It is standard procedure that the City & County of San Francisco will bill you for property taxes based on the last transfer of the property - otherwise - the last sales price. That would be your general tax bill. Once they "catch on" that there has been a transfer of the property to a new buyer, they will send you a supplemental tax bill, which calculates the tax on the difference between the last sales price (what the seller paid when they purchased) and the new sales price (what you paid as the buyer). I've heard recently that it is taking the city about 2 years to fully catch up on this difference.
Don't worry, you aren't getting away with anything. Eventually they will catch up, but keep in mind, you are responsible to pay your taxes, whether or not you receive a bill. It's total craziness.
As mentioned, the County should be reassessing your property based on your purchase price which is the norm. If your purchase price is higher than what the seller's assessed value was at time of sale, then you would get a supplemental tax bill (the bill should read Supplemental Property Tax Bill" or something to that affect). The county will eventually correct any errors or catch up with making the changes to the property so I would suggest that you contact them to try and correct any errors before it comes back to haunt you.
Rich Bennett, Realtor
http://www.-76-78Prosper.com http://www.LansingStCondo.com http://www.115-117States.com
Zephyr Real Estate
There are some good answers below. A word of advice is to keep your closing paperwork accessible, as well as the contact information for your escrow officer/title company. They can be of help when you finally receive the supplemental tax bill and if you have questions about what's been paid and what hasn't.
You'll get it all figured out and don't be afraid to ask for help. It is indeed a bit confusing.
When you purchase an existing home you actually temporarily inherit the prior owners tax rate/amount. This happens because it takes the County some time to recognize the change in ownership, which triggers a Supplemental Tax bill. The County then levies the new tax based on last sale price on January 1st of the next year. As Oggi mentions, budget for the supplemental tax bill that is coming.
Because the Fiscal Tax year starts July 1 there is some payment overlap, you can see this here:
FYI, one way to know when your taxes are due and delinquent is to remember the saying, "No Darn Fooling Around", or NDFA.
Apr - Delinquent
Here are some important tax dates for property owners:
January 1: The assessment of property applies as of 12:01 a.m. on this day each year. (Effective 1-1-97)
February 15: Legal deadline for filing exemption claims for welfare, cemetery, college and exhibitions. (Effective 1-1-98)
February 15: Legal deadline for filing an exemption claim for homeowners, veterans and disabled veterans. (Effective 1-1-98)
April 1: Due date for filing Business Personal Property statements.
April 10: Last day to pay second installment of property taxes without penalty.
May 7: Legal deadline for filing business personal property statements without penalty. If May 7 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, a property statement that is mailed and postmarked on the next business day shall be deemed to have been filed between the lien date and 5 p.m. on May 7.
July 1: Assessment roll delivered by Assessor to County Auditor-Controller.
July 2 - September 15: Period during which requests for hearings before the Assessment Appeals Board on regular fiscal year assessments must be filed in writing.
Mid-July: Annual mailing of assessment notices to all County real property owners stating the taxable value of the property.
August 31: Regular roll unsecured taxes due.
December 10: Legal deadline for filing a late exemption claim for homeowners, veterans and disabled veterans.
December 10: Last day to pay first installment of property taxes without penalty.
Additional info can be found here:
"Estimating Property Taxes in CA"