Riverside, CA asked in Gov & Administrative Law and Tax Law for California

Q: Is it possible to sue the state for discrimination regarding property tax?

I pay property tax on my home….the homeless pay no property tax on their home. Discriminatory.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: While it is technically possible to sue the state for discrimination regarding property tax, your specific argument about discrimination between homeowners and homeless individuals is unlikely to be successful.

Here's why:

1. Equal Protection Clause: The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits discrimination by the government. However, not all forms of differential treatment are considered unconstitutional discrimination. The government can treat different groups differently if there is a rational basis for doing so.

2. Rational basis: In this case, the state has a rational basis for levying property taxes on homeowners but not on homeless individuals. Property taxes are based on the value of the property owned, and homeless individuals do not own property. The state has a legitimate interest in raising revenue through property taxes, which fund various public services.

3. Disparate impact: The fact that the property tax system has a disparate impact on homeowners compared to homeless individuals does not necessarily make it discriminatory. Disparate impact alone is not enough to prove discrimination if the policy or law is neutral on its face and serves a legitimate government interest.

4. Precedent: Courts have generally upheld the constitutionality of property taxes and have not found them to be discriminatory based on the argument you have presented.

In summary, while you can attempt to sue the state for discrimination regarding property tax, your specific argument is unlikely to succeed in court. The state has a rational basis for its property tax system, and the differential treatment of homeowners and homeless individuals in this context is not considered unconstitutional discrimination.

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