Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2013

Property Tax Annotations

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Annotation 220.0670

220.0670 Step Transaction. In Shuwa Investments Corp. v. County of Los Angeles (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 1635, the District Court of Appeal rejected the theory that a series of transfers that result in a change in ownership may be ignored if each of the transfers in the series is not a change in ownership and each transfer can be demonstrated to have taken place for a business purpose independent from the avoidance of increased property taxes.

The court applied the long accepted principle that for tax purposes, the substance rather than the form of a transaction controls when the substance brings the transaction within those intended to be taxed by the law. However, form will control over substance when it results in a change in ownership consistent with the legislative intent of a given statute.

1. In determining whether the form of the particular transfer should be subject to the step transaction doctrine, the court applied the following tests:

2. The "end result test" (whether the reported separate transactions were really component parts of a single transaction intended from the outset to be taken for the purpose of reaching the ultimate result).

3. The "interdependence test" (whether upon a reasonable interpretation of objective facts the steps are so interdependent that the legal relations created by one transaction would have been fruitless without a completion of the series).

The "binding commitment test" (whether there is a binding commitment to take all steps if the first step is taken). LTA 10/14/1992 (No. 92/69).