Glossary of Terms


The person to whom the property or a tax is assessed. Homeowner Exemption reduction provided to homeowners pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code 218.

Lien Date

The time when the taxes become a lien on property and the time as of which property is valued for tax purposes. In California, the lien date is 12:01 am on January 1 preceding the fiscal year for which taxes are collected.

Net Assessed Value

Total assessed value less all exemptions including homeowners.

Personal Property

Personal property is defined as all property except real property. Personal property is either tangible or intangible. Generally, all tangible personal property is taxable except where specific exemptions are provided. Tangible personal property is any property, except land or improvements, that may be seen, weighted, measured, felt, or touched, or which is in any other manner perceptible to the senses. Examples of taxable tangible personal property include portable machinery and equipment, office furniture, tools, and supplies. Examples of nontaxable tangible personal property are household goods and personal effects, noncommercial boats worth $2,000 or less, and goods held for sale or lease in the ordinary course of business (inventories).

Possessory Interest

An interest in real property that exists as a result of possession, exclusive use, or a right to possession or exclusive use of land and/or improvements unaccompanied by either ownership of the land in fee simple or a life estate in the property. A possessory interest becomes taxable when the interest is held in nontaxable publicly owned real property. There is no possessory interest tax placed on the use of publicly owned personal property. Examples of taxable possessory interest include permitted use of U.S. Forest Service property such as ski resorts, stores, and cabins; harbor leases; boat-slips at public marinas; tie-downs at public airports; grazing land permits; employee housing on tax-exempt land; and mineral rights in public lands.

Secured Property

Property that, in the opinion of the assessor, has sufficient value to guarantee payment of taxes levied thereon. Secured Taxes are those which, if unpaid, can be satisfied by the sale of realty against which they are levied.

Supplemental Assessment

A property tax levy made in accordance with Chapter 3.5 of Part.5 of Division 1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code. Supplemental assessments are levied whenever a property or a portion thereof changes ownership or experiences new construction.

Unsecured Property

Charges levied from assessment liens against property, where such charges cannot be satisfied by tax default of the property but only by some action against the person responsible for payment; taxes levied against property that is not deemed secured. Examples of Unsecured Property include mobile homes, boats and business property located in leased facilities.

More Terms

Visit the California State Controller's Office website for a more extensive glossary of property tax related terms listed in the Tax Collectors' Reference Manual.