Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2012

Revenue and Taxation Code

Property Taxation

Part 1. General Provisions

Chapter 1. Construction

Section 110

110. "Full cash value." (a) Except as is otherwise provided in Section 110.1, "full cash value" or "fair market value" means the amount of cash or its equivalent that property would bring if exposed for sale in the open market under conditions in which neither buyer nor seller could take advantage of the exigencies of the other, and both the buyer and the seller have knowledge of all of the uses and purposes to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used, and of the enforceable restrictions upon those uses and purposes.

(b) For purposes of determining the "full cash value" or "fair market value" of real property, other than possessory interests, being appraised upon a purchase, "full cash value" or "fair market value" is the purchase price paid in the transaction unless it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the real property would not have transferred for that purchase price in an open market transaction. The purchase price shall, however, be rebuttably presumed to be the "full cash value" or "fair market value" if the terms of the transaction were negotiated at arms length between a knowledgeable transferor and transferee neither of which could take advantage of the exigencies of the other. "Purchase price," as used in this section, means the total consideration provided by the purchaser or on the purchaser's behalf, valued in money, whether paid in money or otherwise. There is a rebuttable presumption that the value of improvements financed by the proceeds of an assessment resulting in a lien imposed on the property by a public entity is reflected in the total consideration, exclusive of that lien amount, involved in the transaction. This presumption may be overcome if the assessor establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that all or a portion of the value of those improvements is not reflected in that consideration. If a single transaction results in a change in ownership of more than one parcel of real property, the purchase price shall be allocated among those parcels and other assets, if any, transferred based on the relative fair market value of each.

(c) For real property, other than possessory interests, the change of ownership statement required pursuant to Section 480, 480.1, or 480.2, or the preliminary change of ownership statement required pursuant to Section 480.4, shall give any information as the board shall prescribe relative to whether the terms of the transaction were negotiated at "arms length." In the event that the transaction includes property other than real property, the change in ownership statement shall give information as the board shall prescribe disclosing the portion of the purchase price that is allocable to all elements of the transaction. If the taxpayer fails to provide the prescribed information, the rebuttable presumption provided by subdivision (b) shall not apply.

(d) Except as provided in subdivision (e), for purposes of determining the "full cash value" or "fair market value" of any taxable property, all of the following shall apply:

(1) The value of intangible assets and rights relating to the going concern value of a business using taxable property shall not enhance or be reflected in the value of the taxable property.

(2) If the principle of unit valuation is used to value properties that are operated as a unit and the unit includes intangible assets and rights, then the fair market value of the taxable property contained within the unit shall be determined by removing from the value of the unit the fair market value of the intangible assets and rights contained within the unit.

(3) The exclusive nature of a concession, franchise, or similar agreement, whether de jure or de facto, is an intangible asset that shall not enhance the value of taxable property, including real property.

(e) Taxable property may be assessed and valued by assuming the presence of intangible assets or rights necessary to put the taxable property to beneficial or productive use.

(f) For purposes of determining the "full cash value" or "fair market value" of real property, intangible attributes of real property shall be reflected in the value of the real property. These intangible attributes of real property include zoning, location, and other attributes that relate directly to the real property involved.

History.—Added by Stats. 1971, p. 3050, in effect March 4, 1972, operative on the lien date in 1972. Stats. 1974, Ch. 311, p. 589, in effect January 1, 1975, substituted " 'fair market value' " for ", 'market value' or, 'value' ". Stats. 1978, Ch. 292, in effect June 24, 1978, added the phrase "Except as is otherwise provided in Section 110.1,". Stats. 1988, Ch. 1519, in effect January 1, 1989, added "(a)" at the beginning of the first paragraph and added subdivisions (b) and (c). Stats. 1995, Ch. 498, in effect January 1, 1996, substituted "that" for "which" after "equivalent" in subdivision (a), and added subdivisions (d), (e), and (f). Stats. 1998, Ch. 783 (SB 1997), in effect September 23, 1998, substituted "other, and both the buyer and the seller have" for "other and both with" after "exigencies of the" and added a comma after "being used" in the first sentence of subdivision (a); substituted "is" for "shall be" in the first sentence and added the fourth and fifth sentences of subdivision (b); substituted "that" for "which" in the second sentence of subdivision (c); deleted "such" after "and other" in the second sentence of subdivision (f).

