California property tax guide

Owning and managing a property or business can be demanding and time-consuming. It often requires long hours of multitasking and making decisions as well as facing unexpected challenges. Understanding the nuances of California property tax policies and deadlines can be one of the most challenging tasks for business owners with property in California.

Though you can’t control how California localities assess property value, you can reduce your risk of noncompliance by staying up to date on various rule changes and deadlines. Doing so can keep you ahead of the game by knowing if and where you have property tax liability, and when you need to pay.

Why is property tax compliance important?

Aside from it being your legal responsibility to pay property tax in California, failure to do so can significantly impact your business. Even late payments or underpayments can result in negative outcomes for your business. Here are just a few of the potential consequences:

  • Government tax liens or foreclosures
  • Financial penalties and accumulated interest charges
  • Audits or investigations by tax authorities 
  • Damage to your reputation in the community

It’s essential to make timely, informed decisions about your business and keep your California tax obligations in check.

Which types of businesses should be concerned about property tax compliance?

Companies of all sizes may face new tax obligations when they acquire other companies, buy or sell properties in new jurisdictions, or purchase major assets.

It’s important to note that property tax generally falls into two distinct categories: real and personal.  

Real property taxes:

  • Include land, plus the buildings and fixtures permanently attached to it
  • Are assessed on agricultural, commercial, industrial, residential, and utility property
  • Apply in all 50 states

Personal property taxes: 

  • Include movable items such as machinery, fixtures, and other equipment — property not permanently affixed to land 
  • Are assessed only on property used in business
  • Apply in 43 states

Why is property tax compliance so complex?

Tracking and managing property tax compliance is challenging due to changing laws, due dates, rates, and filing requirements.

Here’s a quick look at various California property tax deadlines:

Personal property

Is personal property taxable?

Assessment date for personal property tax

Appeal deadline for personal property tax

Payment deadline for personal property tax

Return filing deadline for personal property tax


January 1

September 15, in counties where a value notice is supplied by August 1;

November 30 in other counties

August 31

April 1

Real property

Is real property taxable?

Assessment date for real property tax

Appeal deadline for real property tax

Payment deadline for real property tax


January 1

September 15, in counties where a value notice is supplied by August 1;

November 30 in other counties

First installment: December 10 

Second installment: April 10

Simplify California property tax management

Avalara Property Tax simplifies property tax management across the United States by capturing and validating key data points from over 20,000 assessing and collecting jurisdictions automatically. That means you can skip looking up due dates, mailing addresses, and depreciation tables and spend your time on more valuable tasks, like reducing your organization’s tax liability or growing your business.

Learn more about how Avalara Property Tax can help your business.

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