Business Services

571-L Business Property Statement FAQs

 

Index of Topics:
I. The Business Property Statement (571-L Form) and Filing Requirements
II. Filing the Business Property Statement Online
III. How do I know that my business is located in San Mateo County
IV. Completing the Business Property Statement
V. Requesting Copies and Additional Forms
VI. You are Out of Business or Do Not Own A Business
VII. I disagree with my assessment – What do I do next
VIII. Tax Liens – How to get them released
IX. How to Contact the Assessor’s Personal Property Division

 

I. THE BUSINESS PROPERTY STATEMENT (FORM 571-L) AND FILING REQUIREMENTS

 

  1. What is a Business Property Statement - Form 571-L (BPS)?
    A Business Property Statement is a form, or a series of reporting forms upon which both real and personal property must be declared as such assets exist on the Lien date (January 1st). The assets must be reported at acquisition cost, if known.
  1. Why did I receive a Business Property Statement?
    The Assessor might have learned about your business through the city where your business is licensed, from a fictitious business name report or from a field check. Every person who owns taxable personal property other than a mobile home, that has an aggregate initial cost or current market value of $100,000 or more, must report the itemized nature, location and cost of acquisition of such property to the county assessor.
  1. What is the purpose of the Business Property Statement (BPS)?
    The BPS collects information regarding the supplies, business equipment and leasehold improvements for each business location within the county. The information an owner provides on the statement is then used to assess and tax property in accordance with California State Law. The owner reports the acquisition costs of the supplies, business equipment and leasehold improvements that were owned on lien date at the address shown (location of the property). All 58 California County Assessors mail out similar statements.
  1. Who must file a Business Property Statement (BPS)?
    If the Assessor sends you a BPS, the law requires that you complete, sign and return the statement to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division in the time period specified. Any business that owns Personal Property and/or Leasehold Improvements having a total combined cost or current market value of $100,000 or more is required to file a BPS even if the Assessor did not send you a formal request to do so. Also, any other business that is requested by the County Assessor to file, must file, regardless of the value of their assets.
  1. What is business personal property?
    Business personal property includes all supplies, equipment and leasehold improvements used in the operation of a business (see 571L instructions for an explanation what constitutes leasehold improvements). Business inventory and licensed vehicles (except Special Equipment (SE) tagged and other off-road vehicles and equipment) are not taxable personal property and should not be reported.
  1. Why do I have to pay taxes on my Business Property?
    The California Constitution states in part that “Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or the laws of the US, (a) All property is taxable…” That is, unless otherwise exempted, all forms of tangible property are taxable in California and the Assessor’s must assess business personal property because the law requires them to do so.

    Some forms of personal property are exempt from taxation under the Constitution. For example, household furnishings, personal effects and business inventory are exempt under the law.
  1. What is the “Lien Date”?
    The Lien date is January 1st every year, and is also the date property taxes for any fiscal year become a lien against a business property owner. Where personal property is concerned, the lien is placed on the owner of the property (not the property), and owners who allow their personal property taxes to become delinquent may have a Summary Judgment recorded against them personally (see Judgments & Liens section for more information).
    (NOTE:  Prior to January 1, 1997, the lien date was March 1)
  1. When is the Business Property Statement (BPS) due?
    The BPS is due on April 1st and is considered delinquent if it is filed after 5:00 P.M. on May 7th.
  1. How much will the tax be?
    The tax is 1% of the assessed value. However, your tax bill might also include special assessments voted into effect by the voters or by their representatives within the property’s taxing jurisdiction. Therefore, you can estimate that the taxes will be 1.2% of the assessed value. Under the law, there is no provision for the pro-ration of unsecured property taxes.
  1. What is the tax rate on personal property?
    Throughout California, the property tax rate is 1% of the assessed value (also, applies to real property). However, your tax bill might also include special assessments voted into effect by the voters or by their representatives within the property’s taxing jurisdiction. Therefore, you can estimate that the taxes will be approximately 1.2% of the assessed value. For example, if your personal property assessment is $10,000, your personal property tax bill should be roughly $120.00. Note:  Under the California law, there is no provision for the pro-ration of unsecured personal property taxes.
  1. Why does my tax bill say period dated July 1st through June 30th, when the statement is due as of January 1st lien date?
    The State of California as well as all the California Counties operates on a fiscal year, and that fiscal year is July 1st through June 30th.  The responsibility for the tax bill rests with the owner in possession of the business as of January 1st.
  1. What if the pre-printed information on the BPS is incorrect?
    If your business has moved or changed its mailing address, then draw a single line through the incorrect information (Please DO NOT make the pre-printed information unreadable). Then legibly print or type the new information on the form and also indicate the effective date of the move or when the change became effective. When reporting on a sale, include the new owner’s name and mailing address. When reporting that the business has been closed, provide the date(s) and information relating to the deposition of any taxable personal property. Complete the BPS, sign and return it to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division.
  1. What is considered “business equipment”?
    Basically, any equipment that you use in your business should be reported.
    Examples:
  • Computers, printers, servers
  • Office furniture
  • Telephones
  • Copiers, fax
  • Restaurant Equipment
  • Forklifts
  • Video Equipment
  • Cameras
  1. Where can I obtain assistance in completing the BPS?
    You may obtain assistance with completing the form in the following ways:
  • In Person:
    555 County Center, 3rd Floor, Redwood City, Ca 94063
    8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • By Telephone:
    (650) 363-4501
    8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • By Fax:
    (650) 599-7456
  • By Internet:
    www.calbpsfile.org

