Oakland Parcel Tax Refunds

Overview.

If you are an Oakland homeowner, you may qualify for property parcel tax exemptions. Skim my Oakland Post OP-EDs and the Oakland Tribune article by Tammy Drummond,  then read the step by step list below.

Part I OP-ED: Oakland Homeowners May Qualify for Property Tax Exemptions (The Post News Group)

Part II OP-ED: Oakland Property Tax Exemptions (The Post News Group)

Oakland Senior on War Path (Oakland Tribune, Tammerlin Drummond)

The $120 parcel tax (Measure N) that is refundable for all senior homeowners, regardless of income,  started last year but you can still get it. It is only from OUSD and easy to apply for.   The low-income parcel tax exemptions from OUSD and the City have been on books for anywhere from one year to more than 10 years, depending on which parcel tax.   Required documents to qualify for the low-income refunds can be challenging, but worth doing.

Trying to match the property tax fiscal years to the calendar years and due dates is confusing.  Don’t even try. Just follow the instructions on the application forms.   (The City’s low-income exemption is a refund of parcel tax which you must prove you have already paid.  Think of the OUSD exemption as an advance rebate of tax you are not required to have paid yet. So the City’s application for property tax year 2015-16 is due it’s normal June 30, 2016, presumably after you paid the second tax installment in the spring of 2016.   But OUSD’s original normal deadline for the same 2015-16 year was last June 30, 2015, before you paid the tax,  but is now temporarily extended to April 15, 2016.)

OUSD has not released its application for 2016-17. Assume it will be due June 30, 2016 until they say otherwise.

The City application for 2015-16 was released last June 2015 and is due June 30, 2016. The City won’t release the 2016-17 application until July 2016.

If all this understandably gives you a headache and you use a tax preparer,  ask them to read this and fill out the form for you. Suggestions to improve/correct my explanations are appreciated. Email me if you or your tax preparer have questions.

Income tax effects: People have asked if they’ll have to pay tax on the refund. Short answer is yes. But even if you’re a higher income senior in say the 40% tax bracket, you’d still keep 60% of the refund.  If you were in “alternative minimum tax” in the year you originally paid the tax, you probably wouldn’t pay any income tax on the refund at all.   If your income was low enough to qualify for the low-income exemptions,  at most you’d end up paying 15% of the refund in income taxes and possibly zero.

Len Raphael, CPA

 

Step by step:

1. Read the 2 op-eds.

2. The refund available any senior homeowner, regardless of income, who was over 65 as of June 30, 2015, is the $120 Measure N rebate from OUSD that started  2015-16.

3. If you might qualify as low-income for the calendar year listed on the form, read the material I link to below in item 7. The income rules are the same for both the City and the OUSD low-income refunds. If you don’t qualify as low-income for one, you won’t for the other either. Unlike OUSD, the City only provides refunds to low-income homeowners.

4. Download and read the 2015-16 OUSD application form. OUSD Parcel Tax Refunds. The deadline is April 15, 2016 NOT June 30, 2016.

5. If you qualify as low-income, download and read the 2015-16 City application form. City Refund Application  To make this even more confusing, the due date for the City 2015-16 application is June 30, 2016.

6. If you are not applying for the low-income exemptions, skip Part 2 of the OUSD application. Just fill out Parts 1, 3, and 4 of OUSD. Also skip the City application refunds because those are only for low-income homeowners.

7. The application forms list the max income allowed for particular size household for specific year to qualify as low-income. If you’re above the income because of wages or social security or disability you’re probably sol. If because of pension or IRA income, you might still qualify if you haven’t recovered your own contributions yet. see the FAQ and guidelines on the City parcel tax section of my website.

8. The income ceilings are same for OUSD and the City refunds but read the forms to make sure of what year they consider. For the 2015-16 applications it was your income for 2014.

9. If your income for the year was too high, but you were 65 or older as of June 30, 2015 you still qualify for the OUSD senior $120 rebate. Easy to fill out the form. Same form as for low-income. Simple documentation.

10. If your income for 2011, 2012, 2013 was low enough to qualify as low-income, you can apply for a refund for those years for sure with OUSD and maybe with the City if the City finally issues a statement on this. (read my op-eds or the comments I posted online at the Tribune site). OUSD has released a “multi-year” refund application for those back years which I uploaded to my site. The document links on the OUSD official site are unstable.

