Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2017

Revenue and Taxation Code

Property Taxation

Part 2. Assessment

Chapter 3. Assessment Generally

Article 4. Property Escaping Assessment

Section 531

531. Escaped property. If any property belonging on the local roll has escaped assessment, the assessor shall assess the property on discovery at its value on the lien date for the year for which it escaped assessment. It shall be subject to the tax rate in effect in the year of its escape except as provided in Section 2905 of this code.

Property shall be deemed to have escaped assessment when its owner fails to file a property statement pursuant to the provisions of Section 441, to the extent that this failure results in no assessment or an assessment at a valuation lower than would have obtained had the property been properly reported. Escape assessments made as the result of an owner's failure to file a property statement as herein provided shall be subject to the penalty and interest imposed by Sections 463 and 506, respectively. This paragraph shall not constitute a limitation on any other provision of this article.

History.—Stats. 1941, p. 410, operative February 1,1941, rearranged section and added subdivision (b). Stats. 1959, p. 3246, in effect September 18, 1959, reworded section so as to make subdivisions (a) and (b) applicable only to real property. Stats. 1967, p. 3338, in effect November 8, 1967, inserted second sentence. Stats. 1968, p. 2146, in effect November 13, 1968, added "except as provided in Section 2905 of this code" and deleted language relating to real property which was reenacted as Section 531.2. Stats. 1973, Ch. 918, p. 1700, in effect January 1, 1974, added the second paragraph.

Delayed assessment.—An assessment entered by the assessor on July 31, after the regular assessment period for the tax year, was proper as an "escaped assessment" under this section where there was no indication either that the delayed assessment was caused by the assessor's negligence or that the taxpayer acted to its detriment in reliance on the fact that it was not assessed during the regular assessment period. De Luz Homes, Inc. v. San Diego County, 45 Cal.2d 546; Western Title Guaranty Co. v. Stanislaus County, 41 Cal.App.3d 733.

Assessment on land only does not prevent escape assessment on improvement subsequently discovered. Jensen v. Byram, 229 Cal.App.2d 651.

Where an assessor discovers property that has escaped assessment for a particular tax year, and subsequently issues an escape assessment for that property, the taxpayer may file an administrative appeal and challenge the assessment, not only with respect to the property that had escaped assessment, but also as to all personal and real property of the taxpayer assessed at the location during the same tax year. County of Los Angeles v. Raytheon Co., 159 Cal.App.4th 27.

Assessor's duty.—The assessor's duty to assure uniformity in taxation bestows upon him the power to impose escape assessments, regardless of the relative culpability of the parties. General Dynamics Corporation v. San Diego County, 108 Cal.App.3d 132. The assessor has the duty to assess all taxable property at a uniform ratio of its full cash value. To the extent that property has been assessed at an assessment ratio lower than the ratio properly established by the assessor for a particular year such property has escaped assessment, and upon discovery an escaped assessment must be made. The rule applies though the taxpayer has accurately reported the cost or value figures of the property. Bauer-Schweitzer Malting Co., Inc. v. San Francisco, 8 Cal.3d 942.

Assessor's mistake.—Under this section the assessor is empowered to effect a correct assessment where taxable property had been erroneously valued and it may be applied to situations in which there was mistake on the part of the assessor and is not limited to escape assessments involving official misconduct. Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Santa Clara County, 50 Cal.App.3d 74.