State Board of Equalization:
More Than 20 Percent Not Paying Fire Tax Bills; 78,000 Appeals Filed  

Fire tax administration woes continue, State Board of Equalization staff told the board at this week’s BOE meeting in Sacramento. In response to a question from BOE Member George Runner, staff reported that 20.6 percent of the fire tax bills for 2011-12 have not been paid. This level of non-compliance is very unusual, and likely represents a protest by taxpayers of what they believe to be an unfair tax.

Further, 78,000 appeals have been received from taxpayers as of March 8. This is almost three times more than all property tax appeals heard in all counties in 2011-12.

Taxpayer indignation is likely to increase when the board starts to send out the next round of bills (for 2012-13) in April, in the same fiscal year that the bills for 2011-12 were sent. Since this may appear to taxpayers that they are being taxed twice, BOE Property and Special Taxes Division Chief David Gau said the new bills will have a statement explaining why taxpayers are getting two bills within a 12-month period.

The second round of bills will be arriving in Alameda County in early April, and the board will continue through the counties in alphabetic order, culminating with Yuba County residents finding fire tax bills in their mailboxes in July.

At least the new bills will be more colorful, as the BOE is switching from white envelopes to a new design that uses color. Mr. Gau said taxpayers may be more likely to open envelopes with color, as they will stand out. This also will help the BOE process returns, staff said. Return envelopes will be blue (to match the feeling of taxpayers). Taxpayers will be advised that electronic payments are preferred. Also, the BOE is sending information to county assessors to help them answer questions about the tax.

During the BOE meeting, the board did not discuss a suit that was filed this week by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to challenge the legality of the fire tax.

March 15, 2013
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