periodically regardless of their ownership.
The change would require a popular vote to amend Proposition 13, which is enshrined in the state Constitution, and would probably meet a wall of opposition from business owners, who complain they are overtaxed in California as it is.
For now, state and local officials are bound by rules that even some architects of Proposition 13 warned were ripe for abuse.
A year after Proposition 13 passed, state leaders began to grapple with the meaning of three words in the initiative: "change of ownership."
In the case of a single-family home, the change is obvious: A new deed is filed with the county recorder, triggering a reassessment. The property is then taxed based on its current market value.
But the transfer of business properties is more complex. What changes hands often is not the property but control of the legal entity -- a corporation, limited liability company or limited partnership -- that owns the real estate. In those cases, no new deed is filed.
A legislative task force searched for a bright line signaling a transfer and concluded that there were only two choices.
One was to require reassessment when a new company bought the property outright. The limitation of that was that it would capture too few transactions. The other method would require it when a single person or entity took control of more than 50% of a company that owned the property -- the majority-ownership rule.
Adopting the majority-ownership rule would lead to "monumental" enforcement problems, the task force warned: "No one, no matter how skilled and imaginative, can foresee ... every possible form of real property transfer."
But the Legislature adopted it anyway, concluding it was the better of two imperfect solutions.
Today, the Board of Equalization relies on businesses to accurately disclose changes in majority ownership. Assessors sometimes scan newspapers for big deals the board might have missed.
Often, buyers take majority ownership because other business advantages outweigh the tax benefit.
But the Miramar deal is not the only instance in which a wealthy buyer has used the majority-ownership loophole to save millions.
In 2002, E&J Gallo, the world's biggest winemaker, purchased Louis M. Martini, which owned more than 1,000 acres of prime Napa and Sonoma County vineyards. None of the property was reassessed because Martini was divided among 12 Gallo family members, none of whom acquired more than 50%.
Some of that property today is worth more than $150,000 an acre but continues to be taxed based on its 1975 value of a few thousand dollars an acre, according to Napa County assessor John Tuteur.
In 1998, a Canadian skiing conglomerate bought 58% of Mammoth Mountain resort, which had been family-owned for years. The new owner, Intrawest Corp., argued that the property should not be reassessed because the deal did not give it a majority of the voting rights in the company.
The county assessor concluded that challenging the ski resort in court would be too costly.
In 2005, it changed hands again. This time, the buyer bought majority control and paid for it in property taxes: The assessed value almost doubled, bringing in an additional $1 million in annual revenue for Mono County.
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