Transfer Taxes…the FAQ

 
What is a Documentary Transfer Tax?
It is a tax imposed by the County and/or City for the transfer of property. When the ownership of a property changes hands, the ownership transfer document (Grant Deed, for example) needs to be recorded in the County Recorder’s office where the property is located. The County Recorder, under the Revenue and Taxation Code, collects a “transfer fee.” This fee is the Documentary Transfer Tax and is part of the revenue that is generated for the individual counties and cities.

Who pays for the Documentary Transfer Tax?
Either the Buyer or the Seller. The payment of the transfer tax can be negotiated between the Buyer and the Seller.

Normally,
in Southern California, the Seller pays.
In Northern California, the Buyer pays.
In Central California, it can be a combination of both.

How much is the Documentary Transfer Tax?
It depends on the location of the property. The County Transfer Tax is a standard of $1.10 per $1,000 of the sales price throughout the State. However, there are certain cities that also collect their own City Transfer Tax and those differ.

The California Revenue and Taxation Code has set this tax for all counties at $1.10 per $1,000 (or $0.55 per $500.00, or fraction thereof) of the transfer value (sales price less the value of any liens or encumbrances remaining at the time of sale) of the property to be transferred.

When is the Documentary Transfer Tax paid?
When the County Recorder receives the property transfer document (Grant Deed, for example) for recordation.

The Documentary Transfer Tax is paid together with the recording fee at the time the County Recorder receives the property transfer document for recordation.
If this is through an escrow transaction, then the Documentary Transfer Tax is paid with all the other escrow closing costs and will show on the parties’ escrow closing statement.

Do I need to pay Documentary Transfer Tax if I transfer my property to my son? Do I need to pay Documentary Transfer Tax if I transfer my property to my trust?
No. If there was no actual money involved in the transfer. There are certain exemptions to the payment of the Documentary Transfer Tax. Such exemptions include, transfers that are a “gift”and can be proven that no money was involved; transfers between individuals and their Revocable Trusts; transfers between spouses for no value.

If no Documentary Transfer Tax is declared, certain counties require an Affidavit to be completed, signed under penalty of perjury, and attached to the ownership document at the time of recordation.