Once again, San Francisco has shown leadership in addressing property tax relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, May 4, 2020, the San Francisco County Assessor announced that she was moving the deadline for businesses to file their Business Property Statements (Form 571-L) to June 1 of this year, due to physical office closure of the San Francisco Office of Assessor-Recorder.

Normally, under state law, a 10 percent penalty automatically attaches when a taxpayer’s business property statement is filed after May 7. But, if May 7 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, then a property statement that is mailed and postmarked on the next business day is deemed to have been timely filed. Under the applicable statue, legal holidays include days when the county’s offices are closed for the entire day.

As a practical matter, most, if not all, county assessor offices across the state are closed. Yet, most assessors have been reluctant to go on the record to acknowledge this reality, and to provide relief to the taxpayers struggling to meet the May 7 deadline while working remotely in compliance with state and local health mandates. We commend Assessor Carmen Chu for extending this deadline and providing clarity for Business Property Statement filers in San Francisco.

Business Property Statement filers located outside San Francisco are encouraged to contact their assessor’s offices to seek clarity on the local policy. Although the State Board of Equalization has empaneled a Task Force to look into this issue, no statewide guidance has been provided as of this writing. Nevertheless, a certain degree of “self-help” does exist under the current statutory scheme. Notwithstanding the formal May 7 deadline, every business required to file a Business Property Statement is allowed to amend that statement without penalty until May 31 for any errors and omissions not resulting from willful intent to erroneously report. Thus, businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic can file a quick return by May 7, and then a final amended return by May 31 with no penalty.

If you have questions about this year’s filing deadlines, please contact the authors listed below.