San Diego Property Taxes in California & Prop 15

San Diego Property Tax

The joys of living in San Diego are many and varied. California is a virtual wonderland for residents and tourists alike with stupendous sunsets, friendly neighbors, world-class dining, and endless attractions. However, not everything is bright and shiny in the Golden State.  Take San Diego property tax, for example.  Most residents will confess that property taxes in California can be confusing or downright frustrating.  Not to worry. Whether you are a new owner of La Jolla real estate, unsure about tax requirements, or just curious about Proposition 15, we have you covered.     

Complete Guide to San Diego Property Taxes

To be sure, property taxes can be complicated and costly regardless of what state in which you live.  And if you’ve ever asked, “Why are houses so expensive in California?,” the answer is partially due to high property taxes. But, while San Diego County property tax might be an expensive or a daunting fact of life for California homeowners, many good outcomes result from tax collection.  Tax dollars contribute to the vital funding of city and county services. For instance, public health services, park conservation and maintenance, resident garbage pickup, road repairs, first responder salaries, and other law enforcement services are just a few essential community functions that rely on property tax funding.

The reality of enjoying the privilege of being a Californian homeowner includes property taxes. They aren’t fun, but your taxes don’t have to be torture either. As long as you’re armed with the current regulations and familiarize yourself with the state’s requirements, you can breathe easier about tackling San Diego property tax details. That’s why we’ve laid out the facts about property tax in California; so you can have all the information you need to get through this as effortlessly as possible.   

The California Property Tax Rates

The assessed value of your home determines the California property tax rate. Initially, this assessment is based on your purchase price of the house. This assessment may fluctuate due to annual inflation, but the taxes you pay cannot exceed the 2% cap. Currently, the San Diego property tax rate is 0.73%. So to use an example, the median home value in San Diego is $526,300.  In this scenario, and at the current tax rate, the property tax owed would amount to $3868.

Are Property Taxes High in San Diego?

The going assumption is that real estate and San Diego property taxes are known for being high. In reality, San Diego County has a lower tax rate than most counties. In fact, the San Diego County property tax rate hangs right on average. Conversely, counties such as San Joaquin, Modoc, Lake, and Solano have heftier property tax rates ranging between 82-88%. The highest county property tax rate in California is Kern county weighing in at a whopping 1%.  So, viewing the overall lay of property taxes, San Diego rates are modest, comparatively.

How Does The Property Tax System Work?

The simplest explanation to this question entails three different governmental departments. First, the county Assessor assesses the value of a home. Then, an Auditor determines the tax rates to the assessed value. This ultimately indicates the property tax amount owed. After property values and tax assessments are determined, a portion of your tax payment is allocated to various state, city, and county accounts.  For example, 45.6% of all property taxes collected by the county are allocated to public school maintenance, programs, and improvements. Lastly, the Treasurer-Tax Collector mails out tax bills and collects the property tax in California counties.

How Property Taxes Are Calculated

In most states, calculating property tax in the US is relatively simple. However, many factors, amendments, and voter-mandated variables such as Proposition 13 and prop 15 in California amount to potential complications and misunderstandings for homeowners in California.

In general, your property tax is 1% of the net value of your property. However, any special assessments or additional bonds that state voters vote upon play a factor in your property tax as well. Although property taxes may vary, the Assessor is responsible for assessing the value of all homes in San Diego County, which determines how property taxes are calculated.

How Prop 15 Would Have Changed Taxing Properties in California

Before we talk about California Prop 15, it’s best to investigate the implications of a prior voter-based amendment known as Proposition 13 in California. Prop 13 was established in 1978 and saved homeowners in the Golden State from the grueling experience of paying sky-rocketing taxes on owned real estate. Prop 13 mandated that tax is limited to no more than 1% of the purchase price and can be taxed, but cannot exceed 2% of inflation (whichever is less). 

