2018 homeowner tax guide: keep your base rate when selling (prop 60/90), Tax Reform and Deductions

2018 Tax Seson Hacks


Now that the New Year’s hangover has worn off, we come to the quick realization that tax time is upon us. With new laws coming out of the White House, many homeowners have this year’s taxes top of mind more than usual.

Let’s go through some of the hot topics that you may or may not be aware of:

Transferring Your Tax Base When Selling Your Home

At the time of purchase, California homeowners establish their homes property tax rate base. This amount is always 1% of the purchase price. Going forward, property taxes can increase if the assessed value of the home increases, however, thanks to Proposition 13, a law approved by California voters in 1978, this amount cannot increase by more than two percent each year.

There are additional local city/county taxes (Mello Roos for example) as well, but for simplicity we will not delve into those for this story.

Homeowners that have owned their properties for a long time have a tax rate base significantly lower than more recent homeowners. However, if someone was to move they would jump into a current rate base and have a significant increase in property taxes even if the current value of the sold home was near the value of the new home.

Enter Proposition 60


In 1986 California voters passed Proposition 60 which allows seniors to transfer their property tax rate base to another property. There are some caveats: 1. You must transfer to another home within the same county 2. Homeowner (or at least one spouse) must be 55 years of age or older (hardly senior these days) 3. The new property must be of equal and lesser value of the sold home (based on sold price) 4. You must buy the new property within two years of selling the first property 5. The transfer can only happen one time (applies to co-owners and to spouses).

Proposition 90, passed in 1988, extends the possibilities of Prop 60 by allowing for inter-county transfers within certain other counties in California (not all counties participate). The current Prop 90 counties are: Alameda, El Dorado, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Ventura.

Here is a hypothetical family scenario that can help explain:

In 1988 Sally and John Stickley purchased a quaint little bungalow for $190,000 establishing a property tax rate base of $1,900. Over the years they have done improvements and the market has climbed up and dipped down only to climb again. By 2018, thirty years after purchase, their property tax bill has risen to $3,900 while the value of their home has risen to $897,750.00.

This is a pretty common scenario for Bungalow Heaven. If they were to buy their same home today, their property taxes would be almost $9,000 a year.

"Stickley Home"

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 6.04.55 AM.png

Purchase Year:                               1988

Original Purchase Price:               $190,000

Original  Property Tax:                $1,900

Current Tax Base:                         $3,900

Current Value:                              $897,750

Now that the Stickley’s are in their late 60’s and their only son Gustav has grown up and started his own family, Sally and John are considering moving to Palm Springs for the health benefits that it’s climate brings.

The condo they are considering can be purchased for $600,000.  John and Sally love the ability to bank almost $300,000 for retirement but the property tax difference on a new condo would be over $2,000 more a year which could equate to a large chunk of the retirement over the next few years.


"Save over $31,000 over the next fifteen years"

However, thanks to Proposition 60, the Stickley’s can transfer their low tax base to their new condo and save over $31,000 over the next fifteen years.

Those that qualify for the benefits of Prop 60/90 can rest in the fact that the low tax rate base that they have earned can stay with them in a move.

To have a discussion about any concerns you have regarding Proposition 60 or Proposition 90, Fill Out This Form

Name *

Tax Law Changes:

With tax reform in the rear-view mirror, there are several changes homeowners will face when it comes to file their 2018 taxes. None of these apply to the 2017 taxes that you will file now.

1.     Mortgage Interest Deduction. Homes purchased after Dec 15th 2017 may deduct the interest paid on a mortgage up to $750,000 (was $1 million prior).

2.     Property Tax Deduction is capped at $10,000 now.

3.     Home equity deduction. The deduction for home equity loans eliminated.

4.     Second Homes Interest Deduction: Reduced to interest up to $750,000 like primary homes.

5.     Moving Expenses Deduction: Eliminated for all except for active military.


Capital Gains: After selling a property, you have a gain of profits over what you purchased the property for, if you have owned your home for some time, this could be substantial. The taxes on it would be also. Capital Gain tax law allows you to exclude up to $500,000 of capital gain income. No changes to this for 2018.

Website NerdWallet has a great summary of all of these changes and a calculator to see how you will be specifically affected. See it HERE.

Homeowner Deductions

While there are still some lingering questions about itemized deductions for 2018 taxes, 2017 itemizing is still very much a viable game plan for taxes. Those that itemize are always on the lookout for deductions that may have missed and there are a lot of possibilities to ponder. For example, did you know certain dog breeds can be written off as guard dogs if you work from home? Or that the interest on student loan debt that you pay for your kids can be claimed. Another lesser known write-off are Medicare premiums for self-employed. There are a lot and a great tax accountant will help you get the most without getting in trouble.

Deductions can go really right or really wrong, you should without a doubt consult a tax professional to discuss all of your potential write offs. One often suggested piece of advice is to do the research on common deductions, note which you believe apply to you and ask about them specifically with your tax planner/accountant. Kiplinger’s put out an interesting collection of overlooked write offs just before tax time last year. Find it here: LINK

Disclaimer: There are many nuances to taxes and your specific situation will affect the bottom line and therefore, I recommend you speak with your account or tax professional about your specific situation.

Michael RobletoComment