Glossary of Property Tax Terminology

Abstract of Judgment
A summary of the essential provisions of a court judgment which, when recorded in the County Recorder’s Office, creates a lien upon the defendant’s property in that county, both presently owned or afterward acquired.

Ad Valorem
A Latin phrase meaning “according to value”, usually used in connection with real property taxation.

(1) Assessment Appeal – Appeal made by taxpayer for reduction of assessed value.  Application is filed with the Clerk of the Board.  (2) Penalty Appeal – Appeal made by taxpayer when s/he feels they have been penalized either in error or because of extenuating circumstances.  A process is then followed for review of such cases by the Tax Collector.

Distribution of ad valorem taxes to the taxing agencies by the County Controller.

An estimate of the value of property resulting from an analysis of facts about the property.  An opinion of value.

Assessed Valuation
A valuation placed upon property by a public authority as a basis for levying taxes on the property.

Assessed Value of Land
The assessed value of the land portion of a property.

Assessed Value of Structure
The assessed value of the building portion of a property.

Person To Whom The Property Is Assessed.

The valuation of property for the purpose of levying a tax; or the amount of the tax levied.

Assessment Number
A unique number assigned by the County Assessor identifying a property.

Bill Number
A unique number identifying a single tax bill.

Certificate of Tax Lien
See Lien.

Chapter 8
Chapter 8 Agreement:  Refers to Chapter 8 of Part 6 of Division 1 of Revenue and Taxation Code.  Generally, the acquisition by a public agency, the county or the state, through agreement with the County Board of Supervisors, of tax-defaulted property that is subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell.

Code “42” Bill
Copy of the original Regular Tax bill issued when a change is made by the Assessor in the name or address field.

Collection Fee
See Unsecured Collection Fee.

$20.00 charge which attaches to secured taxes for preparing delinquent records and giving notice of delinquency.  It is either collected when current year delinquent bills are paid when a prior year tax-delinquent or tax-defaulted property is redeemed or is distributed from proceeds of a tax sale.

Declaration of Default
Time of:  On or before June 30, at the time fixed in the publication of the notice of impending default, when the unpaid taxes, assessments, penalties and costs on real property (except property which is already tax-defaulted or is a possessory interest), are declared by the Tax Collector to be in default.

Delinquent List
A list annually published on or before September 8, of all real property declared to be in default by the Tax Collector in the second year of default, except those properties which have been redeemed or cancelled subsequent to the declaration of default.  Also referred to as the Published Delinquent List.

Delinquent Tax Amount
The total amount of past due taxes on a property.

Request from Title/Escrow company for pay-off information on any outstanding Tax Collector liens.

An electronic check that can be used to pay property taxes. An e-check is issued by entering accounting information from your check into a secured web page.

Eminent Domain
A right to acquire private property for public use by condemnation and the payment of just compensation.  This right may be vested in the state or any of its political subdivisions, or in private persons or corporations authorized to exercise functions of public necessity.

To make equal, uniform.  To constitute or induce equality; in property assessment, a procedure usually performed by the Assessment Appeals Board to provide due process in valuation either collectively or to individual applicants.

An escape is a bill created by the Assessor for the value increase in a previous fiscal year (i.e., E8 would be additional taxes for fiscal year 1988/89 [July 1, ’88 to June 30, ‘89]).  Prior to January 1991 these bills were not prorated.

The deposit of instruments and/or funds with instructions with a neutral third party (Title Company or Attorney) to carry out the provisions of an agreement or contract.

Excess Proceeds
The amount of monies remaining from a sale of tax-defaulted property after the taxes, penalties and costs have been paid and all precedent liens and judgments satisfied.

Freed from an obligation or duty required by others.  According to California Revenue and Taxation Code 201.2 through 234, certain property owners are freed of all or a portion of their tax obligation.  For example, all owner occupied homes in the state receive a $7,000 value reduction (Homeowner’s Exception).  Cemeteries; churches; nonprofit organizations; and disabled veterans are some of the other exemptions allowed by law.

Exemption Amount
The total amount of tax exemption (tax savings) that is being applied to a property.