Construction.—"Enforceable restrictions", defined in Revenue and Taxation Code Section 402.1, include only governmentally imposed land restrictions. Carlson v. Assessment Appeals Board No. 1, 167 Cal.App.3d 1004. Under this section, an arm's length, open market sale for a price that is not influenced by an exigency of either buyer or seller permits the assessor to presume fair market value from the purchase price, but the presumption may nevertheless be rebutted by evidence that the fair market value of the property is otherwise. Dennis v. Santa Clara County, 215 Cal.App.3d 1019.

Lien date.—The assessment of a taxpayer's plant fixtures was correct, even though the assessment appeals board failed to consider the reduction in market value of the fixtures resulting from the taxpayer's announcement of closing, and subsequent closing of the plant six months after the lien date. The effects of the plant closure were irrelevant to the appraised value of the fixtures, and the fact that there was a forced sale of property at a sacrificial price after the lien date had no bearing on the property's value on the lien date. The taxpayer's contention to the contrary was also contrary to the principle of "fair market value" as set forth in subdivision (a). Fujitsu Microelectronics, Inc. v. Assessment Appeals Board, 55 Cal.App.4th 1120.

Value.—The value of a building in the marketplace is its value to potential purchasers generally, and the normal uses to which potential purchasers could put it must be considered. In valuing property, the assessor must adhere to the statutory standard of "full cash value", and in doing so, net earnings to be capitalized are not those of the present owner of the property but those that would be anticipated by a prospective purchaser. Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Orange County, 187 Cal.App.3d 1141. Although the cost of pollution cleanup that reduces the fair market value of property may form the basis for a reduction in that property's valuation, where the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that as of the lien date a potential purchaser would not have been aware of the contamination, there was insufficient evidence to establish that the assessor knew or should have known that a tire manufacturing plant was contaminated on the date he valued it. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Monterey County, 223 Cal.App.3d 382. The proper assessed valuation of a contaminated property is the price at which a willing buyer and a willing seller would consummate an open market sale of the property, considering the polluted condition of the property. As all property is to be assessed at fair market value, the dispositive question is whether, and to what extent the property's value is effected by the contamination. In the context of property known to be polluted on the lien date, its value is what it would cost on the open market, independent of what the purchaser may be able to recover from others for cleanup costs imposed by environmental law. Mola Development Corporation v. Orange County Assessment Appeals Board No. 2, 80 Cal.App.4th 309.

County assessment appeals board's use of the cost replacement method to value a cable television system's taxable, tangible property, which resulted in a value lower than the value using the comparable sales method or the income method, was not a failure to assess at full value as required by law. The values differed because the method the assessor had used captured intangibles that were not subject to taxation. Orange County v. Orange County Assessment Appeals Board No. 1, 13 Cal.App.4th 524. The assessment appeals board properly included the value of certain related intangibles, operating permits and "business enterprise" value, when determining the market value of plaintiff's landfill property. While intangibles are not subject to property tax, the presence of intangibles may enhance the value of real property, and that value may be determined by assuming their presence. American Sheds, Inc. v. Los Angeles County, 66 Cal.App.4th 384.

In valuing geothermal power plants for property tax purposes, the county assessor properly capitalized the plants' income from fixed-price contracts under which the plants sold electricity to a power company at rates far above market price. Although the contracts were no longer available, the full value of the property included projected income at the contract rates rather than market rates, since a prospective buyer would be willing to pay more for the plants with the existing contracts. Also, the contracts were the means by which the property was put to beneficial use and thus, had to be considered for purposes of assessing the property's full value. Freeport-McMoran Resource Partners v. Lake County, 12 Cal.App.4th 634.

