Bill Requiring Property Tax Agents to Register Like Lobbyists Heads to Gov. Brown

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The California State Legislature passed legislation authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, establishing a statewide registration system for agents who represent property owners in property tax appeals before county assessors and assessment appeals boards.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2415 passed the Assembly today with a 48-27 vote, following a 22-12 Senate vote earlier this week.  The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for final action.

“We need to restore trust in the fairness of our property tax system,” said Ting, who served as the Assessor-Recorder of San Francisco prior serving in the State Assembly.  “Registration requirements on lobbyists exist for greater transparency and accountability in government. We need these results from regulating property tax agents.  Some communities have their own standards but a strong state law can do more to curb unethical practices.”

Property tax appeals unfold within a county assessor’s office, typically through a desk review of information materials by staff.  Property tax disputes that cannot be resolved in this administrative fashion are resolved through a quasi-judicial process in assessment appeals boards.

AB 2415 protects property owners and the integrity of the property tax appeal process in the following ways.

  • Property tax agents must register with the Secretary of State.  The registrant must declare that, in the past 10 years he/she has not been convicted of any tax law violations; has not been convicted of any other criminal offense involving dishonesty, breach of trust, or moral turpitude; and has not had his or her professional license to practice as an attorney, certified public accountant, public accountant, or actuary revoked.
  • The Secretary of State will develop and make public a list of registered tax agents.
  • Tax agents will be prohibited from engaging in certain activities, such as making campaign contributions to assessor candidates or gifts of any monetary value to a county official.  They will also be prohibited from representing taxpayers without first being registered.
  • Each violation of the bill shall be subject to a civil penalty up to $1,500 in an action brought by the Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney.
  • On its website, the Secretary of State will list agents who have violated the provisions in the bill, or whose license as an attorney, certified public accountant, public accountant, or actuary has been revoked.

Ting’s bill was inspired by multiple arrests and indictments, in 2012, resulting from an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney of improper property tax reductions granted to over 100 people.  The investigation originated from complaints within the assessor’s office that employees were pressured to lower property taxes for politically connected people.

Additional information is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

CONTACT: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019, anthony.matthews@asm.ca.gov