Exemption Type
The code used by a government agency to identify the type of exemption that is being applied to a property.

Federal Aviation Administration.

Fair Market Value
The amount of money that would be paid for a property offered on the open market for a reasonable period of time with both buyer and seller knowing all the uses to which the property could be put and with neither party being under pressure to buy or sell.

Federal Tax Lien
A lien attaching to property for nonpayment of a federal tax (estate, income, etc.).  A federal tax lien differs from other liens in that it is not automatically wiped out by foreclosing on a mortgage or trust deed recorded before the tax lien (except by judicial foreclosure).  See IRS Lien.

Fiscal Year
An accounting year, as distinguished from a calendar year or an assessment year.  For property tax purposes the fiscal year is July 1 through June 30.

Anything pertaining to land or improvements, which usually cannot be removed without agreement, as they become real property; examples:  plumbing fixtures, store fixtures built into a building, etc.

General Lien
A lien such as a tax lien or judgment lien which attaches to all property of the debtor rather than the lien of, for example, a trust deed, which attaches only to specific property.

Defined in California law as including all buildings, structures, fixtures, and fences erected on or affixed to the land, together with all fruit, nut bearing, or ornamental trees and vines, not of natural growth and not exempt from taxation, except date palms under eight years of age.

Incumbrance.  (Encumbrance)
A claim, lien, charge, or liability attached to and binding real property.  Any right to, or interest in, land which may exist in one other than the owner, but which will not prevent the transfer of fee title.

Each installment equals one half of the total current year secured taxes owed by the property owner.

Installment Plan Of Redemption
A plan enabling the taxpayer to pay defaulted taxes in installments over a period of five years.  A plan must be initiated before five or more years have elapsed from the time of tax-default.

Last Assessment Update
The date that property information was last updated.

A contract between owner and tenant settling forth conditions upon which tenant may occupy and use the property and the term of the occupancy.  Sometimes used as an alternative to purchasing property outright, as a method of financing the right to occupy and use real property.

Legal Description
A land description recognized by law; a description by which property can be definitely located by reference to government surveys or approved recorded map.

(Verb) To impose taxes, special assessments, or service charges for the support of governmental activities.  (Noun)  The total amount of taxes, special assessments, or service charges imposed by government.

A form of encumbrance which usually makes specific property security for the payment of a debt.  Usually a recorded document.  Example: judgments, taxes, mortgages, deeds of trust, etc.

Lien Date
The time when taxes for any fiscal year become an encumbrance on property, January 1.

Limitations, Statute of
The commonly used identifying term for various statutes which require that a legal action be commenced within a prescribed time after the accrual of the right to seek legal relief.

Generally, a portion or parcel of real property.  Usually refers to a portion of a subdivision.

Market Value
Same as “Fair Market Value”.

A stationary, non-motorized vehicle designed and equipped for human habitation.  For property tax purposes, “mobilehome” is defined as containing 320 or more square feet or area, no more than two dwelling units, and not permanently affixed to land (no foundation).

Mobilehome Conditional Clearance
Certificate prepared by the Tax Collector’s Office which releases control over title conveyance on the basis that s/he is to receive a specific payment for taxes owed.

Mobilehome Tax Clearance
Certificate which certifies that all fees and taxes have been paid.  (See also Tax Clearance Certificate.)

Negative Supplemental Value
A tax credit based on a downward change in assessed value as determined by the Assessor.

Negotiable Paper
Bank checks and drafts, certificates of eligibility for senior citizen’s property tax postponement, and express and post-office money orders.  Acceptance of negotiable paper in payment of taxes is at the Tax Collector’s discretion, except in the case of certificates of eligibility.

Net Value
Taxable amount of assessed property; derived from total assessed value minus any exemptions.

Notice of Adjustment or Discrepancy
A notice to taxpayer(s) advising payment is short, over, or unidentifiable.

Notice of Impending Default

A publication by the Tax Collector made annually, on or before June 8th, of impending default for failure to pay taxes on real property.

