By Joe Harn, CPA
El Dorado County Auditor-Controller
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The Cal Fire Fee bills are scheduled to be mailed to El Dorado County property owners March 11-18. This bill should be addressed to the owner of record as of July 1, 2013. Below is pertinent information for those who receive a bill.
• The bill must be paid within 30 days from the notice date to avoid a 10 percent penalty and 0.5 percent monthly interest on the fee, even if you file a timely appeal to the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center.
• Check your Fire Prevention Fee bill carefully for accuracy.
• If you were not the owner of the property on July 1, 2013, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center.
• Property located within the city limits of Placerville or South Lake Tahoe aren’t in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) and shouldn’t be billed. If your property is in the city and you receive a bill, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center. Note that your tax bill includes the Tax Rate Area (TRA) of the property. TRAs within the incorporated city limits of Placerville start with 001, while South Lake Tahoe starts with 002. If you believe your TRA is incorrect, please contact the El Dorado County Auditor at 530-621-5456.
• If your property is located in a Local Responsibility Area (LRA) (e.g. certain areas such as specific parts within El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park), then the property shouldn’t be billed. If you receive a bill, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center. SRA maps can be found at firepreventionfee.org.
• If your property is located on federally owned land, it is in a Federal Responsibility Area (FRA) and shouldn’t be billed. If you receive a bill, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center. SRA maps can be found at firepreventionfee.org.
• If the number of habitable structures listed on the bill is wrong, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center. You may need to contact the county Assessor if your property records are incorrect. To see the Assessor’s online property information, go to edcgov.us/Assessor. Click the “On Line Property Information” link on the left. Enter your APN and check the total units shown in the “Property Characteristics” section.
• The 2013-14 bills are $152.33 per habitable structure. If your property is located within the boundary of a local agency that provides fire protection, the bill should include a $35 discount per habitable structure. Per the state Board of Equalization, on average, 97 percent of bills statewide have the $35 discount. To see if your property is within the boundary of a local agency that provides fire protection, go to edcgov.us/Assessor. Click the “On Line Property Information” link and enter your APN. If this confirms that your property should have received the discount, file a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center. If no local agency providing fire protection is listed at the Assessor’s Website, contact the local agency you believe provides fire protection.
• File a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center to be included in the group of those that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) lawsuit is asking for refunds, should their Class Action lawsuit prevail.
• AB 2510 and SB 1327 have been introduced to require the state to provide a full refund to all individuals who paid a tax later declared unconstitutional or illegal, should the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) Class Action lawsuit prevail. This is potential legislation and should not be relied upon to guarantee a refund. Filing a timely appeal with the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center is the only way to guarantee a refund, presuming the HJTA’s lawsuit prevails.
• In addition, write “Paid in Protest” on the bill and the check, as it may provide some benefit.
• Your appeal to the state Fire Prevention Fee Service Center must be made within 30 days of the date on your bill. Do not mail your appeal and your payment together. Make sure you follow the directions for each item. If you appeal, you will receive a notice with the decision within 60 days. Paying the fee does not, in any way, affect consideration of your appeal. If your protest is denied and you have not paid the bill, the penalty and interest are applied.
• Make copies for your own records.
• Firepreventionfee.org is the official Cal Fire Website for obtaining a protest form and other information.
• Calfirefee.com is the Website sponsored by state Board of Equalization member George Runner in opposition to the State Fire Prevention Fee.
• The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has information, including the lawsuit, at firetaxprotest.org.
• If you do not have access to the Internet, contact the El Dorado County Auditor for assistance. The office is located at 360 Fair Lane in Placerville and office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the phone number is 530-621-5456.