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Tax Law

The not so great escape: California limitation on retroactive property tax assessment did not apply where notice was not filed.

A California Court of Appeal found that because the taxpayer did not file proper notice with the California Board of Equalization (BOE), the limitation on the number of years the county assessor can levy retroactive escape assessments did not apply. The taxpayer’s 2006 merger constituted a change in ownership triggering reporting requirements to the BOE.   Shortly after the merger, the taxpayer filed the Delaware certificate of merger with the county Recorder’s Office but did not file the change in ownership statement with the BOE until 2013.  Pursuant to Proposition 13, county assessors may reassess property when there is a triggering event such as a change in ownership, and when there is a delay between the event and its discovery by the assessor, the assessor may levy retroactive “escape assessments” to collect any underpayment for the years in between the triggering event and discovery. By statute, California limits the retroactive escape assessment to four years, however, this cap does not apply if the taxpayer fails to file a change in ownership statement with the BOE. The court rejected the taxpayer’s argument that the filing of a certificate of merger with the county recorder’s office satisfied the requirement to file a change in ownership statement with the BOE and held that without strict compliance with the statutory notice requirements, the four year limitation on escape assessment did not apply.

Prang v. Los Angeles Cnty. Assessment Appeals Bd., Case No. B301194 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 27, 2020)