Registered domestic partners will get the same tax benefits as married couples who transfer property, under tax rule changes adopted Wednesday by the California Board of Equalization. Previously, transferring real estate from one domestic partner to the other brought an automatic reassessment of the property's value. Board chair Carole Migden, who pushed for the rule change, said such reassessments could result in the surviving partner losing his or her house while mourning the loss of a loved one. She called the rule change "a major victory for equal rights," rejecting county assessors' concerns that the rules will cost local governments increased taxes they would have received on the higher assessed value. The board estimated the statewide tax cost at $737,000 the first year and $3.2 million after five years. "County revenue targets should not be achieved on the backs of the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual community," said Migden, the first openly lesbian board member.
But she said the regulations were designed to prevent tax-avoidance transfers during the four-month rule-making process.
The new rule lets registered domestic partners use wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools to become original transferors under the state's joint tenancy law. Also Wednesday, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced his regional offices in Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco will immediately begin processing new domestic-partner registrations at the front counters. The partners get a newly designed domestic-partnership certificate, which is said to be suitable for framing. Previously, they received only a copy of a "government issue" registration form. Couples who previously registered also will automatically be sent the new certificates. Besides tax and legal benefits, Shelley said, the registrations are frequently used by employers to recognize partners for employer-provided benefits. An assemblyman from San Francisco, Shelley authored the legislation that in 2000 created the state's domestic partnership registry.