County Assessor Seeks to Broaden Reach of Document Tax

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors tomorrow will consider amending a tax ordinance to clamp down on corporations that have been sidestepping fees charged whenever shares of property change hands.

Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward is bringing forward a proposal to make the county’s documentary transfer tax applicable when ”unrecorded changes in ownership” occur.

According to the Assessor-Clerk-Recorder’s office, between 2008 and 2012, new owners took possession of around 615 parcels throughout the county in transactions that went unreported at the local level. The cumulative loss to the county — due to uncollected documentary transfer taxes — was estimated at $1.5 million, officials said.

The Assessor-Clerk-Recorder’s office wants to move away from ”self- reporting” and institute a tracking mechanism whereby transfers of any significance do not escape notice.

Assistant Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Michelle Martinez told City News Service the agency is mainly interested in ensuring that corporate entities don’t get away with not paying the documentary transfer tax.

The tax, established under the California Revenue & Taxation Code, is $1.10 per $1,000 of value on real assets. It’s paid when documents of recordation are filed with the county.

According to Martinez, document transfers often go unrecorded when proprietary shares in a corporation shift from one executive to another. The county doesn’t find out about it until after the California Franchise Tax Board notifies the State Board of Equalization, after which word reaches the county, resulting in long delays.

”When an ownership interest changes, the property becomes re- appraisable,” Martinez said. ”We’re interested in those unrecorded changes of control of a property.”

Martinez said the Assessor-Clerk-Recorder’s office is seeking to modify its documentary transfer tax ordinance to ”emulate” what Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego, Santa Clara and other counties are doing to ferret out unreported changes in ownership.

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