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Philippinenews.com

 

May 16, 2007

 

 

 

Tax office warns against filing exemption claims for a fee

 

 

REDWOOD CITY, CA — Property owners throughout California are the hoped-for customers of the Property Tax Assessor Records Corporation, a company that solicits $25 for filing a homeowner’s exemption claim, a service that is provided for free by all Assessors’ Offices in California.

The solicitation comes in the form of a letter addressed to the homeowner with a processing card, return envelope, and an insert printed in eight languages. It advises property owners of a homeowner’s exemption for which they may qualify if they complete and mail back the form on the postcard and pay a fee of $25.

This service is available to all property owners – free of charge,” explained Assessor Warren Slocum. “There is absolutely no need to pay an outside service. Typically, a homeowner can receive up to $70 a year in annual property tax savings. Paying for this service diminishes the return of this state program by 35% and deprives the homeowner out of these savings.”

Calls have been coming into the Assessor’s Office from homeowners who are confused by the notice. “Unfortunately, if the homeowner has already filled in the form and mailed it to this company, they will be charged the money,” explained Paula Cuneo, Deputy Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder.

“Not only does the Property Tax Assessor Records Corporation attempt to charge for a service provided by the Assessor for free, they also request the property owner’s social security numbers and signature. Although the official county claim form requests social security numbers, I would discourage homeowners from providing this information to an unknown third party,” said Slocum.

Taxpayers who have received this solicitation are also offered additional market information services for a total charge of $49. Property owners will be charged the additional fee unless they check the box declining the services on the PTARC form.

Particularly susceptible to this kind of solicitation are first-generation immigrants, brand-new homeowners and widows who left financial matters to their spouses – all for the very same reason, they are unfamiliar with property taxes, property tax programs and assessments.

“The sad part is that often the people preyed upon are the most vulnerable and at-risk property owners who could benefit from a homeowner’s exemption,” said Slocum.

Whenever a Change-in-Ownership is filed with the Recorders Office, the new property owner is mailed a homeowner exemption form as a courtesy. “This step helps encourage homeowners to apply for the exemption right away; new homeowners tend to take care of all the details when they purchase a new home,” explained Slocum. We also mail information on other property tax programs that are available to save money.

Property owners (who have owned and occupied the property for more than a year) can verify if they already receive the exemption by going online to the Tax Collectors site at www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/taxcollector/ to see if the exemption is listed on their last year’s tax bill. Property owners are encouraged to contact the Assessor’s Office to find out if they are receiving the exemption, entitled to the exemption or need help in filling out the form for a homeowner’s exemption. Property owners can call (650) 363-4771.

The Homeowner’s Exemption is a property tax program that reduces the assessed value of an owner-occupied residence by a maximum of $7,000 and results in a property tax annual savings of approximately $70 for qualified homeowners. To qualify for the exemption, the property owner must occupy a property as the principal place of residence on January 1 or within 90 days after the date the property was acquired, or new construction completed.

Principal place of resident generally means where:

* You return at the end of the day
* Your mail is delivered
* You are registered to vote
* Your vehicle is registered

A dwelling does not qualify for the exemption if it is, or is intended to be rented, vacant and unoccupied, or is a vacation or secondary home of the claimant. A property owner is not entitled to more than one Homeowner’s Exemption within the State of California.