Property Taxes: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Questions about Govenor Newsom's Executive Order N-61-20

    1. Residential real property occupied by the taxpayer except property for which taxes are paid through an impound account.
    2. Real property owned and operated by a taxpayer that qualifies as a small business. Please refer to Small Business Administration’s Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations Title 13, section 121.201 to determine if you qualify as a "small business."

    General Questions about Property Taxes

      ​In order for the amount of your taxes to be determined, the County Assessor must first assess the value of your property as of January 1. Generally, the assessed value is the cash or market value at the time of purchase. This value increases not more than 2% per year until the property is sold or any new construction is completed, at which time it must be reassessed.

      For more information on how the assessed value is determined, see the County Assessor's website.

      After the Assessor has determined the property value, the County Controller applies the appropriate tax rates, which include the general tax levy, voter approved special taxes, and any city or district direct assessments.

      For more information on the applied tax rates, see the County Controller's website.

      The general tax levy is determined in accordance with State Law and is limited to 1% assessed value of your property. After applying tax rates, the County Controller calculates the total tax amount. Finally, the Tax Collector prepares property tax bills based on the County Controller's calculations, distributes the bills, and then collects the taxes. Neither the County Board of Supervisors nor the Tax Collector determines the amount of taxes.  

      ​The annual tax bill identifies the following:

      • The owner of record as of the legal lien date.
      • The property location, when available.
      • 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 is an indication that there are delinquent taxes from prior years, which are not included in your bill. Please call (408) 808-7900 for more information.

      ​If you purchase and then sell property within a short period of time, the supplemental tax bill you receive should cover only those months during which you owned the property, and the new owner should receive a separate supplemental tax bill.

      Because of the large number of parcels and frequency of property changing hands in Santa Clara County, there are often delays in placing new assessments on the tax roll. Be sure to check the dates used to prorate the bill to ensure that the period covered is the period during which you actually owned the property. If you receive an incorrect tax bill, visit the County Assessor’s website or call our office at (408) 808 - 7900.  

      An "escape" assessment is a correction to a personal property's assessed value that the Assessor's Office of the County of Santa Clara did not add to any prior year's Annual Unsecured Property Tax Bill. These "escape" bills are usually the result of a taxable event that "escaped" the Office of the Assessor.

      ​Yes. If your payment is not received or postmarked by the delinquent dates, the penalty amounts are the same as secured taxes: First installment penalty = 10% of the first installment amount plus $20.00 cost. Second installment penalty = 10% of the second installment amount, plus $20 cost.  

      ​Any unpaid current secured property taxes as of 5:00 p.m. June 30 will be enrolled on the Defaulted Master Tax File. A $30.00 redemption fee is immediately added and the delinquent bill accrues penalties of 1.5% per month until paid. These tax bills are also referred to as"prior year secured taxes" or"redemptions. 

      All Requests for Change of Address are handled by the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office.

      If you wish your Tax Bills and Assessor/Tax Collector correspondence to be mailed to an address other than the property address, you must fill out a Request for Change of Address. The Request for Change of Address form is mailed together with your annual Tax Bill. 

      An on-line copy of the Request for Change of Address form can be accessed through the Assessor's Office web site. Please note that by navigating to the link, you will be leaving the Office of the Tax Collector site and going to the Assessor's Office site. Please  click here for the Assessor's Office Request for Change of Address. 

      ​Yes. Only U.S. Postal Service postmarks will be accepted. To avoid penalties, ask to have the envelope hand stamped by the post office. Metered mail is not accepted as a valid postmark.​​​

      Questions about Secured Taxes

        ​The term"secured" simply means taxes that are assessed against real property (e.g., land or structures). The tax is a lien that is"secured" by the land/structure even though no document was officially recorded. This means that if the taxes remain unpaid after a period of five (5) years, the property may be sold to cover the taxes owed.  

        ​The County Assessor establishes the value of property on January 1. This date is often referred to as the Tax Lien date. The secured property tax bill, issued months later, uses the value established on the Tax Lien date.  

        ​Annual tax bills are mailed once a year no later than November 1, 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. Our Interactive Voice Response System allows you to obtain information from the computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Don't wait until it's too late and you are required to pay penalties.) If you did not receive a bill, or if you recently purchased a property, you may obtain a duplicate tax bill by calling (408) 808-7900 or visiting our office.  ​​​

        The secured property tax bill is payable in two installments:

        • The first installment is due and payable on November 1. However you have until December 10 to make your payment before a 10% penalty and $20.00 cost is added to your bill.
        • The second installment is due and payable on February 1. However, you have until April 10 to make your payment before a 10% penalty and $20.00 cost is added to your bill.

