Santa Clara County to roll out partial payments on property taxes

Supervisor Joe Simitian spearheads new plan to help struggling residents

The Board of Supervisors in Santa Clara County has voted unanimously (5-0) to allow residents to pay their property tax bills at least in part if they can't pay immediately the full amount. The decision was made on Dec. 6, and the new system will be implemented on July 1.

"As things stand now, if a person is having a rough patch and sends a property tax payment less than the total amount owed, we send that payment back -- and then threaten them with a 10 percent penalty on the whole amount if they don't pay up," said County Supervisor Joe Simitian in a press release. Those people who are trying to do the right thing should not be punished, he added; rather, they should be encouraged to complete their payments.

If a short payment is received, taxpayers are currently given 10 days after the due date to come up with their full payment, and if they fail to do so, they are assessed a 10 percent penalty on the entire balance due. Then, they have until June 30 to pay the rest of their tax bill before being considered in default and slapped with additional penalties of 18 percent per year.

According to Christine Prior, Simitian's deputy press secretary, an average of 5,550 tax bills (approximately $28.3 million) in Santa Clara County become defaulted every year. This is approximately 0.63 percent of the total secured tax revenue levied, which is about $4.5 billion.

The new system, which begins with the next fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30, 2018, allows partial payments and will only penalize taxpayers on the unpaid balance owed following their partial payment.

Santa Clara County has the highest average home values in California, creating high property tax bills. The county's average property tax bill last fiscal year was more than $9,900. Property taxes often are the largest single tax payment that many Californians make each year.

"This is an issue members of the public have raised with me for years," said Simitian, adding that it has been a hot-button topic dating back to the recession in 2008. "Too often the system forgets that it is there to serve the public. ... They will still have to pay 100 percent of their payments."

Simitian said the benefits of the new regulation outweigh any downsides. "While we may lose some penalty revenue, we'll actually speed up our revenue collection by receiving these partial payments," he said in the press release.


1 person likes this
Posted by TaxPayer
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2017 at 2:50 pm

It's a Wonderful Life, right Mr. Potter?

17 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 11, 2017 at 3:29 pm

"While we may lose some penalty revenue..."

This is what horrifies me about how our government representatives think. They actually see the penalty on people who cannot easily pay their taxes as a source of revenue to be considered. Sort of like seeing traffic fines not as a way to incentivize good driving, but as a way to make money.

1 person likes this
Posted by School fan
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2017 at 6:23 pm

This basically means that schools will remain bad even in neighborhoods with 1mln homes. Because uneducated low income families living 3 generations in the same house will have less incentive to sell and will be keeping the school scores down.
However I do feel for lonely senior residents. I wish the law would give them a break specifically.

9 people like this
Posted by @School fan
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 11, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Wow, School fan, you could barely contain your disdain for your neighbors of low income. Fortunately, you're not representative of the people of Mountain View. We're better than that.

Like this comment
Posted by @Ron
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 12, 2017 at 8:19 am

That is one perspective, albeit a naïve one. Don't you think they have enough data to see that regardless of the penalties, and regardless of the circumstance, some people will pay late or not at all. Do you think the county should just pretend that doesn't happen?

It is likely true that they build that into their estimates, but the cynical view is not the only one here. It may just be them accepting reality, trying to understand what people's limitations are, and helping out by not levying fines on those most in need of a break.

3 people like this
Posted by Really
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

According to this article, there is an average annual property tax of $9,900. A total secured tax of 4.5 BILLION per year for Santa Clara County. Where is this money going? This is outrageous!!! On top of an insane mortgage. How do people do it?

8 people like this
Posted by Penalties
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2017 at 11:27 am

The current system in its oversimplicity regarding late payments leads to some bizarre circumstances. A couple years ago I mistakenly paid the full bill INCLUDING the pre-calculated 10% penalty, well in advance of the due date. This meant that the check was for the wrong amount and so the Tax Collector sat on my check and didn't cash it. 30 days later I noticed the check wasn't clearing and realized my mistake, right before the deadline. Meanwhile I heard not a peep out of them. This is pretty bad. The rules don't allow them to cash overpayments either, not even with keeping the overage for some long period and collecting interest for themselves on it before refunding. They print the bills in a way where you can glance at the bill and get the incorrect amount. It goes up every year.

