The Complete Guide to San Diego Property Taxes (2019)

Figuring out San Diego property tax may seem confusing at first, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In recent years, San Diego County has added introduced a handful of resources including a new website to make calculating property taxes as simple as possible. With a little legwork, you can figure out how much you will be paying for your current or future property.

According to California property tax law, real estate is assessed whenever new construction is finished or when a change of ownership takes place. Beyond these two assessments, the property’s rates can’t increase by more than 2% each year. As long as you own the same home, your taxes should never go up by more than this amount.

How Much is Property Tax in San Diego?

Whether you are thinking about moving to the area or you are awaiting your first bill, you’ve probably been wondering about San Diego property tax rates. As a general rule, you can expect to pay 1% of your property’s value every year. You may also have to pay special assessments and bonds, depending on the location.

San Diego property tax is calculated according to ad valorem, a Latin phrase which means “according to value”. In practice, this means the amount you pay is based entirely on the value of your home.

Property Tax house on stacked coins

Simply put, higher value homes have higher property tax bills, while low-priced homes have lower bills. But no matter where your home falls in the range, your bill is 1% of your net value plus fixed charge assessments and voter-approved bonds.

There are some San Diego property tax exemptions available which can be used to lower your tax bill including options for disabled veterans and homeowners who have their primary residence in the county.

Ultimately, the rules about property taxes in San Diego are set by Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978. The amendment lowered tax rates by about 57% overall and states your base tax rate can never be over 1% of the assessed value of your home. This is also the proposition that says unless you recently built or bought the property, your property’s assessed value can only increase by 2% per year.

For property owners, this law is improved upon the alternative of basing your home’s taxes off its market value. On the open market, homes have the potential to both drastically increase and rapidly decrease in value by much more than 2% at a time. But thanks to Proposition 13, property owners pay less and can easily anticipate how much their tax bill will be each year.

San Diego also allows you to see how your tax dollars are being spent year after year. In the most recent tax allocation report, 45.6% of property taxes went toward schools adding about $2.2 billion into the local education system. Along with schools, about 13.2% went toward the county, while about 12.7% was allocated between each of the cities in San Diego County.

Every year, the treasurer and tax collector in the county brings in more than $6 billion in tax revenue, which comes from nearly one million properties.

What if you can’t or don’t pay your property taxes in San Diego?. Well, if someone can’t manage to pay their tax bill, the named taxpayer goes into default and the property accrues penalties and interest because of the late payment. In some cases, the county will permit the individual to do an installment plan to get caught up.

All of the tax files are meticulously maintained, so property owners always get an accurate bill. If someone doesn’t pay their bill for five or more years, the property is sold through an online tax sale auction.

How to Calculate Property Tax

Figuring out how to calculate property tax is quite simple and takes some fairly basic math. As long as you have had your property assessed, you can use this number as the basis of your calculations. If you are about to buy the property, then you’ll need to determine the value with a tax assessor.

Tax worker doing numbers on calculator

If you’d like to take the easy way to figure out your property taxes in San Diego, you can use a simple property tax calculator. This tool helps you figure out the approximate property tax based on your state, county, and the appraised property value. You can then calculate a general property tax estimate with the click of your mouse.

It is technically possible to get lower taxes by appealing your assessed value with the San Diego County Assessment Appeals Board, though it does take some time and doesn’t always pay off. This technique will only work if your property is now worth a lower amount and the new value simply remains for the current fiscal year. Most likely, the tax assessment will end up increasing again for the next year.

Within San Diego County, property taxes are paid in two equal installments throughout the year. The county requires your first payment on November 1. And if you don’t pay it by December 10, the payment is considered late. The next payment is due on February 20 and is charged a late payment penalty if not paid by April 10.

Whether you just purchased a new home or plan on building one, you’ll want to make note of these due dates as it will be the same for both.

After the property is purchased, it can take up to a year for the property’s value to be reassessed. In addition, the tax bill will be prorated if you are buying it in the middle of the tax year and will still need to be paid as a supplement tax.

Tax Deductions for Your San Diego and California Property Tax

When you live in one of the states with the highest property tax like California, finding tax deductions will be key to saving some money each tax season. Your two main options are the homeowner’s exemption and the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption. Each of these help lower your overall cost of living and will leave you a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Tax deduction paperwork

The Homeowners’ Property Tax Exemption is fairly straightforward. Do you live in your home and use it as your primary residence? Odds are you’re eligible to start saving money with this tax exempt option.

If your property is also your home, you can reduce your assessed value by $7,000. When you first move in, you’ll need to apply for the exemption by February 15. Afterward, the exemption is automatically included in your tax bill each year.

Disabled veterans can also save money with their property taxes in San Diego, with exemptions for military veterans or their unmarried, surviving spouses. But like the previous option, this one is only available if your property also happens to be your principal residence.

There are a few other rules as well. To get this deduction, the veteran must be classified as 100% disabled, blind in both eyes, or has lost two or more limbs. If someone has a disability compensation or a fully rated disability, then they will qualify.

The basic exemption for veterans only requires a single application. But if you’re also filing for the low-income exemption, you’ll be required to apply annually to verify your income and determine your present status. Any veterans who have forgotten to file in the past can file retroactively for up to eight years back and still get 85% of the amount back as a tax refund.

Get Your Taxes Figured Out

Though the initial process and calculations may take some time to figure out, once you have lived in your home for more than a year, determining your San Diego property tax is easy. The basic precept is that homes are reassessed after they are purchased and the value can only increase by 2% a year following the sale. After your initial assessment, you always know what to estimate your taxes off of and can double-check using simple online calculators as well.

If you’re planning on joining San Diego County and becoming a new resident in the near future, we’d love to help! Move Central is the top-rated moving company in the area with more than 10 years of experience. Fill out the Request a Quote form at the top of this page for a free moving estimate!