        Pay secured property taxes online prior to midnight pacific time on December 10 and April 10 to avoid penalties.

        If December 10 or April 10 falls on a weekend or County of Santa Clara holiday, then the Delinquent Date is extended to the next business day.

        ​You can mail your payment, but in order to avoid the delinquent penalty, your payment envelope must possess a United States Postal Service postmark on or before the tax delinquent date. Remember, the delinquent dates are as follows: First installment delinquent at 5 p.m., December 10. Second installment delinquent at 5 p.m., April 10. If the delinquent date falls on a weekend or holiday, the penalty is not imposed until 5 p.m. on the next business day.  

        The Department of Tax and Collections provides a web site, where Credit Card and e-check payments can be made. Credit Cards accepted are: Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover.

        Please note that additional credit card processing fees will be charged in addition to your payment.

        The County of Santa Clara uses FIS Global to process credit card and e-check payments. Since the County is by law not allowed to collect less than the actual tax amount, any fees for processing this credit card payment must be paid by you. 

        To pay your tax bill by credit card, please go to the following web site: https://payments.sccgov.org/propertytax

        Questions about Unsecured Taxes

          The term "unsecured" simply refers to property that can be relocated and is not real estate. The tax is assessed against such things as business equipment, fixtures, boats and airplanes. If the unsecured tax is not paid, a personal lien is filed against the owner, not the property.

          The Unsecured Annual bills are mailed out in the middle of July. The payment for these bills must be received in our office or paid online by August 31. Unsecured bills mailed out throughout the year are due on the date shown on the payment coupon.

          If the due date on the bill falls on Saturday, Sunday or a County holiday, payments must be made the next business day to avoid penalties.

          Yes. If your payment is not received or postmarked by the delinquent date, a 10% penalty and a $50.00 collection fee is added to your bill. If your bill remains unpaid for two additional months, a monthly penalty of 1.5% begins to accrue. In addition, if a Certificate of Tax Lien is recorded, the Clerk Recorder's Office charges an additional fee of $20.00 to release the lien.

          The Department of Tax and Collections provides a web site, where Credit Card and e-check payments can be made. Credit Cards accepted are: Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover.

          Please note that additional credit card processing fees will be charged in addition to your payment.

          The County of Santa Clara uses FIS to process credit card and e-check payments.

          Since the County is by law not allowed to collect less than the actual tax amount, any fees for processing this credit card payment must be paid by you.

          To pay your tax bill by credit card, please go to the following web site: https://payments.sccgov.org/propertytax

          The owner of personal property as of January 1st is responsible for the unsecured tax bill. Disposal, removal, or sale of the property after the January 1st lien date will not affect the tax bill. Taxes will not be prorated due to the sale or disposal of taxable personal property after the lien date. Any proration of the tax is strictly a private matter between the seller and buyer.

          A lien is placed against the individual for delinquent unpaid taxes. In order to clear the delinquency, all taxes, costs, and penalties must be paid. Upon payment in full, the Department of Tax and Collections will prepare a "Release of Lien" and forward it to the payer. The release must be recorded at the County Clerk-Recorder's office. This information is then obtained by the credit bureaus and they update their records to show that the lien has been satisfied. Taxpayers must be aware that neither the Tax Collector nor the County Clerk-Recorder forward cleared delinquencies to credit agencies.

          Questions about Supplemental Taxes

            "Supplemental"taxes are additional secured taxes that are due when property undergoes a change in ownership or new construction. The additional tax is owed because the County Assessor is required to immediately adjust the January 1 value to reflect the new value of the property (see Secured Tax definition). Adjusted for the number of months left in the fiscal year, the supplemental tax bill represents the tax due on the difference between the old and new values.  ​

            ​The difference between the new value and the old January 1 value is multiplied by a proration factor. The proration factor is the percentage of months remaining in the fiscal year. This result is then multiplied by the tax rate (usually 1% plus voter approved indebtedness) to determine the supplemental tax amount due.  

            ​The supplemental tax bill provides the following information:

            • The owner.
            • The fiscal year for which the taxes are assessed.
            • The location of the property.
            • The old and the new assessed value and the difference (net supplemental assessment) upon which the tax is computed.
            • The type and amount of exemptions (e.g., homeowner's).
            • The total of taxes due based on the net increase in value.
            • The date of the ownership change or completion of new construction. This date is used to prorate the tax for the period remaining in the current fiscal year for which the bill is issued.

            The bill may be paid in two installments and provides payment stubs for each installment, which show the amount due and the date that the amount must be paid to avoid penalties for late payment.  

            Most supplemental bills are mailed within nine (9) months after a change in ownership or new construction. You should receive a Notification of Supplemental Assessment approximately sixty (60) days before the bill is mailed. 

