payments may also be made in person at the County Tax Collector's Office, Room 150 of the County Government Center. A drive by drop box is located outside the County Government Center at 701 Ocean St. The County Tax Collector also accepts Discover Card for payment (with the addition of an applicable service charge).
Will I receive a tax bill if I pay taxes through an impound account?
Your lender will receive your annual tax bill and you will receive a notice.
Supplemental tax bills are mailed directly to you. It is your responsibility to contact your lender to determine who will pay the supplemental tax bill(s). Your lender will not receive this bill.
What determines the amount of taxes that I pay?
First the Assessor determines the taxable value of the property. Then, the Auditor-Controller applies the appropriate tax rate and adds any related special assessments. Based on the Auditor-Controller's calculations, a tax bill is prepared and mailed by the County Tax Collector.
Assessed value of property
Divide value by 100
Multiply by tax rate (use tax rate found on your tax bill)
Add related special assessments (if any)
What can I do if I disagree with the assessment on my property?
You should first discuss the matter with the Assessor's Office. If the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction, there is an Assessment Appeals Board established for this purpose.
Further information regarding the appeals process may be obtained by calling (831) 454-2323, or by writing to: Clerk of the Board, 701 Ocean St, Room 500, Santa Cruz, California 95060.
If you are appealing your assessment, your tax installments should still be paid before they become delinquent. If unpaid, penalties may accrue during the appeals process. If the outcome of your appeal results in a reduction of the assessment, a refund will be issued to you by the Auditor-Controller's Office.
Are exemptions and assistance programs available to property owners, which help reduce or defer taxes?
Applications for homeowners', veterans', church, welfare or other exemptions may be obtained from the Assessor's Office. These programs allow for exemptions under specific qualifications, which result in a reduction of taxes. Additional information may be obtained from the Assessor's Office, (831) 454-2002 or visited our Assessor's Website or visit the Assessor's Forms page.
To receive additional information on supplemental taxes, delinquent taxes or mobilehome taxes, please write to the Santa Cruz County Tax Collector, P.O. Box 1817, Santa Cruz, California 95061-1817.