Property taxes are a confusing topic, even if you have owned a home for years. California homeowners enjoy some protection from rising home prices thanks to Proposition 13, which limits increases in taxes and assessed values to some degree, but it also makes understanding your San Diego tax bill more complicated. It also means one person may pay just $700 in taxes based on their home’s value in the 1980s while their next-door neighbor pays $4,000.
With Mello-Roos tax districts, school district taxes, city taxes, and bonds on top of the flat property tax rate, how can you make sense of your San Diego County property tax bill and understand how your tax bill is calculated?
This complete guide to San Diego property taxes covers everything you want to know, including average tax rates and how property taxes are calculated in San Diego County.
San Diego County Property Taxes
How do property taxes work in San Diego County? Properties are taxed at a 1% base tax rate of the assessed value plus special assessments and voter-approved bonds.
Property taxes are calculated and collected every year in four steps:
- Assessment is triggered. Property is assessed when ownership changes or a new home is built.
- The San Diego County Assessor determines the new assessed value for the San Diego County Auditor/Controller.
- The Auditor/Controller applies the correct tax rate (including special assessments and bonds) to the assessed value to determine your property tax bill.
- The San Diego Treasurer-Tax Collector mails your tax bill and collects your tax payment.
Under California Prop 13, real estate is only reassessed when there is a change in ownership or new construction. While many factors can cause your San Diego County property tax bill to change from one year to the next, the base assessed value will remain the same as long as you own your home, make no changes to ownership, and do not make improvements that are considered new construction. If improvements are made, a new assessed value will be applied only to the improvements.
When you buy a house in San Diego, the purchase price becomes the property’s new assessed value.
San Diego County Assessor
The County Assessor is responsible for:
- Determining the assessed value of your home based on purchase price
- Reviewing Preliminary Change of Ownership Reports to determine when real estate should be reassessed or if there is a qualifying exclusion
- Reviewing permits to determine if improvements or construction qualify as new construction and trigger a new assessment
The San Diego County Assessor may change the assessed value of your home in limited cases. If there is a change of ownership and a deed is recorded with the county recorder, there is a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report (PCOR) that is filed. The Assessor will then examine whether your property will be reassessed or whether you qualify for a San Diego property tax reassessment exclusion.
If you do not get an exclusion, the change of ownership results in a new tax base based on the current fair market value. Not all changes in ownership trigger a reassessment.
Home improvements can also qualify for a reassessment in certain cases. However, if improvements like an addition trigger a new assessment, only the improvements are subject to being reassessed, not your entire property.
More information is found below in the explanation of Prop 13.
If a Prop 13 reassessment is triggered, a supplemental tax bill will be created. The County Auditor-Controller will calculate the change in value and increase in taxes then generate a supplemental tax bill that will be mailed by the Treasurer-Tax Collector. Here is an explanation of how San Diego supplemental property taxes work.
San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector (SDTTC)
The County Treasurer-Tax Collector is Dan McAllister who was first elected in 2002.
The San Diego property tax collector is the County Treasurer-Tax Collector or the SDTTC. Once the SDTTC receives information from the County Auditor/Controller, they prepare and send out property tax bills.
When are San Diego property tax bills mailed? The San Diego Treasurer-Tax Collector begins mailing secured property tax bills around October. The annual tax bill is due in two installments.
Supplemental property tax bills are mailed 6-12 weeks after new construction is completed or there is a change in ownership.
San Diego County Property Tax Search
Want to look up your property taxes online? Use this tool to search and find property tax information by parcel number or mailing address. You can see information such as your tax payment history, assessed value, current tax bill, tax rates, and more. This is where you will also find your property tax bill.
You can also use these tools to look up San Diego property tax maps, property tax rates by area, and more.
- San Diego prior-year tax records for paid secured property taxes by parcel number
- San Diego County property tax rate by area
- San Diego Mello-Roos district search
San Diego Property Tax Rates
Here is what you want to know about average San Diego County property tax rates and how your rate is determined.
How Are San Diego Property Taxes Calculated?
Property taxes in San Diego County are calculated with a straightforward system.
(1% of the assessed value of your home + voter-approved bonds + fixed charge special assessments) – property tax exemptions = your property tax bill
Here are the components of your tax bill.
- Base tax rate. There is a 1% base property tax rate based on your home’s assessed value.
- Bonds. Your tax bill includes voter-approved bonds for services and improvements like public works and schools.