Ok so believe it or not, it gets worse! I noticed in time, so I used their electronic system to make the payment. This emptied out my bank account. So THEN they decide they can finally cash my check which results in 3 overdrafts at my bank as they repeatedly try to cash the check. So I call them about it and they say they'd normally also charge an extra amount for the overdrafts on THEIR END, but they agreed to waive it in this case. I'd say so.

This is just to show how much trouble the current iron clad simple rule is. Get the amount right down to the penny or the check won't count. They say they should have returned it, which would have been OK, since I had plenty of time when I sent it in. But they did not. Much simpler if they would just cash it and deal with the discrepancy separately.

7 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

With the government, it is death by a thousand cuts. A small fine or fee here, a long wait in line there, a cut in services without a reduction in fee with resulting disdain and distrust from the public.
Government is a money pit. What happens to the $20 annual car registration fee for the county? Where do the assessments from traffic fines/fees go?
It should be Government Of the People, By the People and For the People. As it stands, it is Government for the politicians and lobbyists.

Like this comment
Posted by He Hates These Taxes!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2017 at 1:02 am

After buying my home, I paid my first property taxes using their Santa Clara's online payment (outsourced to some company).

The next year taxes were due, I remember being annoyed I had to re-enter payment information (it is not just a simple credit card number: it is your bank's routing number and your checking account's number).

Apparently I got one of those wrong (although the company would not tell me the numbers I entered -- even though I had a screen capture of the payment.. Unfortunately showing only the last (correct) 4 digits of the numbers I entered). First time in my life I've ever screwed that up -- and I knew there was a hefty fee, so I remember counting-twice and pressing submit once. I think that company gets a big cut of the "error fee" they collect.

For this "mistake" I got charged an $80 when I went and paid in person at the property tax place in San Jose.

You know, anyone could put *any* numbers into Tax Payment website for *any* property -- which will cost the owner $80 when they go to pay. So if you hate your neighbor and can figure out their parcel number, have a blast!

Ever since that $80 fee, I've paid my taxes in person. Since paying in person is so time-consuming (travel to San Jose), I pay both installments together (which totals over $20k!). I hope they choke on it.

I wish there was an easy way to electronically make those payments -- does anyone do a bill-pay originating from their bank? Will Property Tax Office accept checks without the "form" they send out?

4 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

It really shows how out of touch people here are when, in an area with one of the lowest effective property tax rates (thanks Prop 13!) they're complaining about the property taxes on their $2M home.

Like this comment
Posted by He Hates These Taxes!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2017 at 5:11 pm

My CA home isn't "$2M" -- rich people live in $2M homes. I have a crappy sub-2000sqft 4BR/2BA single story Eichler built in the 1950s. That's not "millionaire livin" as the *home* can't be worth more than $150k.

It's the dirt/location it is built on that puts thel property sale price high (and subsequent taxes) at $20k/year.

My east coast house is on the water (with a dock), has a nice deck off each bedroom, is 3 stories tall with a beautiful grand room, was built this decade, and *looks* way better than the $2M we paid for it. That, I tell you, *is* rich living.

Finally, I was complaining about the butt-hurt $80 -- not prop 13... Go ahead, repeal that junk... And get rid of mortgages too. Cash on the barrelhead would go a long way keeping RE prices in check.

9 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 14, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Just to get this straight, you own two $2M+ properties? And you're complaining about $80, while insisting that your house here isn't worth $2M? This area has gotten worse than I thought...

Like this comment
Posted by Penny Pincher
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Well.. The only way to own multiple multi-million $ homes is to watch where your money goes, and stop it from talking a walk in the first place, if at all possible.

A $60 here, an $80 there.. soon you are talking real money.

I belong in the above category and I am not ashamed to plan my route so that I can get to a cheaper gas station before it becomes an emergency.

4 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Wow, during the largest housing crisis this state has seen, we have two different people here who own multiple multi-million dollar houses that are complaining about a small property tax fee while benefitting from the largest subsidy in the state.

No wonder socialism is so popular with Millennials.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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