            To avoid penalties, you should check the status of your property taxes and/or request a duplicate bill by contacting our office. Do not wait until it is too late as penalties will be added.Our contact information is located at www.scctax.org.

            ​The supplemental tax bill is payable in two installments, like the secured bill. The delinquent dates of the installments depend on when the bill is mailed.

            A supplemental tax bill mailed between July and October carries a first installment delinquent date of December 10 and a second installment delinquent date of April 10.

            Supplemental bills mailed between November and June carry a delinquent date based on the month in which the bill was mailed:

            • The first installment is delinquent the last day of the following month in which the bill was mailed.
            • The second installment is delinquent four (4) months later. For example, if a supplemental tax bill is mailed in February, the first installment delinquent date would be March 31 and the second installment delinquent date would be July 31. 

            ​You may receive more than one supplemental tax bill, depending on when you purchased your property or completed new construction. Because the secured property taxes are based on the January 1 value and cover a fiscal year, your purchase/construction date may effect the calculation of the taxes for two (2) fiscal years. For example, if you purchased property in February 2003, your purchase would effect the 2002/2003 fiscal year taxes (February 2003 through June 2003) and the 2003/2004 fiscal year taxes (July 2003 through June 2004). The latter fiscal year is effected because the value would have already been established by the County Assessor on January 1, 2003, prior to the purchase/construction. Therefore, the taxes calculated for 2003/2004 would also have to be adjusted by a supplemental bill to reflect the increased value. 

            ​The Office of the Tax Collector provides a web site, where Credit Card and e-check payments can be made. Credit Cards accepted are: Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover.

            Please note that additional credit card processing fees will be charged in addition to your payment.

            The County of Santa Clara uses Official Payments Corporation to process credit card and e-check payments. 

            Since the County is by law not allowed to collect less than the actual tax amount, any fees for processing this credit card payment must be paid by you. 

            To pay your tax bill by credit card, please go to the following web site: https://payments.sccgov.org/propertytax

            ​No. Unlike the annual tax bill, lending agencies do not receive a copy of the supplemental tax bill. When you receive a supplemental tax bill, you must contact your lender to determine who will pay the bill. Furthermore, if the tax payment is not made before the delinquency date due to a misunderstanding between yourself and your lender, the penalties cannot be excused. State law stipulates that this is not an acceptable reason for excusing penalties. 

            A supplemental assessment is a reappraisal of real property due to a change in ownership or new construction. An Unsecured Supplemental Property Tax Bill is created when this reappraisal occurs after a subsequent change in ownership. The Supplemental Property Tax Bill is billed on the Unsecured Tax Roll because the owner responsible for the property taxes either no longer owns the property or no longer has control of the property.

            Questions about Partial Tax Payments

              The unpaid balance on any existing installment will be treated as a delinquent tax. The County will still assess a 10% penalty plus $20.00 cost for unpaid taxes beyond the property tax delinquency date. However, this penalty will apply only to the balance due.

              For example, let's say your first property tax installment is $5,000 and by December 10th you elect to pay $3,000 of it. This leaves an unpaid balance of $2,000. You will only incur a 10% penalty plus $20.00 cost on the unpaid balance of $2,000.​​​

              Yes, in most cases. Secured, Supplemental, and Unsecured partial payments will generate a Balance Due Statement. There is no Balance Due Statement for Redemption yet, however, you will receive a letter from the department.​​

              The new partial payment feature allows you to make smaller payments on your installments when it is most convenient for you.  Please keep in mind that the full amount of the installment must be paid before the installment delinquency date to avoid delinquent penalties, which will be assessed on the remaining balance.

              This means that only the unpaid balance on any existing installment will be treated as a delinquent tax.  The County will still assess a 10% penalty plus cost for unpaid taxes beyond the property tax delinquency dates.  This penalty will only apply to the balance due.

              If you are making partial payments on a Redemption  (prior year tax) balance, interest is still accrued on the first day of every month until the redemption balance has been paid off.​​

              ​A redemption bill has a monthly penalty of 1.5% calculated on the total base tax of the redemption bill. When a partial payment is made, it must first be applied towards all penalties before the base tax. Once payment can be applied towards the base tax of the bill, the monthly penalty will be adjusted to calculate on the remaining base tax amount. ​​

              Questions about Installment Plans

                ​When on an installment plan of redemption, a payment of 20% (determined at the time of set-up) plus total accrued interest since the last payment made is required to be paid each fiscal year by April 10. Partial payments can be applied to these installments. The payments will be applied towards any accrued interest first and then applied towards the 20% until the 20% amount has been paid in full. ​​

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