An example of the complexity engendered when the government interferes with the basic system of property taxation:

Proposition 13 is as follows:


(a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties.
(b) The limitation provided for in subdivision (a) shall not apply to ad valorem taxes or special assessments to pay the interest and redemption charges on any indebtedness approved by the voters prior to the time this section becomes effective.


(a) The full cash value means the county assessor's valuation of real property as shown on the 1975 76 tax bill under "full cash value"; or, thereafter, the appraised value of real property when purchased, newly constructed, or a change in ownership has occurred after the 1975 assessment. All real property not already assessed up to the 1975 76 full cash value may be reassessed to reflect that valuation. For purposes of this section, the term "newly constructed" shall not include real property which is reconstructed after a disaster, as declared by the Governor, where the fair market value of such real property, as reconstructed, is comparable to its fair market value prior to the disaster.

(b) The full cash value base may reflect from year to year the inflationary rate not to exceed two percent (2%) for any given year or reduction as shown in the consumer price index or comparable data for the area under taxing jurisdictions; or may be reduced to reflect substantial damage, destruction or other factors causing a decline in value.

The following is part of the official explanation of Proposition 13. It illustrates how a simple and easily understood property tax system can be made into an administrative "jungle":


Q: I bought my house before 1975. When does it get the next hike in value?
A: Never again, under Proposition 13, unless you change the ownership, enlarge your home, make substantial alterations, or have other new construction.

Q: So if I don't have new construction and don't move, my value stays the same?
A: Basically yes, except that up to 2% per year may be added for inflation.

Q: My 1975 tax bill shows a much smaller tax value than my 1978 bill. Why?
A: Proposition 13 said that all property not already valued up to the 1975 level had to be revalued to that level. Your home may not have been revalued for several years before 1975.

Q: I recently bought my first house. Now I find my neighbor's place is bigger and has a pool, but his property tax is $ 1,000 less than minel
A: For a property bought after March 1, 1975, Proposition 13 requires the assessment to be based on what it's worth at the time of sale. Your neighbor probably owned his property before then and it's assessed at its 1975 value.

Q: Am I still entitled to a Homeowner's Exemption?
A: Exemptions were not affected by Proposition 13. All the same rules still apply: A property owner may claim one Homeowner's Exemption in California on the residence in which he or she is the owner and occupant on March 1.