  • By US Mail:
    San Mateo County
    Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division
    Business Personal Property Section
    555 County Center, 3rd Floor
    Redwood City, CA  94063
  1. FAQ's - Agency Letter
    If you are acting as an agent for a business, you must complete a letter of authorization and send it to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. You can either download a copy from our website or contact our office for a copy. If you wish to download a form, please click on this link. The Agency Authorization is in effect for eighteen months.
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II. FILING THE BUSINESS PROPERTY STATEMENT ONLINE

 

  1. Can I file my business property statement online?
    Yes, most small businesses in San Mateo County have received a notification letter containing their business account number and a BIN (Business Identification Number) that will allow them to file their property statements online. This BIN will change annually, so every year a new one will be issued. If you were in business in San Mateo County on January 1st and you did not receive one of these notification letters, you may contact our office to see if e-filing is available to you. Filing deadlines apply. See contact information above.
  1. Can large businesses file property statements online?
    There is a separate electronic filing program for large businesses that have multiple locations throughout the state. Participation in this program requires programming on behalf of the business entity such that business property data itself is uploaded to a state-wide server. Alternatively, it is possible for a larger business with one or two locations within this County to file online. Filing deadlines apply. Feel free to contact us if you need more information.
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III. HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BUSINESS IS LOCATED IN SAN MATEO COUNTY?

 

List of San Mateo County Cities

The following list identifies the cities and towns located within the borders of San Mateo County. An asterisk (*) indicates that the entity is not incorporated. Numbered footnotes provide additional information.

Atherton Half Moon Bay Portola Valley
Belmont Hillsborough Redwood City
Brisbane La Honda * San Bruno
Burlingame Menlo Park San Carlos
Colma Millbrae S.F.I.A.* (San Fran Int'l Airport)
Daly City Montara * San Gregorio *
East Palo Alto Moss Beach * San Mateo
El Granada * Pacifica South San Francisco
Foster City Pescadero* Woodside

Broadmoor Country Club Park

 

North Fair Oaks, Oak Knoll

 

Unincorporated Areas:
Devonshire, El Granada, Emerald Lake Hills, La Honda, Ladera, Loma Mar, Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde, Menlo Oaks, Montara/Moss Beach, Palomar Park, Pescadero, Princeton, San Gregorio, South Coast/Skyline, Sequoia Tract, Skylonda, Stanford Lands and West Menlo Park.

Burlingame Hills, Highlands/Baywood Park

 

Please note the following:

San Francisco International Airport is situated within San Mateo County, though its name leads many people to believe it is within the City and County of San Francisco.

 

East Palo Alto is an incorporated city in San Mateo County. Palo Alto is an incorporated city in Santa Clara County.

