Delinquent Penalty Waivers
Delinquent penalties and fees are applied to property tax assessments in accordance with the laws set forth in the Revenue and Taxation Code of the State of California. Waiver of these penalties may be considered at the Tax Collector's discretion in very specific circumstances, as identified in the R&T Code sections indicated below:
- 2610.5: Change in ownership occurred after the lien date (January 1) of the current tax year, the original tax bill was issued to the prior owner, and no bill was issued to the new owner. This appeal option is only valid within the current tax year.
- 2610.5: The Tax Collector failed to mail a tax bill as required.
- 4985: The tax bill was mailed to an incorrect address due to Tax Collector or Assessor error. (Note that failure by the tax payer to change their mailing address prior to the issuance of the tax bill does not qualify.)
- 4985.2: Payment was erroneously returned by the bank due to bank error. If applying for a penalty waiver based on this allowable circumstance, we must receive written verification from the financial institution that clearly states that there was a processing error on the part of the bank which prevented the specific check in question from being honored. Statements such as "There was money in the account" or "We are unsure as to why the check was not honored" will not be considered.
- 4985.2: Other reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer's control. If applying for a penalty waiver based on this allowable circumstance, documentation of reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer's control must be provided, and must be sufficient to satisfy the Tax Collector that payment of taxes could not have reasonably been made prior to the delinquency date.
Please note that the following circumstances do NOT qualify for penalty abatement. Any requests citing these circumstances will immediately be denied.
- Requests that the Tax Collector consider the taxpayer's payment history. The R&T code does not grant the Tax Collector the authority to consider a taxpayer's payment history, whether positive or negative, in determining whether or not to cancel a penalty.
- Requests to waive penalty based on timely mailing when the envelope is postmarked late or not at all. The R&T code requires that we consider only the USPS postmark when determining if a payment is timely. The date that the envelope was left with the post office or dropped in an outgoing mailbox cannot be considered. The Tax Collector recommends that payments mailed close to the delinquency date be carried to the counter at the post office, and that the taxpayer watch the postal employee apply the postmark in order to ensure we can consider a payment timely. The taxpayer may also wish to consider purchasing a 'Proof of Mailing' receipt.
- Requests related to the financial circumstances of the taxpayer. The R&T code does not allow us to consider financial circumstances. Financial hardship is not considered a qualifying reason under R&T code 4985.2.
- Requests related to taxpayer errors when submitting a payment through our online payment system. The taxpayer is required to check a box acknowledging San Mateo County's E-Check/Credit Card Agreement prior to submitting payment. This agreement states in part "I understand and agree that any mistake or failure by my bank to pay the County of San Mateo the prescribed amount is my responsibility. I also understand and agree that I am responsible for and will pay a return item fee of $85.00 for each debit that is returned by my bank for any reason, as well as delinquent penalties and other fees as applicable". The Tax Collector's Office is not responsible for incorrect information or other processing issues related to online payments, and will not consider appeals citing this circumstance.
- Requests related to the availability of or ability to utilize our online or telephone payment options. Taxpayers are provided with multiple payment avenues, and utilize online or telephone options at their own discretion.
If you believe your circumstances qualify under the identified code sections and would like to apply for a penalty waiver, please download, print, and complete the Application for Waiver of Delinquent Penalties/Fees form. Indicate the reason you believe you qualify for a penalty waiver and return the form to us with the appropriate documentation, along with two checks: one for the original tax amount, and one for the penalty/fee amount only. If your application is approved, the check written for the penalty/fee amount will be returned to you. If your application is not approved, both checks will be processed to satisfy the amount due on the bill. Please be sure that you have funds available in your account to satisfy both checks. If either check is returned for any reason, the entire payment will be reversed and you will be assessed a Returned Item fee of $85.
Please return to San Mateo County Tax Collector, Attn: Appeals, 555 County Center, First Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063.
PLEASE NOTE: For your own convenience, please DO NOT send appeal forms and payments to the PO Box payment processing address. Any checks received at the PO Box will be cashed immediately. This may result in a wait time of up to 6 weeks to receive a refund of penalties if your appeal is approved. We can not intercept appeal forms/payments sent to the PO Box prior to processing.
Please note that we WILL NOT consider any application received without payment as outlined above. Applications received without payment, or missing supporting documentation, will automatically be denied.
Waiver of penalties is at the Tax Collector's discretion based on reason and supporting documentation, and is not guaranteed. The Tax Collector maintains a strict interpretation of the Revenue and Taxation Code, and all decisions are made in accordance with the legally allowable circumstances as outlined above.
Please note that failure to receive a tax bill that was generated and mailed timely by the Tax Collector is NOT a qualifying circumstance, per R&T Code section 2610.5, which states in part failure to receive a tax bill shall not relieve the lien of taxes, nor shall it prevent the imposition of penalties imposed.