CALIFORNIA – Homeowners in designated State Responsibility Areas (SRA) throughout the state will soon be receiving another bill for what has become known as the Rural Fire Fee.
Beginning in 2012, anyone living in an SRA is required to pay $150 per habitable structure on their property. An SRA is an area where the state bears the primary responsibility for fire suppression and prevention.
The bill received by property owners in the fall of 2012 was retroactive for the time period July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Now the California State Board of Equalization, which was allotted $6.2 million in funding to hire new employees to collect the fee, will begin sending out the next round of bills.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has file a lawsuit, contending that “this fee is really an illegal tax under Proposition 13.” They have also encouraged property owners to protest the fee by filing a Petition for Redetermination.
For those who do not oppose the fee, they can simply send in their payment. For those who wish to protest it, HJTA is offering advice about this next round of bills.
“You will continue to be billed every year until we win our class action lawsuit,” says HJTA. “If you already filed the Petition for Redetermination according to the instructions on FireTaxProtest.org, and you received a denial that was not due to your Petition being late or incomplete, then you do NOT need to protest again unless you face one of three special circumstances.”
HJTA lists these conditions under which one may have to refile their protest:
- Your parcel is no longer located in the State Responsibility Area
- Your parcel has fewer habitable structures than the number billed, or
- Your bill omitted the $35 credit for a parcel located within the jurisdiction of a local fire protection agency.
“If you have not already filed the protest paperwork on FireTaxProtest.org, you should protest now,” says HJTA. “Our lawsuit continues to wind its way through the process and we will provide more information as it becomes available. Please be patient as lawsuits typically take a long time.”
HJTA also says that if a courts strikes down the fee, refunds may be ordered. To qualify for a refund, however, you must have paid your bill. You must also have filed a Petition for Redetermination with the responsible agencies, and within the time period allotted.
At least five bills to restrict or repeal the fee have been filed by republican lawmakers in the California legislature, but none has been successful thus far.