Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2010
 

Revenue and Taxation Code

Property Taxation

Part 2. Assessment

Chapter 3. Assessment Generally

Article 1. General Requirements

Section 408

408. Assessor's records. (a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivisions (b), (c), (d), and (e), any information and records in the assessor's office that are not required by law to be kept or prepared by the assessor, disabled veterans' exemption claims, and homeowners' exemption claims, are not public documents and shall not be open to public inspection. Property receiving the homeowners' exemption shall be clearly identified on the assessment roll. The assessor shall maintain records which shall be open to public inspection to identify those claimants who have been granted the homeowners' exemption.

(b) The assessor may provide any appraisal data in his or her possession to the assessor of any county.

The assessor shall disclose information, furnish abstracts, or permit access to all records in his or her office to law enforcement agencies, the county grand jury, the board of supervisors or their duly authorized agents, employees, or representatives when conducting an investigation of the assessor's office pursuant to Section 25303 of the Government Code, the county recorder when conducting an investigation to determine whether a documentary transfer tax is imposed, the Controller, employees of the Controller for property tax postponement purposes, probate referees, employees of the Franchise Tax Board for tax administration purposes only, staff appraisers of the Department of Financial Institutions, the Department of Transportation, the Department of General Services, the State Board of Equalization, the State Lands Commission, the State Department of Social Services, the Department of Child Support Services, the Department of Water Resources, and other duly authorized legislative or administrative bodies of the state pursuant to their authorization to examine the records. Whenever the assessor discloses information, furnishes abstracts, or permits access to records in his or her office to staff appraisers of the Department of Financial Institutions, the Department of Transportation, the Department of General Services, the State Lands Commission, or the Department of Water Resources pursuant to this section, the department shall reimburse the assessor for any costs incurred as a result thereof.

(c) Upon the request of the tax collector, the assessor shall disclose and provide to the tax collector information used in the preparation of that portion of the unsecured roll for which the taxes thereon are delinquent. The tax collector shall certify to the assessor that he or she needs the information requested for the enforcement of the tax lien in collecting those delinquent taxes. Information requested by the tax collector may include social security numbers, and the assessor shall recover from the tax collector his or her actual and reasonable costs for providing the information. The tax collector shall add the costs described in the preceding sentence to the assessee's delinquent tax lien and collect those costs subject to subdivision (e) of Section 2922.

(d) The assessor shall, upon the request of an assessee or his or her designated representative, permit the assessee or representative to inspect or copy any market data in the assessor's possession. For purposes of this subdivision, "market data" means any information in the assessor's possession, whether or not required to be prepared or kept by him or her, relating to the sale of any property comparable to the property of the assessee, if the assessor bases his or her assessment of the assessee's property, in whole or in part, on that comparable sale or sales. The assessor shall provide the names of the seller and buyer of each property on which the comparison is based, the location of that property, the date of the sale, and the consideration paid for the property, whether paid in money or otherwise. However, for purposes of providing market data, the assessor may not display any document relating to the business affairs or property of another.

(e) (1) With respect to information, documents, and records, other than market data as defined in subdivision (d), the assessor shall, upon request of an assessee of property, or his or her designated representative, permit the assessee or representative to inspect or copy all information, documents, and records, including auditors' narrations and workpapers, whether or not required to be kept or prepared by the assessor, relating to the appraisal and the assessment of the assessee's property, and any penalties and interest thereon.

(2) After enrolling an assessment, the assessor shall respond to a written request for information supporting the assessment, including, but not limited to, any appraisal and other data requested by the assessee.

(3) Except as provided in Section 408.1, an assessee, or his or her designated representative, may not be permitted to inspect or copy information and records that also relate to the property or business affairs of another, unless that disclosure is ordered by a competent court in a proceeding initiated by a taxpayer seeking to challenge the legality of the assessment of his or her property.

(f) (1) Permission for the inspection or copying requested pursuant to subdivision (d) or (e) shall be granted as soon as reasonably possible to the assessee or his or her designated representative.

(2) If the assessee, or his or her designated representative, requests the assessor to make copies of any of the requested records, the assessee shall reimburse the assessor for the reasonable costs incurred in reproducing and providing the copies.

(3) If the assessor fails to permit the inspection or copying of materials or information as requested pursuant to subdivision (d) or (e) and the assessor introduces any requested materials or information at any assessment appeals board hearing, the assessee or his or her representative may request and shall be granted a continuance for a reasonable period of time. The continuance shall extend the two-year period specified in subdivision (c) of Section 1604 for a period of time equal to the period of continuance.

History.—Added by Stats. 1941, p. 2051, in effect June 6, 1941. Stats. 1961, p. 2809, in effect September 15, 1961, added "(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b)" and subdivision (b). Stats 1966, p. 659 (First Extra Session), in effect October 6, 1966, added the reference to subdivision (c) to subdivision (a), added the last clause referring to court order to subdivision (b), and added subdivision (c). Stats. 1969, p. 2481, in effect November 10, 1969, applicable to equalization proceedings for the 1970–71 assessment year and thereafter, added "provide any market data in his possession to an assessee" and the references to designated representative in subdivision (b), and added subdivision (d). Stats. 1970, p. 1141, in effect November 23, 1970, substituted "may provide any market data in his possession to the assessor of any county and shall provide such data" for "shall provide any market data in his possession" in the first sentence of subdivision (b). Stats. 1971, p. 2163, in effect March 4, 1972, revised subdivision (b) to allow the assessor to provide "appraisal data" to the assessor of any county and revised the requirement for the assessee or his designated representative to obtain a court order to situations involving information and records "other than market data which also relate to the property or business affairs of another". Stats. 1974, Ch. 1107, p. 2369, in effect September 23, 1974, added ", and homeowners' exemption claims," after "assessor" in the first sentence, and added the second and third sentences of subdivision (a); and added "the State Controller," after "Government Code" in subdivision (c). Stats. 1976, Ch. 671, p. 1658, in effect January 1, 1977, added "Except as provided in Section 408.1," at the beginning of the third sentence of subdivision (b). Stats. 1978, Ch. 1388, in effect September 30, 1978, added "inheritance tax referees" to subdivision (c). Stats. 1984, Ch. 1641, in effect January 1, 1985, added "or hers" after "his" throughout the section; and added "staff appraisers of the Department of Transportation" after "referees," in the first sentence, and added the second sentence to subdivision (c). Stats. 1985, Ch. 200, effective January 1, 1986, added a comma after "(c)" in subdivision (a), and deleted "State" before "Controller", added "employees of the Franchise Tax Board for tax administration purposes only," after "referees", added a comma after "Equalization", and substituted "the" for "such" after "examine" in the first sentence of subdivision (c). Stats. 1986, Ch. 1457, effective January 1, 1987, substituted "probate" for "inheritance tax" after "Controller," and added "and the Department of General Services" after "Department of Transportation" in the first sentence, and added "or the Department of General Services" after "Department of Transportation" in the second sentence of subdivision (c). Stats. 1987, Ch. 1162, effective September 26, 1987, added "employees of the Controller for property tax postponement purposes" after "Controller" in the first sentence of subdivision (c), and added "the Department of Savings and Loan," after "appraisers of" and added "," after "Transportation" in the first and second sentences thereof. Stats. 1992, Ch. 523, in effect January 1, 1993, substituted the comma for "and" after "(b)", and added "and (d)" after "(c)", in the first sentence of subdivision (a); added subdivision (d); and relettered former subdivision (d) as subdivision (e). Stats. 1993, Ch. 876, Section 29, in effect October 6, 1993, deleted "and" after "Transportation," and added "the State Department of Social Services," after "Equalization," in the first sentence of subdivision (c). Stats. 1993, Ch. 876, Section 30, in effect October 6, 1993, operative January 1, 1994, deleted "and" after "(c),", and added "and (e)" after "(d)" in the first sentence of subdivision (a); deleted the balance of the first sentence in subdivision (b) after "county", and substantially restated the deleted portion in subdivision (e); deleted former subdivision letter (c) before "The assessor" to establish a second paragraph in subdivision (b); relettered former subdivisions (d) and (e) as (c) and (d), respectively; added the first sentence, substituted "subdivision" for "section" after "this" in the second sentence, and substituted ". However," for ", but" in the third sentence, thereby establishing the fourth sentence of subdivision (d); and added subdivisions (e) and (f). Stats. 1995, Ch. 498, in effect January 1, 1996, added paragraph designation "(1)", added paragraph (2), and created paragraph (3) from former second sentence in subdivision (e); and added paragraph (3) in subdivision (f). Stats. 1996, Ch. 667, in effect September 20, 1996, substituted "that" for "which" after "assessor's office", and substituted "that" for "which" after "maintain records" in subdivision (a); deleted "probate referees" after "tax postponement purposes," substituted "Department of Financial Institutions" for "Department of Savings and Loan" after "staff appraisers of the", and added "the Department of Water Resources," after "Social Services" in the first sentence, substituted "Department of Financial Institutions" for "Department of Savings and Loan" after "staff appraisers of the", deleted "or" after "Department of Transportation", and added ", or the Department of Water Resources" after "General Services" in the second sentence of subdivision (b). Stats. 1996, Ch. 1064, in effect January 1, 1997, operative July 1, 1997, substituted "which" for "that" after "maintain records" in subdivision (a); substituted "Department of Financial Institutions" for "Department of Savings and Loan" after "staff appraisers of the" in the first and second sentences, and added "or" after "Transportation," in the second sentence of subdivision (b). Stats. 1997, Ch. 940 (SB 1105), in effect January 1, 1998, deleted "or" after "Department of Transportation," in the second sentence of the second paragraph of subdivision (b) and deleted "assessor's" before "tax lien" in the second sentence of subdivision (c). Stats. 2000, Ch. 647 (SB 2170), in effect January 1, 2001, added "the State Lands Commission," after "Equalization," in the first sentence and added "the State Lands Commission," after "General Services," in the second sentence of the second paragraph of subdivision (b). Stats. 2002, Ch. 759 (AB 3033), in effect January 1, 2003, added "the Department of Child Services," after "Department of Social Services," in the first sentence of the second paragraph of subdivision (b). Stats. 2003, Ch. 62 (SB 600), in effect January 1, 2004, substituted "may not" for "shall not" after "the assessor" in the fourth sentence of subdivision (d) and substituted "may not" for "shall not" after "designated representative," in the first sentence of paragraph (3) of subdivision (e). Stats. 2006, Ch. 677 (SB 1637), in effect January 1, 2007, added "disabled veterans' exemption claims," after "by the assessor," in the first sentence of subdivision (a). Stats. 2009, Ch. 622 (SB 816), in effect January 1, 2010, added "the county recorder when conducting an investigation to determine whether a documentary transfer tax is imposed," after "Government Code," in the first sentence of the second paragraph of subdivision (b).

