California 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” on behalf of the State Board of Equalization. This fee is the Documentary Transfer Tax and is part of the revenue that is generated for the individual counties and cities.
Either Buyer or Seller or both share. This cost can be negotiated between parties. The County Recorder does not care who pays, as long as it gets paid if it is due.
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 to be exact per the Code) of the transfer value (sales price) of the property to be transferred.
An Arcadia property is sold for $1,000,000.
The Documentary Transfer Tax payable to the Los Angeles County is $1,100 ($1,000,000/$1,000 x $1.10). No City Documentary Transfer Tax.
A Santa Monica beach property is sold for $2,000,000.
The Documentary Transfer Tax payable to the Los Angeles County is $2,200 ($2,000,000/$1,000 x $1.10), and
the Documentary Transfer Tax payable to the City of Santa Monica is $6,000 ($2,000,000/$1,000 x $3.00).
Total Documentary Transfer Tax is $8,200 ($2,200 + $6,000).
A San Francisco property sold for $5,000,000.
The Documentary Transfer Tax payable to the County of San Francisco is $0 (San Francisco has no county transfer tax), and
the Documentary Transfer Tax payable to the City of San Francisco is $37,500 ($5,000,000/$1,000 x $7.50).
Total Documentary Transfer Tax is $37,500.00 ($0 + $37,500).
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.
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.
California’s Documentary Transfer Tax law is administered by the California Department of Tax & Fee Administration (previously known as the Board of Equalization. The tax code can be found on their website link as follows: