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Property Tax Relief for Seniors

A wise man once said, “the only two things certain in life are death and taxes.” Although we have very little control over when the first occurs, many of us go to great lengths to try to minimize the “ouch” factor of the second. When my parents turned 70, they felt the 3,000 square foot home they lived in for over 30 years was way too much for them. They knew they could sell their home for a lot of money and buy a smaller home very easily. However, my parents were worried about paying a much higher annual property tax bill year after year, since they believed that their new property tax would be based on the price they paid for another home.  Luckily, I found two constitutional amendments passed by California voters that provide property tax relief if you are 55 years and older.  If you live in a “principal residence” in California for at least 5 years, are 55 years or older, buy a replacement property of “equal or similar value” within 2 years of the sale of your principal residence, and timely file a form BOE-60-AH with the County Assessor’s Office you may be able to transfer the tax basis from the home you sell to your new home.  There are certain conditions that must be met to be eligible. My parents sold their home and bought a newer smaller home, with less maintenance, for about the same price.  As a bonus, they were able to transfer the property tax base of $3,000 a year from the home they sold to their new home, saving them approximately $7,000 per year.  Without the exemption, my parents’ property taxes would have increased to approximately $10,000 per year.