Methods.—The market data and income methods of assessing the fair market value of real property are traditional and well accepted. Norby Lumber Company, Inc. v. Madera County, 202 Cal.App.3d 1352; Dennis v. Santa Clara County, 215 Cal.App.3d 1019. The income method is one of three basic methods for determining full cash value, the others being the comparative sales approach and the reproduction and replacement cost approach. The income method assumes that in an open market a willing buyer of the property would pay a willing seller an amount approximately equal to the present value of the future income to be derived from the property. Since a property's full value must be determined by reference to the price it would bring on an open market, the net earnings to be capitalized are not those of the present owner of the property, but those that would be anticipated by a prospective purchaser. Freeport-McMoran Resource Partners v. Lake County, 12 Cal.App.4th 634. Where taxpayers failed to carry their burden of proving that the assessor arbitrarily used the band-of-investment method for deriving the applicable capitalization rate, the use of this method was proper. Mission Housing Development Company v. City and County of San Francisco, Cal. 59 Cal.App.4th 55. When valuing low-income housing developed and operated under section 15 of the National Housing Act of 1949, which housing is subject to various restrictions, including a maximum return on equity; the financing for which is federally subsidized; and for which the government provides credits that result in a 1 percent effective mortgage interest rate, the assessor properly calculated the band-of-investment capitalization rate for the income method as required by Property Tax Rule 8 using the effective 1 percent rate resulting from government credits for such property, as it represented the only applicable market rate for the property. Maples v. Kern County Assessment Appeals Board, 96 Cal.App.4th 1007; Bontrager v. Siskiyou County Assessment Appeals Board, 97 Cal.App.4th 325.

Cash or its equivalent.—The assessment of property at fair market value requires a calculation of value in terms of cash, and property tax rule 4, providing that an assessor shall convert debts to their cash equivalents, is mandatory and expresses the policy of the Legislature that property be assessed locally in a uniform manner. Thus, in failing to discount to its cash equivalent a loan the purchaser had assumed from the seller at a below market rate, the assessor incorrectly determined the property's value, thereby resulting in an excessive assessment. Prudential Insurance Co. v. City and County of San Francisco, 191 Cal.App.3d 1142. Property tax rule 4 is mandatory and must be strictly followed in order to provide the assessment appeals board with an evidentiary foundation for its assessment. Merely giving the assessment appeals board raw sales data and stating that the assessor's opinion was within the "range of values" shown by the data does not comport with the rule and requires reversal of the board's decision, since the fair market value of the properties as determined by the board is based on evidence that is legally incompetent. Main & Von Karman Associates v. Orange County, 23 Cal.App.4th 337. The assessor's valuation of residential property based on the comparable sales method was not supported by legally competent evidence and invalid where the assessor failed to make adjustments to reflect the differences between the comparable sales and the subject property as required by Property Tax Rule 4. Mitchell v. Los Angeles County, 60 Cal.App.4th 497.

An assessor's appraisals met legal standards where ratios used by his experts in appraising oil-producing property to quantify several types of risk factors associated with each projected net cash flow were not the sole basis for assessment. The appraisers made separate adjustments to each of the comparable sales, as required by Property Tax Rule 4, for which purpose the ratios were developed. Nor did the appraisers violate Rule 4 in failing to separately consider certain factors associated with each sale, such as capital costs, operating costs, and geology. Variations in these types of factors were already accounted for in the projected cash flows. Texaco Producing, Inc. v. Kern County, 66 Cal.App.4th 1029.