- Fixed charge assessments & Mello-Roos fees. These items are part of your property tax bill but not based on your home’s value. They generally cover services in the neighborhood or your home like sewer fees.
Supplemental property tax bills are calculated in the same way, but they may only apply to a portion of your home’s value in the case of improvements. The amount will also be prorated.
How Much Are Property Taxes in San Diego County?
There are hundreds of tax rate areas (TRAs) in San Diego County (and hundreds in the city of San Diego alone!), each with their own tax rate. You can see all San Diego County property tax rates here, but you will need to know your TRA. You can use this tool to search tax rates by TRA, school district, or city and find your TRA. This tool is also helpful for finding your Mello-Roos district and fee.
The average property tax rate in San Diego County is 1.05% to 1.3%. The City of San Diego has the highest tax rates in the county, averaging around 1.25%, followed by El Cajon. The San Diego County cities of San Marcos, Carlsbad, Coronado, Encinitas, and Solana Beach have the lowest property tax rates in San Diego County.
If you buy a home in San Diego and pay the median home price of $800,000, you can expect a tax bill of $8,400 to $10,400.
Nationwide, the average effective property tax rate is 1.1%.
Because so many factors go into your property taxes, you can’t go by average property tax rates in San Diego to understand what your bill will be.
How Does California Prop 13 Work? | California Prop 13 Explained
California Proposition 13 limits the annual property tax to 1% of the property’s assessed value. This only applies to the base tax rate. The assessed value cannot change by more than 2% per year unless there is a change of ownership. When you buy a home, the purchase price becomes the assessed value. Property is reassessed if it is sold or there is new construction.
That may sound confusing. If your home isn’t reassessed regularly, how can your assessed value change and why does the change need to be limited to 2%?
The first year, property taxes are calculated at 1% of the assessed value plus fees and bonds. Every subsequent year, the assessed value can increase up to 2%.
There are several California Prop 13 reassessment triggers for reassessment. All real estate in San Diego County has an established base year value or assessment. This is usually the purchase price. However, a new assessment can be triggered if:
- There is a change of ownership, even a partial change (such as creating or ending joint tenancy)
- There are improvements that qualify as new construction
If there is a partial change of ownership, the home is reassessed at the current market value. This new base year value will be applied only to the portion of ownership that has changed, such as 50%.
If you make improvements to your home such as an addition, a new base year value can be applied to the improvements.
There are several California Prop 13 change of ownership exclusions. Your assessed tax base will not change if the change of ownership was due to:
- Divorce settlement
- Death of a spouse/registered domestic partner
- Removal or addition of a spouse/registered domestic partner
- Transfer between parent and child (or grandparents and grandchild if the grandchild’s parent is deceased)
- Transfer into/out of revocable living trust
Qualifying for an exclusion requires filing a form and providing supporting documentation.
A California Prop 13 reassessment can also be triggered by home improvements. New construction is defined as:
- Substantial renovation or modernization of a fixture that converts it to the equivalent of a new fixture
- Major physical alterations of the land that change how it is used
- Physical alterations of any improvements to like-new condition, to change the way the improvement is used, or extend its economic life
- Substantial addition to improvements, land, or fixtures
Permits are reviewed by the County Assessor to determine what can be reassessed as new construction. This is why it’s important to document anything you are improving or replacing with photos.
Remodeling or home repairs considered part of routine maintenance and cosmetic updates do not trigger reassessments. A home addition that increases your square footage or adds new improvements you did not have before will trigger a new assessed tax base.
San Diego Property Tax Payments
You must pay your San Diego property tax bill in two installments. Here are the important property tax dates you need to know.
- October 1: Tax bills are mailed
- November 1: First installment due
- December 10: Last day to pay your first installment without a late penalty
- February 1: Second installment due
- April 10: Last day to pay the second installment without a late penalty
- June 30: Last day to pay your current taxes and penalties before default
- July 1: Delinquent accounts are sent to the defaulted tax roll. There are additional charges after this point.
Supplemental taxes are also due in two installments. However, your supplemental property tax bill due dates will depend on the month your bill is mailed. Usually, San Diego supplemental tax bills mailed July through October have a first installment due December 10 and a second installment due April 10. For supplemental bills mailed November through June, the first installment is delinquent on the last day of the month following when the bill was mailed, and the second installment is delinquent on the last day of the fourth month after the date the first installment becomes delinquent.
