The City’s Finance Department calculated the current seven parcel taxes and BUSD two assessment taxes based on an expansive BMC interpretation and confusing methodology for calculating BSFT (building-square footage tax) unique to Berkeley. The finance department computes the taxes for both agencies and sends the amount owed to the County for collection.
BSFT may be quite different from the BSFT in County Tax Assessor’s Office. A recent sample of houses listed for sale yielded about a 30% rate of under-assessed properties. This results in considerable lost revenue over the years. Berkeley Finance’s alternative BSFT is not disclosed during property sales, nor is it disclosed on the county tax bill or Finance Department webpage. Instead they direct you to Alameda County parcel viewer or City of Berkeley parcel webpage which both use the county’s numbers. To see a graphic of the entire City’s underassessed and over assessed properties, click here.
BSFT has been used since 1980, when the first parcel tax based on BSFT was levied. No other city in Alameda County has uses this dubious method. In 1993, 1994, 2005, and 2009, the City Auditor warned the Mayor and Council with detailed reports and recommended controls to fix errors in the data systems. The status of these fixes is unclear. Go to our Historical Documents page to peruse these documents.
If you are a Berkeley property owner, use the square-footage tax calculator and the amount owed as shown on your 2019-20 tax bill to find your property’s BSFT and compare it to your County BSFT. Then follow the steps we recommend to ask the City for a Correction.
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