Highest and best use.—A county board did not impermissibly assess real property owned by an airplane manufacturer and located next to an airport in relation to the unique value of the property to the manufacturer instead of its general value in the market place. The board did find that the restrictions and regulations affecting the use of the property constituted an enhancement and benefit to the nature of the manufacturer's operation at the airport as a peculiarly suitable location in that the manufacturer was operating under those conditions for years and would continue to do so for years. However, the board was making that finding in conjunction with its conclusion that the highest and best use at the time of purchase of the property (the manufacturer had recently purchased it after previously renting it) was for aviation industrial purposes. Under this section, the board was entitled to consider the prior and current use of the property in making its determination of the highest and best use of the property. Los Angeles County v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 219 Cal.App.3d 715. The assessor did not improperly assess an independent power plant developed and operated under an above-market price, government-facilitated power purchase agreement by using the actual income stream resulting from the agreement. The highest and best use of the property as of the lien date was as a qualifying facility, selling its power to a public utility pursuant to the agreement. That assured the taxpayer a guaranteed purchaser for its entire output and provided for sale of that power at an above-market price. Thus, the assessor's use of the actual applicable terms of the agreement to capitalize the property's income was an appropriate exercise of discretion. Watson Cogeneration Co. v. Los Angeles County, 98 Cal.App.4th 1066.

Improvement bonds.—The 1998 amendment to this section, which created a rebuttable presumption that the amount of an improvement bond is included in the purchase price, was intended to clarify the existing method of real property assessments to exclude improvement bond liens from the calculation of a property's fair market value and thus, applied to a taxpayer's claim/refund action which was pending as of the date of the amendment. Huson v. Ventura County, 80 Cal.App.4th 1131.

Investment tax credit.—An assessor does not have to take the availability of investment tax credit into account in determining value. May Department Stores Co. v. Los Angeles County, 196 Cal.App.3d 755.

Use of purchase price.—Persons who purchased real property after March 1975, and whose property was appraised as of the date of purchase were not denied equal protection of the law where both before and after the adoption of Article XIII A of the Constitution, assessment procedures were consistent with the section and the "regression analysis procedure" used in reaching the computer calculated value for the property as of the date of purchase was the same as was used before the adoption of Article XIII A. The only difference in appraisal procedures was that the purchase price of the property rather than a hypothetical figure was used for fair market value, and increased accuracy does not amount to a denial of equal protection. Schoderbek v. Carlson, 152 Cal.App.3d 1027. The purchase price paid by the buyer of real property, which had been used by the federal government as a petroleum reserve, established a presumptive fair market value of the property for assessment purposes, pursuant to subdivision (b). The term "negotiated" means simply "arranged" or "concluded". Maples v. Assessment Appeals Board, 103 Cal.App. 4th 172. While a recent, open market, arm's length sale of a particular type of property may be a very important factor in determining its fair market value, the sale, by itself, does not provide sufficient, reliable data to enable the assessor to make an accurate valuation of that property; it is only a starting point in appraising the property. Even an arm's length transaction may involve factors that skew the purchase price and make it an unreliable indicator of the fair market value. In this instance, at the time of purchase, the purchasers had an ownership interest in the corporate tenant leasing the property and the lease generated rent below market value. Market value, therefore, is generally established by numerous sales of the same or comparable property and, although the price paid for property may be admissible to prove its market value, that fact alone is not conclusive. Thus, the assessor properly applied the valuation method by determining that comparable commercial properties had recently been sold at greater dollar amounts per square foot. Dennis v. Santa Clara County, 215 Cal.App.3d 1019. The purchase by a property owner of transferable development rights allowing the owner, in developing its property, to exceed the maximum floor area ratio otherwise allowed under a city redevelopment plan, was a taxable event within the framework of Article XIII A of the Constitution, permitting reappraisal upon a change of ownership. In the absence of substantial and convincing evidence to the contrary, the assessor was entitled, under this section, to rely upon the purchase price paid for the rights for purposes of determining their full cash value. Mitsui Fudosan (U.S.A.), Inc. v. Los Angeles County , 219 Cal.App.3d 525.

