Function and Purpose of Appeals Board

Section 1601 defines county board as "a county board of supervisors meeting as a county board of equalization or an assessment appeals board." Throughout this manual, unless otherwise noted, we use the term appeals board when referring to the body charged with the equalization function for the county. The function of an appeals board is to determine the full value of property or to determine other matters of property tax assessment over which the appeals board has jurisdiction. Section 15606, subdivision (c), of the Government Code authorizes that the State Board of Equalization will "prescribe rules and regulations to govern local boards of equalization when equalizing…." Pursuant to that provision, the State Board promulgated Property Tax Rule 302 which enumerates the functions of an appeals board as follows:

(a) The functions of the board are:

(1) To lower, sustain, or increase upon application, or to increase after giving notice when no application  has been filed, individual assessments in order to equalize assessments on the local tax assessment roll,
(2) To determine the full value and, where appealed, the base year value of the property that is the subject of the hearing,
(3) To hear and decide penalty assessments, and to review, equalize, and adjust escaped assessments on that roll except escaped assessments made pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code section 531.1,
(4) To determine the classification of the property that is the subject of the hearing, including classifications within the general classifications of real property, improvements, and personal property. Such classifications may result in the property so classified being exempt from property taxation.
(5) To determine the allocation of value to property that is the subject of the hearing, and
(6) To exercise the powers specified in sections 1605.5 and 1613 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

(b) Except as provided in subsection (a)(4), the board has no jurisdiction to grant or deny exemptions or to  consider allegations that claims for exemption from property taxes have been improperly denied.

(c) The board acts in a quasi-judicial capacity and renders its decision only on the basis of proper evidence presented at the hearing.

In discharging its duties, an appeals board "is exercising judicial functions, and its decisions as to the value of the property and the fairness of the assessment so far as amount is concerned constitutes an independent and conclusive judgment of the tribunal created by law for the determination of that question which abrogates and takes the place of the judgment of the assessor upon that question." Thus, an appeals board is a quasi-judicial body. It has some of the characteristics of a court of law as it adjudicates disputes between taxpayers and the assessor, and its decisions are legally binding and enforceable. However, rules of evidence and other matters of procedure are less formal than in a court of law. Nevertheless, due process requires that an appeals board must give each side a reasonable notice of hearing and an opportunity to present its case and to question the other side's evidence and witnesses. Furthermore, an appeals board, as a quasi-judicial body, has the right to pass on its own jurisdiction in the first instance.

In the process of determining the value of property, an appeals board is generally limited to the evidence presented by the assessor and taxpayer. An appeals board may, on its own motion, request the assessor or taxpayer to provide specific evidence and may examine the assessor and taxpayer on evidence they present; however, the appeals board members should not individually obtain evidence on their own, or consider evidence provided by individual board members. An appeals board's decision is final and may not be reheard by the board even if requested by the assessor or taxpayer. Furthermore, an appeals board may not reconsider or rehear its own decision on an application unless a court so orders, except as provided in Rule 326 and discussed in Chapter 9 of this manual.

On appeal, a court's review of an appeals board's findings of factual issues is limited to a determination of whether the appeals board's findings were supported by substantial evidence presented at the appeals hearing. An appeals board's factual determination of value may not be set aside by a reviewing court unless it was fraudulent, arbitrary, involved an abuse of discretion, or unless the board failed to follow standards prescribed by the Legislature. However, an appeals board's findings on legal issues (including the valuation method used by an appeals board) are subject to complete review by a court on appeal.

An appeals board has no jurisdiction to grant or deny exemptions, to decide disputes involving tax rates, local governmental budgets, tax bills, tax policy, and has no authority to consider a taxpayer's ability to pay in making its determination.

Assessment Appeals Manual
State Board of Equalization
May 2003