You Have a Right to Appeal
If you disagree with your property tax assessment, you have the right to file an Application for Changed Assessment.
A valid and timely Application for Changed Assessment will be scheduled for a hearing before the Assessment Appeals Board. At this hearing both you and the Assessor's Office must present evidence to support your opinions of value. The Assessment Appeals Board will determine a value based on the evidence presented by both sides at the hearing.
Common Assessment Types and Filing Timelines
Backlog - Due to the current real estate market conditions, the Sonoma County Assessment Appeals Board receives thousands of Applications for Changed Assessment annually and is working through a substantial backlog. Unfortunately, this backlog has resulted in approximately an 18-20 month wait time for a hearing. While the statutory mandate allows for up to two years for a hearing, the Sonoma County Assessment Appeals Board is working to decrease the wait time and sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience.
Applications - You must file one application for each assessment that you disagree with. Each application deals with that specific assessment, and will not serve to challenge other assessments. (For example, if you file an Application for Changed Assessment to challenge your 2011/2012 regular assessment and you disagree with your 2012/2013 regular assessment, you must file another Application for Changed Assessment, even if you have not had a hearing for the pending 2011/2012 application.)
Checking Assessed Value - If you disagree with the assessed value of your property on the annual Sonoma County Tax Roll (Regular Assessment), you must file an application between July 2 and November 30. It is important to check the assessed value of any property you may own to ensure that it has been properly assessed. You may do so by checking the Assessor’s website.
Paying Your Taxes - It is very important to understand that filing an assessment appeal does not relieve an owner of the responsibility for paying any outstanding tax bill(s), no matter how unfair the owner may feel the bill(s) to be. If you do not pay the bill in a timely manner, you may incur penalties and interest charges that could otherwise be avoided. If you pay a bill and the Appeals Board subsequently lowers the assessed value, you will be refunded any excess taxes you may have paid.
Download the Application for Changed Assessment (PDF: 765 kB) or request a copy from the Assessment Appeals Board:
Assessment Appeals Board
You can also download a Sample Application for Changed Assessment (PDF: 402 kB). Please note that this sheet is an example of a completed form for one type of appeal only.
CAUTION: Read all instructions prior to filing an Application for Changed Assessment. If you have questions about the Application for Changed Assessment form, please contact the State Board of Equalization, Assessment Services Unit at (916) 445-4982.
You will receive a notice approximately 45 days before your hearing date. Enclosed with the notice will be a confirmation card asking that you confirm your appearance on the designated hearing date. You must return the confirmation card by the due date listed. Failure to do so may result in a denial of your appeal.
The Assessment Appeals Board can only consider evidence presented at the hearing. Failure to adequately prepare for your hearing may adversely affect your outcome. The State Board of Equalization has a guide on the assessment appeals process that has a section that specifically covers how to prepare for your hearing. The guide can be viewed online (PDF). Please note that on page 11 of the guide, there is a Property Tax Comparison Work Sheet that is a tool to help organize your information if you are using the comparative sales approach to Value. The worksheet does not have an area to show adjustments in value to comparable sales for factors such as location, time of sale and physical features, that may differ from your subject property. Adjustments are an important part of applying the comparable sales approach to value. When preparing for your appeal, if you use the comparable sales approach, you are encouraged to amend the worksheet to include appropriate adjustments to comparable sales. When considering comparable sales, these factors often need to be addressed, so you are encouraged to add an area on the worksheet to include this data.
The State Board of Equalization has a short video on preparing for your hearing that discusses adjustments to comparable properties that can be viewed by clicking the image below:
For the hearing, please bring a copy of your hearing notice and five (5) copies of any supporting documents that you wish to present to the Board, in addition to your own copy of this material. Documents that you intend to present should be labeled Exhibit 1, 2, 3, etc.
The State Board of Equalization provides a guide on assessment appeals. Although the guide's title indicates that its focus is residential appeals, much of the same information applies to the filing of appeals on virtually any type of property. The guide may be viewed online (PDF).
The State Board of Equalization has published a video designed to provide information to taxpayers regarding the appeals process. The video is entitled Your Assessment Appeal and was developed as a collaborative effort between the Board's Taxpayers' Rights Advocate Office and the County-Assessed Properties Division. The video is available on the State Board’s Website and is divided into segments.