If Prop 15 in California had passed, it would have impacted how property tax allocations were distributed. For example, the voter-based initiative would have dipped into property tax funds instead of declining personal income taxes. Furthermore, about 60% of funds would have been divided among community colleges, public schools, charter schools, and county education departments. 

Prop 15 in California was largely targeted at industrial and commercial properties. The increased property taxes in these categories would have assured long-term funds to various state services. However, it was not deemed immediate relief by the voters who turned down California Prop 15 because it was a slow-roll disbursement over a five-year span. Furthermore, Proposition 15 was considered by most voters to be a controversial plan that conflicted with school and community agendas.

How San Diego Property Taxes Affect New Homeowners

If you’ve purchased a new home in La Jolla, your property tax obligation will be tied to your escrow account. For instance, your escrow may cover some taxes you owe, including the first installment of your current tax year. However, you may owe a payment for a second installment.

In most cases, the property taxes in the first year of your new home purchase is prorated. Refer to your escrow and purchase paperwork to determine how your property taxes are divested and make sure they’ve been paid in the sum total during the time of purchasing your new home.

Furthermore, be sure to sign and submit a Change of Ownership form with the San Diego County Clerk after you purchase your new property.  Neglecting to do so may result in penalties on your existing San Diego property tax owed.

California Property Tax Due Dates

Tax bills are mailed from the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office every year in October, and this is paid in two installments. The first installment is due November 1st and is delinquent after December 10th. The second payment is due February 1st, and after April 10th is considered delinquent. It is important to pay by or before California property tax due dates or before delinquent dates in order to avoid penalties and late fees. You also have the option to pay both installments at the same time when the first installment payment is due.  You should also be aware that secured California property tax payments are your responsibility, even if you do not receive your bill in the mail. If you have not gotten your tax invoice, contact the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office.

Where Can I Pay My Property Taxes in San Diego?

Whether you need a copy of a property tax bill online or make a payment you can do so on the San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector website. This website allows you to pay your secured property tax installments online with an e-check.

The Treasurer-Tax Collector also takes major credit cards for online payments. Being aware of credit usage impact on credit score may prompt you to use credit cards when paying secured property tax installments as a way to boost credit scores. However, bear in mind that a 2.19% convenience fee is added when paying by credit card, whereas paying online with an e-check is free.

You may also choose to mail your installment payments. If you elect to mail your San Diego property tax by mail, be sure it is postmarked prior to the delinquent due date to avoid penalties which are 10% after the December 10th delinquency date and 10% plus $10 after the April 10th deadline. If you need more information about mailing tax payments or secured property tax bills you may contact the San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector here:

  • Website:
  • Payment Address: P.O. Box 129009, San Diego, CA 92112
  • Payment by Phone: 1-855-829-3773
  • Tax Collections Questions Phone Line: 1-877-829-4732

What Are Property Tax Exemptions?

Some homeowners may be eligible for San Diego property tax exemptions. The most common exemption is called the Homeowners’ Property Tax Exemption. It is relatively easy to receive, and it provides a $7000 rebate on your home’s tax assessment each year you meet the criteria. To qualify for this exemption, your home must be your primary residence year-round. This exemption is for only one primary residence, cannot be applied to multiple homes, and cannot be combined with other exemptions. 

There is also a Disabled Veterans Exemption offered to eligible, verified disabled veterans. There are two levels to this exemption. One for low-income disabled veterans and the second offers assistance to veterans who are classified as 100% disabled due to blindness, loss of limbs, or other factors. For more information about property tax exemptions, contact the County Assessor’s office.

In closing, there are a lot of details involved with understanding and paying property tax in California. Understandably, paying San Diego property tax isn’t every homeowner’s dream thing to do. However, the process doesn’t have to be harrowing.  As long as you stay mindful of county and state requirements, your property tax experience should go smoothly.  And if paying property taxes stresses you out, try to remember they are a necessity for savoring all the beauty and wonders of this amazing state of California.

About the banner photo: The banner photo for this article is clipped from a photo of La Jolla on

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