 

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IV. COMPLETING THE BUSINESS PROPERTY STATEMENT

 

  1. All the equipment I use is my own personal equipment; must I report it?
    If you are using any 'personal' equipment in your business, then yes, it must be reported. For example, persons working out of their homes must report personal desks, computers, calculators and etc., if those items are used in their business. Other examples include:
  • Example 1:
    Someone operating an auto repair shop is using their own 'personal' car jack in the business. In this case, the car jack becomes assessable as business personal property and must be reported.
  • Example 2:
    A home business or auto repair shop goes out of business prior to January 1. In this case, any equipment previously used in the business that could revert back to 'personal' use is no longer taxable. Such items become nontaxable because they can revert to being 'Household Furnishings or Personal Effects,' which are exempt.
  1. All the equipment I use was given to me and I don't know what to report?
    If the equipment you use in your business was acquired as a gift, you may report your estimate of its current market value on the BPS (that is, what you think it would sell for in the open market place). Enter that estimated value in the most current year's cost line and add a note indicating that the entry is an estimate.
  1. I only rent an office and all of the furniture and equipment belongs to the landlord. Do I still have to complete the BPS?
    Yes. In this case, you need to write a remark about that circumstance on the BPS, or on an attachment to it. Also fill out Part III (Equipment Belonging to Others) of the form, and then sign and return it to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. If you own any small equipment, such as a printer, copier, supplies, etc., that you are using in the business you should report these costs under Part II of the BPS.
  1. What is a supply item?
    Any item that you are consuming in your business, such as office supplies, pencils, paper, calculator tape, stationary, envelopes, cleaning supplies, fuel and etc. is a supply item. If you are a manufacturer, 'supplies' would not include anything that becomes part of the finished product. Materials or supplies that are integrated into the products you market are exempt because they become business inventory, and business inventory is exempt from property taxation.
  1. How do I report “disposals”?
    If you disposed of business personal property before 12:01 A.M., January 1st, then do not report it. Exclude the original cost of the disposed property from its year of acquisition. For example, last you reported a $2000 computer you acquired in 1995 and sold it prior to January 1st. This year, you should exclude the $2000 cost from the cost reported for the 1995 year of acquisition. Do not report negative costs.
  1. Can I just write 'Same as Last Year' on the BPS and return it?
    No. If nothing has changed from the prior year (no equipment was purchased or sold), then you may refer to your prior year's BPS filing in order to be consistent in completing the current BPS. If you failed to keep a copy of the prior year's filing, you may request a copy of it from the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division (See #12 for contact information).
  1. The BPS shows my home address, but my office is located elsewhere. Do I still need to complete the BPS?
    Please line through the incorrect information, and write in the correct mailing address as well as the correct location of your business. If your location is still within the County of San Mateo you are still responsible for completing the BPS. However, if your business is no longer located in the County of San Mateo, please indicate that on the BPS and return it to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division with the date that you moved out of the County.
  1. What equipment is not taxable or should not be reported on the BPS?
    Business inventory, licensed vehicles, application software and the first $50,000 of employee-owned hand tools are not subject to personal property tax. Business Inventory is not to be confused with supplies. Business inventory is the equipment that is intended for sale or lease in the ordinary course of business. This also includes raw materials and work in process with respect to such equipment or products for sale.
  • Business Inventory (Revenue and Taxation [R&T] Code 129)
  • Application Software (Property Tax Rule 152)
  • Licensed Motor Vehicles (R&T Code 10751)
  • First $50,000 of employee-owned hand tools (R&T Code 241)
  1. If my business includes renting videos or DVD’s, do I report the actual cost of my video tapes or DVD’s?
    No. You should only report the number of tapes that were out on rent the night of December 31, and you should report their cost as the actual cost of a blank tape or DVD. ($5.00 the approximate cost of a blank, commercial quality tape). All other tapes or DVD’s not out on rent would qualify for the business inventory exemption.
  1. I do not own anything and lease all my equipment. Must I still complete a BPS?
    Yes. You are required to report them information regarding the lease in Part III of the BPS so that Assessor can properly locate and assess the actual owner for the equipment.
  1. I have a business in my home. Do I still have to complete the BPS?
    Yes. Any equipment used for a home business is considered to be business personal property and must be reported on the BPS?
  1. I am a hairdresser and rent space from the Salon Owner? Do I still need to complete the BPS?
    Yes. Note the facts on the BPS or on an attachment to it and indicate the name and address of the business that actually owns the equipment. Then sign the BPS and return it. You will also need to report any equipment that you might own in Part II of the BPS.
  1. My business/organization is exempt. Do I still need to complete the BPS?
    Yes. You are still required to complete the BPS even if you are an exempt organization. The exempt status is not granted automatically. Please contact the Exemption Section at (650) 599-1270 to verify your exempt status or to file an exemption claim. Exemption forms are due by February 15th annually. Also, you may check our Forms page:
  1. What happens if I simply refuse to file a Business Property Statement?
    In such a circumstance, you need to be aware that a number of potentially severe penalties may apply. 
  • If a property owner refuses to comply with a lawful, written request for information from the Assessor then Revenue & Taxation (R&T) Code 501 requires that the Assessor estimate the value of their taxable property and then promptly assess it with whatever information is available.
  • If the refusal also includes a failure to file or incomplete filing of the BPS, then the Assessor must add a 10% penalty under R&T Code 463.
  • If an owner willfully conceals or fails to disclose or misrepresents tangible personal property; an additional 25% penalty may be added under R&T Code 502 & 504.
  • Under R&T Code 503, a 75% penalty may also be added to an assessment for any fraudulent acts or omissions committed by the owner or their agent.
  • R&T Code 462 also tells us that any person who refuses to make available to the Assessor information lawfully requested in writing by the Assessor pursuant to R&T Code 441 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
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V. REQUESTING COPIES AND ADDITIONAL FORMS

