Wednesday, August 1, 2012

California property owners get slammed with a new fire tax in two weeks

Beginning in mid-August nearly 1 million rural California property owners will receive a new $150 per habitable structure tax bill that was sold as a “fire prevention fee” by the state legislature. Last year the Democratic-led legislature approved and Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill requiring property owners to cover Cal-FIRE improvements. State lawmakers skirted the 2/3rds vote threshold by renaming the new legislation a “fee” not a tax. Unhappy Republican leaders said Sacramento politics continue to bury the taxpayers with higher and higher tax rates. “I've opposed this new tax from the beginning, because I believe it is unconstitutional. The Governor and Legislature simply called it a “fee” to avoid the 2/3rds vote requirement designed to protect taxpayers,” said George Runner of the California State Board of Equalization. “As soon as possible, I intend to join a lawsuit asking the courts to halt this illegal money-grab as soon as possible. Unfortunately, no one can file the lawsuit to stop the tax until after the bills go out.” Once property owners receive the “fire prevention” bill, they must pay the state-issued invoice within 30 days or face substantial late fees and fines. “California needs a balanced budget, but we should not balance it on the backs of already overtaxed Californians,” Runner said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to protect taxpayers from this unfair and excessive taxation.” The new “fire prevention fee” claims to prevent new fire hazards, but Runner says the millions of dollars collected will be used to fund Cal-FIRE's existing bureaucracy and will not expand the state's fire prevention efforts. Even though the legislature passed the law and Cal-FIRE is implementing it, the Board of Equalization is required to send out the tax bills. In mid-August BOE will begin billing the first of 825,000 Californians who own habitable structures in a State Responsibility Area (SRA). “I'm concerned that many taxpayers will lack sufficient time to understand whether they must pay this new tax. That's why I've asked Board staff to send a pre-notice to taxpayers who will soon receive a bill. While we can't stop the bills from going out, we can at least try to make sure adequate notice is given,” Runner finished. Runner established a new website ( that provides property owners with more information as well as the latest news regarding this law. For more stories; © Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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