California’s Court of Appeal again held that a special tax measure placed on the local ballot as a citizen initiative required only a simple majority, not a supermajority, vote to pass.
Proposition G is a school parcel tax initiative that passed on San Francisco’s June 2018 ballot with 60.76% of the vote. The Proposition G school parcel tax is a special tax—in other words, the expenditure of its revenues is dedicated to a specific project or projects—and not a general tax, which revenues roll into the locality’s general fund. Here, the Proposition G school parcel tax funds are earmarked for educators’ salaries, staffing, professional development, technology, charter schools, and oversight of funding.
California’s Court of Appeal held a local sales tax ordinance (Measure K) was a general tax, not a special tax, and therefore its adoption did not require a two-thirds vote (supermajority) under California’s Constitution. A tax is “special” and therefore would require a two-thirds vote, when the expenditure of its revenues is dedicated to a specific project or projects. The plaintiffs argued that Measure K was a special tax because the funds were earmarked for the funding of the county’s public safety services and essential services. The Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding tax proceeds that are deposited in a separate account for unspecified “other essential services” could be used for any and all government services that qualify as an “essential service” and are therefore not dedicated to a specific project or purpose, indicative of a general tax. Thus, the court held Measure K was valid.
Much to the recent surprise of many in the tax community, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (“CDTFA”) is able to adopt or amend regulations without the normal review process by the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) under the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). Continue Reading ›
In 2018, San Francisco voters approved, by simple majority vote, two new gross receipts taxes: the Homelessness Gross Receipts Tax (SF-HT) and the Commercial Rents Tax (SF-CRT), with both taxes effective as of January 1, 2019. Because these taxes fund specific governmental services, they are designated as special taxes (specifically, the SF-HT funds homelessness services and the SF-CRT funds early childhood education). Since the California Constitution specifies that special taxes imposed by local government need two-thirds voter approval (i.e., a “supermajority”), taxpayer groups have filed lawsuits to invalidate these special taxes, as both were approved by only a majority vote (61% for the SF-HT and 51% for the SF-CRT). As discussed more fully below, the courts have ruled against these taxpayer groups and the California Supreme Court to date has refused review.
The pressing question is whether San Francisco taxpayers, who paid the SF-HT and/or the SF‑CRT for 2019 and 2020, should be filing claims to protect their rights to refunds in the unlikely (but not impossible) event that these taxes are ultimately rendered invalid.
Real Estate markets in major cities have taken a hit given the events of the past year. In the latest Swimming Lessons Series presentation, SALT partner Craig Becker and Real Estate partner Andrew Weiner explore the intersection of transfer tax and enforcement in New York and California. Continue Reading ›
Pillsbury SALT partners Craig Becker and Breann Robowski will present during Pillsbury’s 2021 California CLE Marathons. This event features a wide variety of live webinars on timely topics. Craig and Breann will present “California Property, Transfer and Local Tax Updates” on Monday, January 25. Continue Reading ›