Presumptive fair market value—Oil and gas interests.—A taxpayer, in challenging the valuation of oil and gas mineral property interests for the purpose of determining ad valorem taxes, had the burden of proving a fair market value different from the purchase price by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the only evidence the taxpayer presented was that no evidence of proved oil and gas reserves had been established at the time of acquisition. In other words, reserves had not been proved or disproved. Rather, the reserves were probable or possible. This absence of evidence was not equivalent to affirmative evidence of the property's fair market value. Proved reserves are not the only value component of an oil and gas mineral interest. Moreover, knowledgeable and informed persons testified that the purchase price was the fair market value, which was contrary to the taxpayer's claim that the value of the oil and gas mineral interest was zero. Accordingly, the court of appeals held that the assessor correctly determined the base year value of the property interest to be its purchase price and that the taxpayer did not rebut this section's purchase price presumption. California Minerals v. County of Kern, 152 Cal.App.4th 1016.

Intangibles—Triable Issues of Material Fact.—Taxpayer's contentions that the value of intangibles was improperly included in determining the hotel property's assessed value constituted triable questions of material fact, and therefore, a summary judgment was inappropriate. Trial court erred in granting the taxpayer's motion for summary judgment because the taxpayer's contention that the county assessor failed to remove the value of intangibles such as the hotel's franchise license agreement and the workforce in place, in determining the full market value of its hotel property, presented triable issues of material fact. Trial court erred in failing to examine the entire administrative record to determine whether the assessment appeals board's findings were supported by substantial evidence. EHP Glendale, LLC, et al. v. County of Los Angeles (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 262.

Decisions Under Former Section 110, "Full cash value".

Full cash value.—"Full cash value" is the price that property would bring to its owner if it were offered for sale on an open market under conditions in which neither buyer nor seller could take advantage of the exigencies of the other; it is synonymous with market value. A. F. Gilmore Co. v. Los Angeles County, 186 Cal.App.2d 471.

A single, recent, open market and arm's-length sale of a particular property, per se, does not provide sufficient, reliable data for the assessor to make an accurate valuation of that property. Market value becomes an important standard of measurement in the valuation of property only after there have been numerous sales or exchanges of similar property, but if the property is of a kind seldom exchanged, then recourse must be had to other means of ascertaining value. Guild Wineries & Distilleries v. Fresno County, 51 Cal.App.3d 182.

Factors to be considered.—In arriving at the value of land it is proper to consider every use to which the land is naturally adapted and which would enhance its value in the estimation of persons generally purchasing in the open market. Wild Goose Country Club v. Butte County, 60 Cal.App. 339, holding that a hunting preserve need not be assessed solely with reference to its value as grazing land.

The court approved the valuation of a water company where the appraisal method, based on the capitalization of income, utilized an income study of rates charged by four other water companies in the general area. Maywood Mutual Water Co. v. Los Angeles County, 12 Cal.App.3d 957.

The assessor correctly considered the full economic rental value of real property subject to a lease even though the actual rental income was below the economic rental. Clayton v. Los Angeles County, 26 Cal.App.3d 390.

Interdivisional transfers of manufactured goods with an accompanying markup in value, for purposes of delivery or to facilitate marketing, result in a trade level increase and corresponding increase in value in accord with Property Tax Rule No. 10. Beckman Instruments, Inc. v. Orange County, 53 Cal.App.3d 767.

Under the market value concept, where price is the basis of value, the sales tax and freight charges are elements of value. Xerox Corp. v. Orange County, 66 Cal.App.3d 746. Under the trade level theory of assessment, if the owner of property at the consumer level is subject to application of a sales tax element in the valuation of the property, the lessor of the same kind of property at the consumer level is subject to the same sales tax element. San Diego County v. Assessment Appeals Board No. 2, 140 Cal.App.3d 52. Since California sales tax is unconstitutional as to leases of tangible personal property to the United States because the legal incidence of the tax falls on the United States, United States v. California State Board of Equalization, 650 F.2d 1127, aff'd 456 U.S. 901, the value of equipment leased to the federal government should not include sales tax.