Below is information on how to pay San Diego property taxes.
Where to Pay San Diego Property Taxes
There are many ways to make San Diego County property tax payments.
Pay online. You can pay San Diego property taxes online. Click here to perform a search for your property then pay the balance owed. You can pay property taxes with a credit card, but there is a 2.19% convenience fee. Debit cards are not accepted. There is no fee to pay with an e-check.
Pay by phone. You can call 1-855-829-3773 to pay your bill by phone.
Pay by mail. You can also mail your payments. The SDTTC recommends allowing 15 days for mailing. The payment must be postmarked before December 10/April 10. Payments can be mailed to:
San Diego County Admin. Center
1600 Pacific Hwy, Room 162
San Diego, CA 92101
Pay in person. There are five Treasurer-Tax Collector offices where you can pay your bill. The main office is at the County Administration Center in San Diego. Additional offices are in San Diego (Kearny Mesa), Chula Vista, Santee (East County), and San Marcos.
At most offices, checks only are accepted and there is a drop box. Hours are 8 am to 5 pm at the main office and 9 am to 3 pm at branch offices.
San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector
County Administration Center
1600 Pacific Hwy, Room 162
San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego Property Tax Late Penalty & Interest
There is no San Diego property tax extension you can request aside from an extension during the COVID-19 pandemic which is closed to new applications.
If you do not pay your property tax installment by the last day (December 10 for the first installment and April 10 for the second installment), you will be charged a 10% penalty. On July 1, unpaid bills go into default and incur an additional 1.5% penalty every month or 18% per year.
California state law allows the Treasurer-Tax Collector to sell properties in default for five years or longer. Annual tax sales are held but owners have the right to redeem their property by paying off outstanding fees, penalties, and taxes.
If your property taxes are notated as “defaulted,” you have the option of starting a 5-year installment plan to redeem your property.
Additional San Diego Property Tax Information
Here is additional information you may want to know about property taxes in San Diego County.
Property Tax Assessment Appeal
If you believe your home’s assessed value exceeds your property’s market value, you can file a property tax appeal. You must still pay your property taxes, but a refund will be issued by the Auditor if the appeal is successful.
You must follow several steps.
- Contact the County Assessor’s Office. If an error is found, it can be corrected without an appeal.
- File the Assessment Appeal Application with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. This may be done by mail or in person at 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 402, San Diego, CA.
- An exchange of information may be requested by you or the Assessor. This involves exchanging information that will be presented at the hearing.
- Your appeal must be decided within 2 years of filing the application. You will be notified at least 45 days in advance of a hearing. You or your agent must appear at the hearing. You must present meaningful evidence supporting your position such as comparative sales. A decision may be made at the hearing or you will be mailed a written decision.
San Diego Property Exemptions
Property tax relief is available for seniors, the disabled, and homeowners.
The San Diego property tax homeowner’s exemption reduces the assessed value of your primary residence by $7,000 for an average annual savings of $70. A claim form for the exemption is mailed when a home is purchased or transferred.
The Senior/Disabled Reappraisal Exclusion Program under Prop 19 took effect April 1, 2021. This program can reduce San Diego property tax for seniors. If you are 55 or older, you can enjoy tax savings if you sell your home and buy a new home of equal or lesser value. Rather than assessing your home at full market value (purchase price), the taxable value of your original home can be transferred.
The Disabled Veterans’ Exemption is available to qualifying veterans and unmarried surviving spouses. There is a basic exemption and a low-income exemption based on the home’s assessed value, ownership percentage, household income, and when the claim is filed.
San Diego County Property Tax FAQ
What is the tax rate in San Diego County?
The average San Diego County tax rate is 1.05% to 1.3% of the assessed value.
What is California Prop 13?
Prop 13 establishes base year values for property, sets the property tax rate at 1% of the assessed value, and limits increases in property taxes. Homes are not reassessed unless there is no construction or a change in ownership, and the assessed value can’t increase by more than 2% per year unless ownership changes.
When are San Diego property taxes due?
Your San Diego County property taxes are due in two installments: the first installment is due on November 1 and the second installment is due on February 1.
Now that you understand more about how property taxes work in San Diego County, are you ready to realize the dream of buying your own home? Once you’re under contract or otherwise ready to move, give us a call at Republic Moving & Storage for a free quote. We can’t help with the headache of property taxes, but we can definitely make moving day less stressful!