 

  1. How do I request copies of prior year filings?
    The owner or their agent may request copies either in person or in writing.  Please enclose a self-addressed stamp if requesting in writing.

Note:  If an agent is requesting copies or other information about a taxpayer’s account, they must first file a letter of authorization appointing them as the owner’s agent. That letter must be an original copy bearing the original signature of the owner and the owner’s phone number. If the owner is a corporation or business, the letter of agency must be on the company’s official stationery and signed by an officer of the corporation.

  1. How do I request additional forms?
    Many of the forms are posted on the Assessor’s website and may be printed from that site. Go to www.smcare.org/business/property.asp. If you are unable to find the form you need on the website or you do not have access to the Internet, then you may request additional forms by phone, by fax or by mail. See the last section of this document, “How to Contact the Personal Property Division”, for the phone numbers and mailing address.
  1. How do I obtain a copy of the current year’s BPS after it has been processed by the Assessor and the detail regarding the assessed values?
    When requesting current value information, please include with the request with your completed BPS, a copy of the completed BPS, and enclose a self-addressed stamped return envelope.
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VI. YOU ARE OUT OF BUSINESS OR DO NOT OWN A BUSINESS

 

  1. I went out of business prior to January 1st; do I still have to complete the BPS?
    Yes. Anytime a person receives a BPS from the Assessor and their business is no longer in operation, the BPS must still be signed and returned to the Assessor. You should also include a note on the BPS indicating the date the business closed. If you do not complete the form and notify us that you are out of business the form will be considered delinquent if not received by May 7th plus you may be assessed a penalty for not filing the form.

    On the BPS or attachment, please write a note that includes the date you went out of business, as well as the status and disposition of any equipment owned or used by you at the time the business closed. If any of the property was sold to another person or business, please indicate the buyer’s name and address. If any of the property reverted to your own personal use as household personal property, please indicate that as well.
  1. I went out of business on January 15th, do I still have to complete the BPS and pay personal property taxes?
    Yes. The law specifies that all taxable personal property must be assessed as of a specific point in time, and that point is precisely at 12:01 A.M. January 1st (regardless of what transpires after that date). Even if closed shortly after the lien date, a business must still file a BPS and pay taxes for the coming fiscal year on any taxable property they owned on the lien date. Please note on your final return the date that your business closed.
  1. I was not open for business on January 1st, do I still complete the BPS?
    Yes. A business does not have to be open for its taxable business property to be subject to assessment. For example, let’s presume that on the lien date, January 1, a new pizza parlor is under construction and nearly ready for its grand opening. Even though the pizza parlor was not open for business on the lien date, taxable business personal property (such as furniture, ovens and supplies) was in the owner’s possession on the lien date and the Assessor is required to assess it.
  1. All I have is a business phone number. I am no longer in business and I am not conducting any other business at the present time. Must I still file the BPS?
    Yes. Please note the facts on the BPS or attachment to it, and return the signed BPS to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. The Assessor needs to know these facts in order to prevent an improper assessment being issued to you.
  1. Although I have a license to do business, I have not purchased any equipment or conducted any business at the present time. Must I still file the BPS?
    Yes. Please note those facts on the BPS, or attachment to it, and return the signed BPS to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. The Assessor needs to know these facts in order to prevent an improper assessment being issued to you.
  1. I am only an employee of the company and I do not own any Business Personal Property myself. Must I still file the BPS?
    Yes. Please note those facts on the BPS or an attachment to it, and return the signed BPS to the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. The Assessor needs to know these facts in order to prevent an improper assessment being issued to you.
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VII. I DISAGREE WITH MY ASSESSMENT - WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