Note.—Section 17 of Stats. 1974, Ch. 1107, p. 2372, provided that it is the intent of the Legislature in amending the section that homeowners' property tax exemption claims and the data contained on these claims, such as the social security numbers of claimants, not be public documents or open to public inspection, but that properties receiving the exemption be so identified on the local assessment roll in order that the public continues to have access to information as to which properties are receiving the exemption. Further, the amendments to the section are to apply to all homeowners' property tax exemption claims in the possession of the assessor on the effective date thereof or in the future.

Note.—Section 2 of Stats. 1984, Ch. 1641, provided no appropriation is made by this act because this act provides for reimbursement to local agencies for the program or level of service mandated by this act.

Note.—Section 6 of Stats. 1985, Ch. 200, provided reimbursement to local governments for costs mandated by the State pursuant to this act.

Note.—Section 35(b) of Stats. 1987, Ch. 1162, provided that no reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because self-financing authority is provided in subdivision (c) of Section 408 of the Revenue and Taxation Code to cover any costs to county assessors that may be incurred in carrying on any program or performing any service required to be carried on or performed by this act.

Note.—Section 6 of Stats. 2006, Ch. 677 (SB 1637) provided that: The Legislature finds and declares that Section 5 of this act, which amends Section 408 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, imposes limitations on the public's right of access to the writings of public officials and agencies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution. Pursuant to that constitutional provision, the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the interest protected by this limitation and the need for protecting that interest:

(a) Claims filed for the disabled veterans' exemption contain taxpayer sensitive personal information, including social security numbers and home addresses. Notwithstanding Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution, county assessors have a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard from public access a taxpayer's personal information with which it has been entrusted.

(b) The right to privacy is a personal and fundamental right protected by Section 1 of Article I of the California Constitution and by the United States Constitution. All individuals have a right of privacy in information pertaining to them.

(c) This state has previously recognized, in Sections 63.1, 69.5, and 408.2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, the importance of protecting the confidentiality and privacy of an individual's personal and financial information contained in homeowners' exemption claims, property statements, change in ownership exclusion applications, and change of ownership statements filed with county assessors for property tax purposes.

(d) In addition to the right of privacy, there is a need to protect from public disclosure personal information due to the growing prevalence and debilitating nature of identity theft.

Construction.—The words "kept or prepared" in this section are not synonymous, and even though not prepared by the assessor, an affidavit submitted to claim a welfare exemption which is retained in the assessor's records is "kept" by the assessor for the purposes of this section and is open to public inspection. Gallagher v. Boller, 231 Cal.App.2d 482. There is no inconsistency between this section and section 1606; either method is available to a taxpayer who appeals his assessment. This section was intended to broaden the taxpayer's right to information. The assessor may avoid any eleventh hour demand by invoking the exchange procedure under section 1606. Henderson v. Bettis, 53 Cal.App.3d 486.

Information relating to affairs of another.—"Market data", as used in the section, is narrowly defined in subdivision (d), and both subdivisions (b) and (d) make it clear that market data and other assessor's records relating to a taxpayer's assessment are not to be construed to require disclosure of information relating to the business affairs of another taxpayer. Thus, information furnished to an assessor by an oil company on its acquisition of certain property did not constitute market data and was not subject to disclosure by the assessor in defending his assessment against taxpayer oil company. Chanslor-Western Oil and Development Co. v. Cook, 101 Cal.App.3d 407.

Examination by State Board.—Assessor's records, including those relating to assessment of specific properties, are subject to inspection by State Board of Equalization, State Board of Equalization v. Watson, 68 Cal.2d 307.

Assessors' working papers not required by law to be prepared are not open to public inspection.—Plaintiff sought to inspect the documents and records used to update the assessment roll such as photocopies of deeds and papers identifying sales transactions. Plaintiff contended that these papers were essential to performance of the assessor's duties and therefore should be considered as information and records required by law to be kept by the assessor and hence open to inspection under this section. The court rejected the contention because it would render all papers in the assessor's office open to inspection and thus render the section meaningless. No provision of law required the assessor to obtain, use, or file the papers in question, therefore, they are not open to inspection. Statewide Homeowners, Inc. v. Williams, 30 Cal.App.3d 567.