Death Tax Ballot Initiative to “Fix” Last Year’s Proposition 19 Tax Hike


In November 2020, California voters unfortunately narrowly approved Proposition 19, which is known as “The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act.” Under Proposition 19, homeowners 55 and older or that are disabled pay lower property taxes when moving to a new, more expensive residence by carrying over their previous home’s lower property tax assessment. However, also under Proposition 19, children or grandchildren who inherit property are now required to pay substantially higher property taxes unless they inherit the primary residence of the deceased and utilize that property as their primary residence. For those of us with second homes or that own rental properties, our descendants will pay substantially higher property taxes when inheriting our properties because of Proposition 19. Prior to the passage of Proposition 19, inherited property maintained the same, lower property tax assessment that existed previously.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has launched an effort to reverse the damaging property tax increase on inherited homes and businesses that was enacted with the passage of Proposition 19. The proposed ballot initiative would reinstate Propositions 58 and 193 so that parents could again be able to transfer a home and a limited amount of other property to their children without triggering reassessment and a property tax increase. Under the proposed ballot initiative, there would be no limit on property values for transfers of a primary residence that would trigger a reassessment, and transfers of other property (e.g., other than a primary residence) up to $2.4 million in value would be permitted without triggering reassessment for property taxes.

The “Title and Summary” of the proposed ballot initiative that has been filed with the California Attorney General’s Office is provided below:

“November 1, 2021, Initiative 21-0015 (Amendment 1) The Attorney General of California has prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure: ELIMINATES PROPERTY TAX REASSESSMENT FOR CERTAIN FAMILY REAL PROPERTY TRANSFERS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Exempts from property tax reassessment transfers of primary residences between parents and children (and grandparents to grandchildren if parents are deceased), regardless of value (removing cap set in 2020 by Proposition 19). Also exempts transfers between same family members of other real property valued up to $2.4 million (e.g., second homes, rental/business properties). Reduces local property tax revenues and eliminates California Fire Response Fund created by Proposition 19. Requires state to reimburse local agencies for property tax losses due to Proposition 19’s other tax changes. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Increased state costs of hundreds of millions of dollars per year to cover recent local government property tax losses. These costs would grow over time, possibly to $1 billion or more per year. Local government funding would decline by tens of millions of dollars per year. Over time, these losses would grow to hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Schools would have losses of similar amounts. (21-0015A1)”

An analysis of the proposed ballot initiative has been prepared by the California Legislative Analysts Office. A link to that report is provided here: fiscal-impact-estimate-report(21-0015A1).pdf.

To ensure its passing, a lot of misinformation surrounded the campaign for Proposition 19, such as the false assertion that Propositions 58 and 193 only helped wealthy, out-of-state, trust-fund heirs. In fact, Propositions 58 and 193 protect all homeowners and all families that have invested some of their life savings in real estate. Even California’s County Assessors recognized immediately the damage inflicted by the new law. Los Angeles County Assessor, Jeffrey Prang, bluntly stated in a commentary for the Santa Clarita Signal that, “Proposition 19 may actually drive working-class families of modest means into selling their homes, family farms as well as other property to avoid an enormous unintended tax burden because the property faces reassessment.”

It is believed that approximately 1.5 million signatures will be needed by the end of April to ensure that the “Repeal the Death Tax Act” will appear on the November 2022 ballot.