 

  1. What if I disagree with my assessment?
    If you disagree with an assessment made by the Assessor, we recommend that you first discuss it with an Auditor-Appraiser of the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division. An Auditor-Appraiser is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (650) 363-4501, or in person at 555 County Center, 3rd Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063 from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Whether or not you discuss the matter with the Assessor, you also have the right to file and “Application for Changed Assessment” (assessment appeal) with the Assessment Appeals Board. The Appeals Board is an independent agency and is not connected with, nor is it under the control of the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division in any way.
  1. If I file an appeal do I still have to pay the property tax bill?
    Yes. Filing an appeal does not exempt you from paying your property taxes as due because the assessment of your property is deemed correct until a change is made by the Assessment Appeals Board.
  1. How do I file an Application for Changed Assessment?
    An application must be filed, in writing with the Assessment Appeals Board at 400 County Center, BOS104, Redwood City, CA 94063. You may request an application by calling the Assessment Appeals Board Clerk at (650) 363-4573 or by mail at that address. The Assessment Appeals website is:  www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/AssessmentAppeals.
  1. When can I file an “Application for Changed Assessment”?
    The normal filing period for filing an Application for Changed Assessment is July 2 to September 15th of the current fiscal year. The filing period applies to any assessment produced for the annual assessment roll. If a bill for current assessment roll is mailed to you after the normal filing period has expired, the filing period is extended and you must then file an application within 60 days of the date of mailing of that tax bill.
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VIII. SUMMARY JUDGMENTS & LIENS – HOW DO I GET THEM RELEASED?

 

  1. My Personal Property taxes went delinquent and a Summary Judgment was recorded against me. How do I get the judgment released?
    There are two circumstances under which a Summary Judgment may be released:
  1. Payment of Debt: Paying the delinquent bill (including all penalties and costs) will result in a release of the judgment. You should first contact the Tax Collector's Office (see below) to determine the current amount due, and then simply pay the tax bill in full. Upon satisfaction of all delinquent tax, penalty, and costs, the Tax Collector will record a Satisfaction of Judgment, thereby releasing the lien.

  2. Invalid or Corrected Bill: If you believe the bill or the assessment is invalid, you should contact the Assessor (see final section of this document) to discuss that matter before September 15th. Payment of the delinquent tax bill is recommended. If the Assessor determines the bill to be invalid, upon cancellation or correction of the assessment by the Assessor, the Tax Collector will record a Release and without fee, and the invalid assessment if paid, will be refunded.

Once your personal property tax obligation has been satisfied or corrected and a release has been recorded, a copy of the Satisfaction of Judgment or the Release will be mailed to you by the Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office. If needed, additional copies of the Summary Judgment and/or the Release may also be purchased from the Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder. It is our understanding that the entire process, from debt satisfaction to recordation of the release, ordinarily takes roughly four weeks to complete.

 

Tax Collector’s Contact Information:

Telephone:  (650) 363-4142
Fax:  (650) 599-1511
website:  www.sanmateocountytaxcollector.org

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IX. TO CONTACT THE ASSESSOR’S PERSONAL PROPERTY DIVISION

 

  • In Person: 
    555 County Center, 3rd Floor, Redwood City, Ca 94063
    8:00 a.m.to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • By Telephone:
    (650) 363-4501
    8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday 
  • By Fax:   
    (650) 599-7456
  • By US Mail: 
    San Mateo County
    Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Assessor's Division
    Business Personal Property Section
    555 County Center, 3rd Floor
    Redwood City, CA 94063