The simple truth is that no one in private business likes to see government forms arrive in the mail. I speak from experience as a former business owner before being elected your assessor. The good news is, we have taken a number of steps in recent years that make filing your Business Property Statement (571 L) simpler. For example, more than 3,000 businesses’ prior-year equipment reports are now pre-printed on the forms we mail, and we have recently taken it up a notch with e-filing. That’s right, if you are one of the 6,000 business owners who were mailed e-filing instructions with your Business Property Statement from the assessor, you can file your next statement electronically. By doing so, you will see the added bonus of an immediate calculation of the approximate new assessment, which should assist you in tax budget planning.

As assessor, I have heard from business owners who do not like the interruption and expense of another tax filing around the same time income tax filings are due. Many small business operators see this as just one more bureaucratic obstacle that can discourage their success. It is require, however, by state law.

I believe small businesses are the backbone of our economy, that their success is vital to our economic recovery. That is why, in November 2004, working with the Board of Supervisors, the Assessor’s Office arranged for more than 1,000 very small businesses to be fully exempt from personal property assessment if their business personal property value is $5,000 or less.  Additionally, under our direct assessment program, another 4,500 small business owners are no longer required to file the annual Business Property Statement if they are satisfied with the annual field assessment made by my certified auditor-appraisers.

In January, my office mailed 11,000 business owners in Ventura County their local property tax Business Property Statements, and another 5,000 their Direct Assessment Notices. If you are a long-time business owner, you are likely familiar with this annual filing. But if you are a new business owner, it is important for you to read these forms carefully to understand your responsibilities.

In the past three years, the Assessor’s Office has implemented and been expanding the “e-file” program for electronic filing of Business Property Statements. With this option, business owners who received a confidential BIN (Business Identification Number) have access to this efficient and secure online filing system. If you have received a statement with a BIN, we strongly encourage you to use this option as a time saver for your business and ours. Large businesses with locations in multiple counties can also file through the unique statewide SDR (standard data record) electronic filing program that requires only one filing per business for the entire state, saving multiple county filings with the commensurate efficiency savings for the business.

While we continue to explore ways for expanding the e-file option every year, some businesses will still be required to file a signed hard copy of the Business Property Statement this year.

Most important for business owners to know is if the assessor mailed them a Business Property Statement, it’s due by April 1, with a mandatory 10 percent penalty if filed after May 9. In addition, all businesses with an aggregate cost of business personal property of $100,000 or more must file a Business Property Statement, even if the assessor did not mail it to them.

As to what may be ahead, this summer brings some good news. Senate Bill 822 now gives the assessor an opportunity to work with the Board of Supervisors to obtain their approval to increase the business property exemption for very small businesses to a maximum value of $10,000, which, if approved, will double the exemption amount. This year, the assessor’s office will be reviewing the requirements of this new legislation to increase the business property exemption and propose a resolution to the Board of Supervisors, to be effective for next year’s property taxes. I look forward to assisting the small businesses of Ventura County with another incentive for success.

My staff of certified auditor-appraisers are ready to help all businesses with these new programs and can walk filers through the e-file process or answer any other property statement completion questions. I encourage you to look at the assessor’s website at www.assessor.countyofventura.org for more information on the Business Property Statements, or call our Business Property Section at 654-2181.