Notice of Assessee of Default and Power to Sell Property
A registered letter sent by the Tax Collector to the last known assessee of property 5 or more years tax-defaulted.  This letter must be sent on or before June 8 as law requires 21 – 35 days before the date on which the Tax Collector’s power to sell for nonpayment of taxes would arise.  The notice contains the information required by 3362 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code.

Notice of Power and Intent to Sell Tax-Defaulted Property
A publication by the Tax Collector made annually, on or before June 8th, identifying property that shall become subject to Tax Collector’s power and intent to sell.

Notifications of Supplemental Assessment
A notice issued to a property owner by the Assessor reflecting positive or negative adjustments in the property’s assessed value.  These adjustments are a result of a change in ownership or completion of new construction.

Owner of Record
The owner of property according to the records of the County Recorder.

Parcel Number
See Assessment Number.

Parcel Tax
Non ad valorem taxes added to each parcel in a certain area – usually by a school district and by voter approval.

Parties of Interest
Any persons, at the time of a tax sale or assignees after a sale, who have a legal right (by title, contract, or lien) to claim excess proceeds from the sale.

An extra amount charged for failure to pay or perform some required act by a specific deadline.  Once attached, a penalty becomes part of the tax amount.

Personal Property
Any property which is not designated by law as real property.

(1) Documents, issued and number controlled, by the Assessor’s Office to inform the Tax Collector of increase or decrease in property values.  (2) Data entry document prepared and controlled by the Office of the Tax Collector (Tax Roll Control) to execute the changes indicated by the Assessor.

Possessory Interest
The right to use and control public land to the exclusion of others.

Power To Sell
The Tax Collector’s legal obligation and ability to sell all or any portion of property that has been tax defaulted for five or more years and not redeemed.  The “power to sell” arises by operation of law after published declaration and mailed notice to the assessee.

Preliminary Title Report
A report showing the condition of title before a sale or loan transaction.  After completion of the transaction, a title insurance policy is issued.  Also see Title Report.

Property, Personal (Personalty)
Includes all property not real property, both tangible and intangible.

Property, Real (Real Estate)
Includes the possession of, claim to, ownership of, or right to the possession of land and improvements.

Property Type
A descriptive identifier which identifies the type of property (i.e., residential, commercial, industrial, etc.)

Public Auction Sale
A procedure the Tax Collector employs for selling tax-defaulted property.  Each tax-defaulted property is sold to the highest bidder in order to satisfy the lien of delinquent taxes and other charges.

Re-estimating the value of property for tax assessment purposes.

The realization of a right to have the title of property restored free and clear of the lien of any taxes, through payment of all delinquent taxes.

Redemption Penalty
A monthly penalty charged beginning when a property is added to the abstract of delinquent property and terminating as of the month of redemption currently 1 ½% per month.

Redemption, Installment Plan of
A plan to redeem tax-defaulted property which must be initiated before the property becomes subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell.  See Installment Plan of Redemption.

An amount paid back or credit allowed because of an over collection.

Release Of Lien
Recession of the encumbrance previously created by a tax lien.  A Release of Lien is issued when the tax debt has been satisfied.

Revenue District
Includes every city and district for which the county officers assess property and collect taxes or assessments.

An internal code which determines if the property is on the secured roll or unsecured roll.

Roll, Assessment
The list of property, prepared by the Assessor or other authorized party, upon which taxes and other specified charges may be levied within a county or district.  The entire county assessment roll includes both “secured” and “unsecured” types of property.

SBE Roll
See “State Board of Equalization”.

Sealed Bid Sale
A Chapter 7 procedure of selling tax-defaulted property to the owners of contiguous property by sealed bid and awarded to the highest bidder.

Secured Roll; Secured Taxes
The listing of property which, in the opinion of the Assessor, has sufficient value to guarantee payment of taxes levied thereon.  “Secured taxes” are those which, if unpaid, can be satisfied by sale of realty against which they are levied.

Segregation; Separate Valuation
(1) The act or process of separately valuing an interest in an original assessment appearing on the current roll to allow taxes for that portion to be paid A $45 fee is charged in Santa Clara County for this service.  Application must be made before installment becomes delinquent.  (2) See “Subdivision”.

Seizure and Sale
The act of taking possession and selling property belonging to an assessee in order to pay the lien of delinquent unsecured taxes.

