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California Taxation

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The FamilySearch moderator for California is Jamie Mayhew

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

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Why Use Tax Records[edit | edit source]

By studying several consecutive years of tax records you may determine when a young men came of age, when individuals moved in and out of a home, or when they died leaving heirs. Authorities determined wealth (real estate, or income) to be taxed. Taxes can be for polls, real and personal estate, or schools.

Tax record content varies and may include the name and residence of the taxpayer, description of the real estate, name of original purchaser, description of personal property, number of males over 21, number of school children, slaves, and farm animals. Tax records usually are arranged by date and locality and are not normally indexed. Tax records can be used in place of missing land and census records to locate a person’s residence.

How to Use Tax Records for California[edit | edit source]

County Level[edit | edit source]

Currently there are very few tax records available in the Family History catalog . The exception are the counties of Alpine, Amador, Fresno, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.

State Level[edit | edit source]

The California State Archives has tax records from 1861 on. The main record collections are:

  • Secured Tax Rolls -- A record of all taxes levied on real property.
  • Indexes to Secured Tax Rolls -- Indexes to records of taxes levied on real property.
  • Unsecured Tax Rolls -- A record of all taxes levied on certain personal property.

For a more complete description of the contents of these records, see The Historical Record of County Government in California[1], pages 10-12 or Online California State Archives[2], page 68.

Tax Laws[edit | edit source]

Inheritance Tax: Began around 1893 Revised in 1905, 1911, 1913 and 1917 ( Compiled 1921)

Estate Tax: began 8 September 1916

To learn more about these two types of taxes, go to Inheritance Tax Act of California and the Estate Tax Law of the U.S. [3]

Since 1861, the tax collector collects taxes. Previously the treasurer and later the sheriff collected taxes. Except for inheritance taxes, the tax collector collects all county taxes, including "taxes on real and personal property, schools and special districts, and business licenses. "Historically the office of tax collector was combined with the office of county treasurer and sheriff. Today it is usually with the treasurer's office."

In July of 1862, Congress passed the Internal Revenue Act to provide income for the Government to pay the public debt including Civil War costs. After the Civil War, taxes were abolished until only a tax on liquor and tobacco remained in 1883. An 1895 Supreme Court ruling declared that income tax was unconstitutional and led to the ratification of the sixteenth amendment in 1913 which states that Congress has the power to establish and collect taxes on incomes. This was the beginning of our modern day taxes.

To learn more about this collection click here

To learn more about the Civil War taxes click here

What history has shown us is that while property taxes are locally levied, there is significant state involvement with the amount of tax local political subdivisions can levy, how property assessments are conducted, and what services local taxing subdivisions must provide for their residents. Many of the changes the state has made in the past to lower the local property tax required a shift in financial responsibility from the local governments to the state. This comes at a cost to state taxpayers, because the state has obligations it must fund as well, with a limited amount of state tax dollars.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Historical County records
  2. Online California State Archives
  3. Inheritance Tax Act of California and the Estate Tax Law of the U.S.