Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2017

California Constitutional Provisions

ARTICLE XIII Revenue and Taxation

Section 4

Sec. 4. Property eligible for exemption. The Legislature may exempt from property taxation in whole or in part:

(a) The home of a person or a person's spouse, including an unmarried surviving spouse, if the person, because of injury incurred in military service, is blind in both eyes, has lost the use of 2 or more limbs, or is totally disabled, or if the person has, as a result of a service-connected injury or disease, died while on active duty in military service, unless the home is receiving another real property exemption.

(b) Property used exclusively for religious, hospital, or charitable purposes and owned or held in trust by corporations or other entities (1) that are organized and operating for those purposes, (2) that are nonprofit, and (3) no part of whose net earnings inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

(c) Property owned by the California School of Mechanical Arts, California Academy of Sciences, or Cogswell Polytechnical College, or held in trust for the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, or their successors.

(d) Real property not used for commercial purposes that is reasonably and necessarily required for parking vehicles of persons worshipping on land exempt by Section 3(f).

History.—The amendment of November 3, 1992, added ", or if the person . . . military service," after "disabled" in subdivision (a).

(b) Note.—See Revenue and Taxation Code, Section 214.

Construction.—Section 214.02, which exempts from taxation, under certain conditions, property used exclusively for the preservation of native plants or animals, or biotic communities, etc., is a valid exercise of the Legislature's power under this section. Santa Catalina Island Conservancy v. Los Angeles County, 126 Cal.App.3d 221.

Possessory interest not applicable.—To impose a tax on the occupancy or use of individuals whose work is an important ingredient of and contributory factor to, the proper functioning of a charitable institution would in the last analysis cast the burden on the institution itself and thereby would seriously hamper the charitable goal for whose promotion the tax exemption was granted in the first place. English v. County of Alameda, 70 Cal.App.3d 226.

Claims.—If the property owner has a welfare exemption from property tax, the operator of that property does not have to file its own claim for an organizational clearance certificate or for the welfare exemption. Furthermore, the property owner’s failure to check the box on the claim forms did not constitute a waiver of the welfare exemption. Jewish Community Centers Development Corporation v. County of Los Angeles (2016) 243 Cal.App.4th 700.

(c) Note.—See Revenue and Taxation Code, Section 203.5.

Construction.—The California Academy of Sciences, as residuary legatee, was entitled to exemption on its interest in real property during administration of an estate. Ownership of its interest passed to the Academy at decedent's death, and the exemption for property owned by the Academy applied. California Academy of Sciences v. Fresno County, 192 Cal.App.3d 1436.

Decisions Under Former Article XIII, Section 1c.

Educational purposes.—The term charitable as used in this section authorizes the granting of exemption to property "used exclusively for school purposes of less than collegiate grade and owned and operated by religious, hospital or charitable funds, foundations or corporations," provided that the property is used for nonprofit purposes and owned by nonprofit organizations, which exemption was added to Section 214 in 1951 and approved by the voters on referendum at the general election of 1952. Lundberg v. Alameda County, 46 Cal.2d 644; appeal dismissed in a companion case, Heisey v. Alameda County, 352 U.S. 921.

A declaration of purpose in a corporate charter which includes "educational, scientific or literary purposes" does not preclude the welfare exemption where the charter further requires that they be consistent with the primary charitable purpose of care for the aged. The Samarkand of Santa Barbara, Inc. v. Santa Barbara County, 216 Cal.App.2d 341.

A nonprofit corporation whose sole purpose is to conduct a girls' school of less than collegiate grade and whose articles prohibit individual profit and provide for distribution to a religious, benevolent, or charitable corporation or fund in case of dissolution is organized for charitable purposes. Sarah Dix Hamlin School v. San Francisco, 221 Cal.App.2d 336.

Charitable purposes.—A theatre presenting musical comedy and contemporary drama provided educational benefits with regard to dramatic art, entertainment for its audiences, and an opportunity for those performing to display creative talents. This constituted a charitable purpose qualifying for the welfare exemption. Stockton Civic Theatre v. Board of Supervisors, 66 Cal.2d 13.

On the following facts the court denied the welfare exemption holding that a corporation was not engaged in a charitable activity. The non-profit corporation provided low-rent housing for senior citizens but did not assist any of the tenants in paying their monthly rent, nor did it have a policy of reducing rent based on inability to pay. The corporation did not offer a life-care program or medical services to the tenants who were self-sufficient and self-supporting. The tenants paid the full cost of the housing so that the corporation could pay its operational expenses and amortize the purchase price of the rental units. Martin Luther Homes v. Los Angeles County, 12 Cal.App.3d 205.

Course of construction.—A building is in the course of construction within the meaning of this section when at noon on the first Monday in March some trenches for the foundation of the building had been dug. National Charity League, Inc. v. Los Angeles County, 164 Cal.App.2d 241.

Special assessments.—The real property of an institution qualifying for the welfare exemption from taxation under this section is not exempt from special assessments, such as those imposed under authority of the Los Angeles County Flood Control Act. Cedars of Lebanon Hospital v. Los Angeles County, 35 Cal.2d 729 (hospital property); Young Men's Christian Ass'n v. Los Angeles County, 35 Cal.2d 760 (Young Men's Christian Association property).

(d) Note.—See Revenue and Taxation Code, Section 251, et seq.

Decisions Under Former Article XIII, Section 1½.

Extent of exemption.—A portion of a church lot which is used by the members of the congregation for the parking of their automobiles when attending church services and also affords light and air for the church building is exempt from taxation under this section. Immanuel Presbyterian Church v. Payne, 90 Cal.App. 176.