Place, location of property; or physical address of a property.

Special Assessment
A charge levied by a public authority to pay the cost of public improvements such as street lights, water and sewer infrastructure, landscape, etc.

Special District
An independent unit of local government organized to perform a single governmental function or a restricted number of related functions.  Special districts usually have the power to incur debt and levy taxes; however, certain types of special districts are entirely dependent upon enterprise earnings and cannot impose taxes.  Examples of special districts are water districts, drainage districts, flood control districts, hospital districts, fire protection districts, transit authorities, post authorities, and electric power authorities.

State Board Of Equalization Roll.  (SBE)
That part of the Secured roll containing state assessed property, such as railroads, inter-county pipelines, flumes and ditches.

State Redemption Fee
A $30.00 fee that is added to each Secured Parcel when prior year taxes are owed.

Commonly, a division of a single parcel of land into smaller parcels (lots) by filing a map describing the division, and obtaining approval by a governmental body (city or county).

Subdivision Map
A map submitted by a subdivider to the proper governmental body for approval in order to establish a subdivision.  When the map is approved and recorded, it becomes the basis for the legal description of the subdivision.

Subject to Sale
A property becomes subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell five or more years after the property becomes tax-defaulted.  Also see Notice of Power to Sell Tax-Defaulted Property and Power to Sell.

Summary Judgment
An immediate rendering of a court to enforce the Tax Collector’s claim for unpaid taxes.  Once recorded, the amount claimed constitutes a lien upon all property of the assessee and is superior to all liens later filed.

Supplemental Assessment
An adjustment in valuation resulting from a change of ownership or completion of new construction which alters a property’s taxable value.

Supplemental Tax Bill
A tax bill issue reflecting an adjustment in taxes resulting from upward changes in assessed value due to changes in ownership or completion of new construction.

Tax Due
The total amount of the current year's tax owed by property owner.

Tax-Default; Tax-Defaulted
Describes the onset of a period wherein tax-delinquent secured property becomes subject to redemption penalties and fees.  Five years after becoming “tax-defaulted” a property, by operation of law, becomes subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell.

Tax Rate
A factor derived by combining revenue requirements of various taxing agencies and districts within specific areas and expressing the combined figure in relation to the total assessed valuation of each area.  Traditionally, the ratio of dollars of tax per hundred dollars of valuation.

Tax Rate Area (TRA)
An area over which a governmental body has authority to levy property taxes or special assessments; may contain one or more assessment districts. For a list of Tax Rate Areas and their corresponding Tax Rates, click here.

Taxing Agency
Includes the state, county, and city.  “Taxing agency” also includes every district that assesses property for taxation purposes and levies taxes or assessments on the property so assessed.

Total Assessed Value
The total assessed value of a property.

Trade Fixtures
Articles of personal property constructively or physically annexed to real property by a business tenant which are necessary to the carrying on of a trade.  Ordinarily trade fixtures are removable by the tenant.

Trust Fund
A suspense or holding fund used by the Accounting Division in situations such as overpayments or duplicate payments.

Trustee, Bankruptcy
One appointed by a bankruptcy court, and in whom the property of the bankrupt vests.  The trustee holds the property in trust, not for the bankrupt, but for the creditors.

Uniform Commercial Code
A set of laws drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws governing commercial transactions (commercial paper, bank deposits and collections, bulk transfers, investment securities, etc.).  Adopted as California law in 1963, effective January 1, 1965.

Unincorporated Area
An area of a county which has not formed a municipal corporation (become a city) or is not otherwise operating under a separate charter.

Unsecured Collection Fee
A $50 fee charged by the Tax Collector to recoup the cost of collecting delinquent unsecured taxes.

Unsecured Roll
The County Assessor’s certified assessment listing of properties which, in his opinion, do not constitute sufficient “permanence”, either through movability or other intrinsic qualities, to guarantee payment of the taxes.

Unsecured Taxes
Charges levied from assessment liens against property which cannot be satisfied by tax default of the property, but only by some action against the person responsible for payment.  Taxes levied against property which is not deemed secured.

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