11. Read the application again to make sure you have attached a copy of the documents required.

a. if you are applying only for the OUSD senior $120 refund you do need to include a copy of your tax bill for the tax year that matches the year shown on the application. You don’t need proof of payment.  See (b) if you misplaced your tax bill.

b. if you are applying for the City  low-income refunds, you will need to attach proof of payment and proof of income. Even though the City only requires proof of payment which could be copies of checks,  OUSD requires copies of the tax bills but not proof of payment. Could they have made this any more confusing?  Call the Alameda County Tax Collector and request a “copies of the payment receipts for your application tax period (s). List the range of payment dates.    If you are senior or disabled, there is no charge for the list. Or if able, go down in person 830 AM to 5PM.  If not able to go in person, write her a request and ask for the copy of the receipts for all the years you are applying for. Include address, parcel number if you know it, name, and your PHONE number. Marilyn will call you if she needs a fee or has questions. (The County website does show payment history but does not give owner’s name. So don’t use the website for proof of payment.)

Alameda County Tax Collector

Attn: Marilyn

1221 Oak Street

Oakland, California 94612

c. Proof of income if applying for the OUSD and City low-income exemptions. If you filed income tax returns, you will need to provide a copy for each year’s application. If misplaced your copy of any needed year, call the IRS automated line and request a free “tax return transcript” for each year you need. One for each spouse.  The IRS will mail it to your last address within 5 business days.

To order by phone, call the IRS at 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts or go to www.irs.gov and click on Order a Transcript.

If you didn’t file a return because you were below the filing requirements, you will need to provide proof of the amount of social security or other income for each year’s application. You can call Social Security to order a record of payments at 800-772-1213. Expect to wait on the line for 45 minutes and one week to receive the records.

 

 

 

Summary/Recap:

OUSD has a senior rebate of $120 that every homeowner over 65 as of the applicable date is entitled to receive. Living trusts and registered domestic partners will need to provide some more documentation to show that at least one of the resident owners was at least 65 as of the applicable date (June 30, 2015)

The City and OUSD have additional rebates/refunds for low-income homeowners of any age. To qualify for the low-income rebates, read the maximum income amounts shown on either the 2015-16 OUSD or City application form and the pdf FAQ and guidelines for what is considered to be income. The criteria are income based not asset based. There is a very low “imputed” saving account rate for liquid assets. For IRA’s and other retirement plan distributions look at the HUD faq item 33.  Many people will find that their IRA and 401k distributions are not “income” for purposes of the exemption even though they are taxable for income tax purposes. OUSD and the City follow the same HUD income rules.

Only submit copies of documents such as tax returns and property tax bills. Best to mail the applications and request proof of delivery, but do not request signature because OUSD refuses to sign certified mail 🙂

OUSD will be accepting refund applications for years prior to 2015-16. The City is dragging its feet on deciding what it will do for prior years. Stay tuned and email your council member and the Mayor to ask them.

Latest Info:

February 1, 2016  OUSD  Measure G low-income multi-year applications for three year prior to 2015-16 are now available.

As of today, February 1, 2016 the City has still not responded to my requests for a simple yes or no on accepting any prior year refund claims. They won’t accept 2015-16 applications.  Most crucially, they haven’t made any attempt to notify low-income homeowners of the exemptions. Very frustrating.

Please email/call Mayor Schaaf and Council Member -At – Large Rebecca Kaplan. Ask them to tell the City Finance Dept to take the same steps that OUSD has taken.  To rectify the City’s shabby treatment of low-income homeowners re  zero notification and failing to open up the past 4 years for back refund claims.

The +/- 5,000 low-income homeowners affected by the City parcel taxes don’t have the political clout of  the +/- 25,000 middle and upper middle seniors affected by OUSD Measure N.

Mayor Elizabeth B Schaaf

Phone(510) 238- 3141

E-Mail lschaaf@oaklandnet.com

 

Council Member-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan:

Phone  (510) 238-7008

Email atlarge@oaklandnet.com.

 

OUSD now officially provides a “multi-year” application that allows claims for  2014-13, 2013-14, 2012-13.  I’ve uploaded it.

As of Feb 2, 2015 the OUSD refunds for applications received after October 2015 have started arriving in the mail.  I’ve only heard from one person who received a City refund.

Please email me your questions and your experiences applying for these refunds. All suggestions for improving these explanations of a needlessly complicated process are appreciated. cpas@cparaa.com Since this is now my busy time of year, better to email me instead of calling if possible.

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

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