Understanding Property Tax

Secured property taxes are calculated based on real property’s assessed value as determined annually by the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.  The secured property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2020-21 is 1.19846368%.

The term "unsecured" refers to property that is not secured real estate. The unsecured property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2020-21 is 1.1801%.   In general, unsecured property tax is either for business personal property (office equipment, owned or leased), boats, berths, or possessory interest for use of a space. It can also be based upon supplemental or escape assessments against secured property for prior ownership.

View our property tax resource guide (Español     Filipino     中文 ) to better understand how to navigate San Francisco property taxes.

Property tax timeline

Property owners pay secured property taxes calculated based on the real property’s assessed value as determined annually by the Office of the Assessor-Recorder. Secured Property Tax bills are mailed during the first two weeks of October. They are payable in two installments, due on December 10th and April 10th.  You may either pay the entire tax when the first installment is due, or pay in two installments.  The secured property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2020-21 is 1.19846368%%.

After a change in ownership or when new construction is completed, state law requires the Office of the Assessor-Recorder to reappraise the property.  If the property is reassessed at a higher value, a supplemental bill will be issued calculated on the difference between the new value and the old or prior value. Supplemental bills are often prorated for a portion of the fiscal year based upon the date of sale or date of construction.

After a change in ownership or when new construction is completed, state law requires the Office of the Assessor-Recorder to determine a new base year value for the property. The new value is determined usually by the current market value of the property and subtracting from prior assessed value. However, if the determination of the new value is delayed, an escape assessment is generated. Once the new value is determined, the Office of the Assessor-Recorder will send you notification of the new assessed amount followed by a Secured Escape bill.

Secured Escape assessments for prior fiscal years can be set up on a payment installment plan. An Escape Installment Plan allows taxpayers to make annual installment payments over a four-year period. For more information, see Secured Escape Installment Plan.

The term “unsecured" refers to property that is not secured real estate. The unsecured property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2020-21 is 1.1801%.   In general, unsecured property tax is either for business personal property (office equipment, owned or leased), boats and berths, or possessory interest for use of a space. It can also be based upon supplemental or escape assessments against secured property for prior ownership.

Unsecured Supplemental or Escape - The term “unsecured supplemental” or “unsecured escape” when attached to real property refers to an assessment that is based on prior ownership of secured property. For example, if the homeowner with a 2010 garage addition sold the property in 2012, the bills issued in 2013 to the original homeowner would be unsecured because the original homeowner no longer owns the property. The 2010 supplemental and 2011 escape would be unsecured and billed to the original homeowner. The 2013 escape would remain secured and billed to the new homeowner. As the property changed ownership in 2012, the 2012 escape bill would be split as unsecured to the prior homeowner and secured to the new homeowner.

Unsecured Escape assessments for prior fiscal years can be set up on a payment installment plan. An Unsecured Escape Installment Plan allows taxpayers to make annual installment payments over a four-year period. For more information, see Unsecured Escape Installment Plan.

Overview:

A requirement for subdivision and condo conversion is to obtain a Tax Clearance Certificate before the final map is recorded.  A Tax Clearance Certificate is a document that certifies there are no outstanding property tax obligations and that an additional security payment has been made for any estimated taxes on the existing parcel. After a final map is recorded, the existing parcel is retired from the Assessor-Recorder’s records and new parcel numbers are assigned.

Estimated taxes for assessments that have already been liened or assessed on the existing parcel are required to be collected as a security payment before it is retired. These are collected because the assessments occurred on the existing parcel – not on the future new parcels. 

All projects not recorded with the Assessor-Recorder’s office by 12/31 will need to pay estimated taxes for the next Fiscal Year.  Please budget funds accordingly and get your applications in early.

Steps:

  1. Complete an application for a Tax Clearance Certificate and submit it to tax.certificate@sfgov.org with your block and lot in the subject line.  Each parcel must be listed on its own application form.  If you are applying for Tax Clearance Certificates for multiple parcels, please attach them all to one email, with the subject line “Tax Clearance Certificate – Multiple Parcels”, and list all the blocks/lot information in the body of the email.
  2. Applications will be reviewed by the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX) staff for completeness and for outstanding taxes. Taxpayers will be notified of any outstanding tax bills and whether more information is needed to process the application. Taxpayers with complex projects involving ownership changes, new construction or other assessable events may be asked to complete a secondary form (Form B) which will be provided via email after Form A has been received.
  3. When TTX has determined the application is complete, it will be forwarded to the Office of the Assessor-Recorder (ASR) for review. ASR will review the application to ensure that any changes in ownership over the last 12 months have been recorded, and to generate new assessed values for any pending valuation. The review by ASR may take up to four weeks.
  4. After receiving the completed ASR review, TTX will supply the Taxpayer by email with a Conditional Tax Clearance Certificate listng the amounts due along with payment stubs for outstanding and estimated taxes and for fees.
  5.  Estimated taxes and the Tax Clearance Certificate Fee must be paid by wire transfer or by mail; outstanding taxes may be paid online, by wire transfer or by mail.  If paying by mail, please include the bottom stub portion of any outstanding tax bill(s) as well as the “Conditional Tax Clearance Certificate” stub, along with check made payable to San Francisco Tax Collector.   If the payments are to be wired, submit a service request for wire transfer instructions.
  6. When these payments have been made, please send email to tax.certificate@sfgov.org, advising of the date, amount, and method of payment.
  7. Once all bills noted above are paid, Tax Clearance Certificates will be issued by email.  Payments received by 5:00 PM PST Wednesdays, will receive an emailed copy of their final Tax Clearance Certificate by Friday; payments submitted after 5:00 PM PST Wednesdays will receive an emailed copy of their final Tax Clearance Certificate by email the following Friday. Copies may be sent to up to 2 taxpayer representatives and to the Department of Public Works.

How to Read Your Secured Property Tax Bill

Scroll down for descriptions of the numbered sections

Image: Page 1 of property tax bill
Image: Page 2 of property tax bill

DESCRIPTION OF THE NUMBERED SECTIONS

  1. Volume
    The city is divided into 45 volumes -- your volume number indicates the section where your property is located.
  2. Block and Lot Number
    Property is described by Block and Lot numbers according to the city's assessment map.
  3. Tax Bill No
    This is a six-digit number that uniquely identifies a property's tax bill.
  4. Property Location
    Address of the home, building, or vacant lot.
  5. Owner of Record
    Property owner as of January 1, each year.
  6. Mailing Address
    Contact the Office of the Assessor-Recorder to update your mailing address.
  7. Assessment Information
    For more information on how the assessed value is determined, contact the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.
  8. Net Taxable Value
    (Gross Taxable Value of your property) - (Exemptions)
  9. Direct Charges and/or Special Assessments
    Additional fees or outstanding city debts may be added to your property tax bill by other city departments. Contact the appropriate department, listed on your bill, directly for further information.  View list of Special Assessments.   
  10. Total Due
    (Net Taxable Value * Tax Rate) + (Total Direct Charges and Special Assessments). The total due is divided into two equal installments.
  11. Tax Rate (back of tax bill)
    The annual tax rate is recommended by the Controller, adopted by the Board of Supervisors and approved by the Mayor. The Tax Rate varies slightly from year to year.

 

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