General rules may be followed.—It is proper for the assessor to promulgate certain general rules and formulas of percentages of depreciation, construction costs, square foot area charges and other factors in order to secure uniformity in valuations as required by law. Eastern-Columbia, Inc. v. Los Angeles County, 61 Cal.App.2d 734, 742.

Possessory interest.—In valuing a leasehold interest in exempt lands and improvements by the capitalization of income method it is improper, in computing the anticipated net income to be capitalized, to deduct from anticipated gross income the lessee's charges for rent, amortization of his investment, or payments of principal and interest on his mortgage debt. The proper method of valuing a possessory interest in a housing project at a permanent military installation is to deduct from annual anticipated gross income the operating and maintenance expenses and the amount required by the lease to be deposited to a replacement reserve, and to capitalize the difference for the remaining years of the lease at a rate which will allow for risk, interest, and taxes. De Luz Homes, Inc. v. San Diego County, 45 Cal.2d 546; Fairfield Gardens, Inc. v. Solano County, 45 Cal.2d 575; Victor Valley Housing Corp. v. San Bernardino County, 45 Cal.2d 580; El Toro Development Co., Inc. v. Orange County, 45 Cal.2d 586.

The "full cash value" of a possessory interest is the present value of its use for the unexpired term of the lease, not lessened by the amount of rent reserved. The rent is not an interest in land that must be deducted to determine the lessee's interest, but is merely the consideration for the use of the land. The Texas Co. v. Los Angeles County, 52 Cal.2d 55.

A reasonably anticipated term of possession may not be imputed to a possessory interest when the assessee has no taxable interest in the property at the expiration of the leased term. American Airlines, Inc., v. Los Angeles County, 65 Cal.App.3d 325.

Assessment of motion picture negatives.—"Market value" for assessment purposes is the value of property when put to beneficial use; it is not merely whatever residual value may remain should the property be reduced to its constituent elements. In the event the beneficial use of the property would not pass to a willing buyer on an open market, the assessor must treat the property as having no actual market for valuation purposes and use such pertinent factors as replacement costs and income analysis for determining valuation. Michael Todd Co. v. Los Angeles County, 57 Cal.2d 684.

Water rights of a city.—A county, in assessing taxable water rights owned by a city, may use as a basis for capitalization of income, a price for water taken from Bureau of Reclamation contracts, and a price for electricity agreed to be paid by a gas and electric company in a contract with the city, rather than the water and power prices actually charged in the city's nonprofit operation. Tuolumne County v. State Board of Equalization, 206 Cal.App.2d 352.

Lease of grazing land.—In assessing the possessory interest of a lessee of tax-exempt land leased for grazing purposes, it is proper to capitalize the rent for the total number of years of the lease and renewal options. El Tejon Cattle Co. v. San Diego County, 64 Cal.2d 428.

Income method—oil lands.—In capitalizing anticipated future oil recoveries on public lands, no deduction is proper for royalty payments due the government under a standard oil and gas lease. Under a "unit contract", however, the government's "working interest" is exempt real property requiring an allocation of potential oil recoveries. Atlantic Oil Co. v. Los Angeles County, 69 Cal.2d 585.

Assessment of title plant.—"Market value" for assessment purposes is the value of property when put to beneficial use. In the absence of any actual market for a title insurance company's "title plant" of the history of real property parcels in a county, an assessor's use of the cost approach method for determining valuation of the plant is not arbitrary and does not violate any standards prescribed by the Legislature. Western Title Guaranty Co. v. Stanislaus County, 41 Cal.App.3d 733.

Note.—For additional cases relating to value, see annotations to Section 401 of the code and to Section 1, Article XIII of the Constitution.