Property Tax Penalty Cancellation Requests

As a general rule, the Revenue and Taxation code allows cancellation of property tax penalties in circumstances beyond the taxpayers' control, where the taxpayer has not been negligent. Please note: Financial hardship has not been interpreted as cause to cancel penalties under California law. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions, below, for more information on what may qualify for property tax penalty cancellation.

Frequently Asked Questions

I want to dispute penalties. What can I do?

Taxpayers have the right to request a cancellation of a penalty assessed on secured and unsecured property tax bills by the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector (ACTTC). Taxpayers may request a penalty cancellation either in writing or by the submission of a completed Penalty Cancellation Request Form.  Taxpayers submitting a completed penalty cancellation request should normally receive a response from the ACTTC within seven (7) business days. There are three (3) methods for taxpayers to submit their request for a penalty cancellation, these methods include:

Receipt Method Secured/Unsecured
Online Request Form Penalty Cancellation Request Form
In Person

County Government Center
1055 Monterey St., Room D290
San Luis Obispo, CA  93408

Print Penalty Cancellation Request Form

U.S. Mail Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector
1055 Monterey St., Room D290
San Luis Obispo, CA  93408

Print Penalty Cancellation Request Form
Under what criteria are penalty cancellations considered?

California Revenue and Taxation Code §4985.2 allows for cancellation of penalties, costs or other charges associated with a tax delinquency if failure to make timely payment due to reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer's control and the taxpayer was not negligent. We understand that sometimes mail does go astray, sometimes credit card transactions fail to transfer, and sometimes electronic checks fail to be processed.  In these cases we require valid documentation which provides evidence that your payment was made timely.

PLEASE NOTE: FINANCIAL HARDSHIP HAS NOT BEEN INTERPRETED AS CAUSE TO CANCEL PENALTIES UNDER CALIFORNIA LAW.

What is beyond the taxpayer's control?

  • A medical emergency involving you on the last day to pay taxes.
  • The death of an immediate family occurs on the last day to pay taxes.
  • Theft of mail within the U.S. Postal Service's control.

What is not beyond the taxpayer's control?

  • You experienced financial hardship and could not pay on time.  There is no provision of law that allows the Tax Collector to cancel penalties for this reason.
  • You have always paid your property taxes on time.
  • You were on vacation or out of the country and forgot to pay.

Each request must stand on its own merit.  The key is that the Tax Collector's office must be convinced beyond doubt that the late payment was beyond the taxpayer's control (R&T Code §4985.2).
The following summarizes key sections of the California Revenue & Taxation (R&T) Code that provide the legal basis to determine when a tax payment is considered timely, or when a tax penalty cancellation request can be granted. For the complete R&T Code go to: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml

What laws determine when a tax payment is considered timely, or when a tax penalty cancellation request can be granted?

For the complete R&T Code go to: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml

R&T Code §2512 A mailed tax payment is considered timely when it is postmarked on or prior to the delinquency date by the United States Postal Service (foreign postmarks and private metered postage are not acceptable).

R&T Code §2610.5 Failure to receive annual tax bill is never grounds to cancel a tax penalty.

R&T Code §4911.1(a) If the taxpayer can demonstrate that the current taxes were paid on a wrong parcel by mistake; Tax Collector shall cancel the credit on the unintended property and transfer the payment to the property intended; provided the payment was received on time for the correct amount of the tax due and before the property has transferred ownership, and before two years have elapsed since the date of payment.

R&T Code §4920-4925 A penalty may be canceled if the taxpayer can demonstrate that prior year taxes were paid on a wrong parcel by mistake and the payment was received on time for the correct amount of the tax due.

R&T Code §4985 A penalty may be canceled upon showing proof that the payment was not made timely, or made in the proper amount, because of information expressly given to the taxpayer in writing by the County.

R&T Code §4985.2 A penalty may be canceled if the failure to pay on time is shown to be for reasons outside taxpayer's control, provided the taxpayer is not negligent. Failure of the post office to postmark mail timely does not constitute grounds for penalty cancellation under this section.

R&T Code §4986 A penalty may be canceled to correct a specified error on the part of the County.