OP-ED: Oakland Homeowners May Qualify for Property Tax Exemptions

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By Len Raphael

 

By now, every Oakland homeowner should have received their property tax bill. There are several items in small print to look at because they could save them from $95 to $410 each year.

 

The first is a county exemption.

 

Find the words “Homeowners Exemption” on the right side, middle of the bill, a few lines below the word LAND.

 

Next look to the right in the column “Full Valuation” to see if that space is blank or shows an amount. If it is blank, you were not given the homeowners exemption.

 

That often happens when people refinance or change title (such as setting up a living trust). The exemption would save you $95 each year.

 

This exemption is only for owner occupants.

 

Easiest way to find out why you are not getting the exemption is to call the county at (510) 272-3770 ASAP.

 

(If you received a scary letter from the City of Oakland, implying that you were not paying business tax to the city on rental income, it could have been because you don’t have a homeowner’s exemption.)

 

The second is an Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Parcel Tax Exemptions for seniors and for low-income owner-occupants.

 

There are two OUSD parcel taxes, Measure G and Measure N. You must re-apply every year by June 30.

 

The $195/year Measure G tax passed in 2008. Low-income owner-occupants of any age are entitled to a full exemption from that tax. The definition of low-income is the same used for Section 8 housing.

 

The $120/year Measure N tax was passed in 2014. There’s a full exemption for owner-occupants who are over 65 as of June 30 and a full exemption for low-income owner-occupants of any age.

 

OUSD has failed to publicize these two exemptions and imposes a rigid June 30 deadline.

 

Compare that to Alameda County, which sends a postcard each year reminding people to claim the homeowners exemption and provides an extended due date of Dec. 10.

 

If you can’t use at least a $120 tax refund, there’s nothing you have to do.

 

If you’re ok with losing the refund for the current year, call OUSD now and ask them to put you on the list to get the form for next year. Their phone number is (510) 879-8884. Good luck.

 

If you agree with me that OUSD failed to adequately publicize the exemptions and should provide an extended due date, I urge you to:

 

Contact OUSD board member by phone, email, or letter, asking them to:

 

Notify every homeowner each year with a postcard instead of just a website posting. Notify all Oakland tax preparers, place ads in newspapers, put up posters at senior centers and houses of worship.

 

Extend the filing deadline to at least Dec 10th 2015 the way the County does for its basic homeowners exemption.

 

To find a list of OUSD board members, call (510) 879-8199.. The information is online at http://mapgis.oaklandnet.com/ousd/

 

Len Raphael is an Oakland CPA, who also works on Oakland fiscal issues and improving police accountability.

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