Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2011

California Constitutional Provisions

ARTICLE XIII Revenue and Taxation

Section 16

Sec. 16. County boards of equalization. The county board of supervisors, or one or more assessment appeals boards created by the county board of supervisors, shall constitute the county board of equalization for a county. Two or more county boards of supervisors may jointly create one or more assessment appeals boards which shall constitute the county board of equalization for each of the participating counties.

Except as provided in subdivision (g) of Section 11, the county board of equalization, under such rules of notice as the county board may prescribe, shall equalize the values of all property on the local assessment roll by adjusting individual assessments.

County boards of supervisors shall fix the compensation for members of assessment appeals boards, furnish clerical and other assistance for those boards, adopt rules of notice and procedures for those boards as may be required to facilitate their work and to insure uniformity in the processing and decision of equalization petitions, and may provide for their discontinuance.

The Legislature shall provide for: (a) the number and qualifications of members of assessment appeals boards, the manner of selecting, appointing, and removing them, and the terms for which they serve, and (b) the procedure by which two or more county boards of supervisors may jointly create one or more assessment appeals boards.

Note.—On county boards of equalization see Revenue and Taxation Code, Section 1601 et seq.

Construction.—Local boards of equalization are established pursuant to this section to hear appeals of assessors' assessments. The appeals process is essential to filing a subsequent refund action, and failure to seek and to appear at a board hearing will usually result in the dismissal of the action for failure to exhaust an administrative remedy. Sunrise Retirement Villa v. Dear, 58 Cal.App.4th 948. A county board of supervisors sitting as a board of equalization as permitted by this section is a constitutional agency exercising quasi-judicial powers delegated to it by the Constitution, with special expertise in property valuation. Such a board's factual determinations are entitled on appeal to the same deference due a judicial decision, review under the substantial evidence standard. But courts are authorized to conduct an independent reassessment when a board purports to decide questions of . Mission Housing Development Company v. City and County of San Francisco, 59 Cal.App.4th 55, Apple Computer, Inc. v. Assessment Appeals Board, 105 Cal.App.4th 1355. While sitting as a board of equalization, the county board of supervisors is a constitutional agency exercising quasi-judicial powers delegated to it by the Constitution. County boards of equalization, not the courts, are the proper tribunals for exercising judgment on valuation questions concerning individual assessments on the local roll and on equalization of local assessments. Plaza Hollister Limited Partnership v. San Benito County, 72 Cal.App.4th 1.

Decisions Under Former Article XIII, Sections 9 and 9.5.

Power of boards.—Under this section county boards of equalization have authority to adopt rules and regulations relative to applications for reductions in assessments. A rule to the effect that no such application may be granted unless the owner of the property, if within the county and able to attend, personally appears before the board is a reasonable one, and a property owner denied a hearing for failure to comply with such a rule is not entitled to any relief. Williamson v. Payne, 25 Cal.App.2d 497.

This section casts upon an appeals board the duty to equalize the valuation of the taxable property in the county; and, in discharging such duty, the board is exercising judicial functions, and its factual determinations are entitled to all the deference and respect due a judicial decision. Hunt-Wesson Foods, Inc. v. Alameda County, 41 Cal.App.3d 163.

County boards of equalization and assessment appeals boards have the right to pass upon their own jurisdiction in the first instance and, therefore, have the function of passing on the sufficiency of an application for assessment appeal which shall not be usurped by the assessor or the county counsel. Midstate Theatres, Inc. v. Board of Supervisors, 46 Cal.App.3d 204. County board of equalization, in a proceeding to reduce an escape assessment for the 1973–74 fiscal year pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code Section 1605, could properly determine that it had no jurisdiction to investigate the correctness or accuracy of the original assessment for that year since the taxpayer had not filed an application for reduction of the assessment pursuant to Section 1603 of the Code. Focus Cable of Oakland, Inc. v. Alameda County, 173 Cal.App.3d 519.

Nature of determination by county board.—A determination of assessments by the county board of equalization is quasi-judicial in nature and is res judicata as far as the courts are concerned. Quinn v. Aero Services Inc., 172 F.2d 157.

A decision of a county board of equalization is final, and subject to review by the courts only for excess of jurisdiction, errors of , abuse of discretion, or insufficiency of the evidence. Madonna v. San Luis Obispo County, 39 Cal.App.3d 57.

A county board of equalization is a constitutional agency exercising quasi-judicial powers delegated to it by the constitution and its determination on a factual issue is entitled to all the deference and respect due a judicial decision. Westlake Farms, Inc. v. Kings County, 39 Cal.App.3d 179; Shell Western E&P, Inc. v. Lake County, 224 Cal.App.3d 974.

In reviewing the acts of the assessor, a county assessment appeals board acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, and it is its duty, not the court's, to determine the value of property for assessment purposes. Domenghini v. San Luis Obispo County, 40 Cal.App.3d 689.

Reassessment.—A county board of equalization which, pursuant to a rehearing ordered by the court, reassesses a water distribution system is not precluded by the principle of res judicata from setting the assessed valuation as originally, if it is based on a different and approved method of valuation. Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. v. San Bernardino County, 63 Cal.2d 870.

Third-party applications.—There is no authorizing the filing of a third-party application with an assessment appeals board to increase the assessment of another person's property. Granting such a hearing is entirely within the discretion of the board as a part of its power to equalize on its own motion assessments of property within the county. Stevens v. Fox Realty Corp., 23 Cal.App.3d 199.