In my last column, we talked about the Georgia Property Tax system, and how you can submit a “property tax return” form to petition the local tax assessor to adjust your home’s valuation for tax purposes.
The process used in Georgia is complex, and is made more difficult by the fact that state laws regarding it were overhauled in 2010, and are often misunderstood. Add the fact that most homeowners in Georgia have experienced a substantial decline in property value over the past half decade, and it all adds up to confusion.
Here are some questions about property taxes that I am most frequently asked:
Q: I am worried that if I get my property valuation lowered at the tax commissioner’s office, that will have a negative impact when I go to sell the property. Should I be concerned?
A: Absolutely not. While a common concern, the truth is that county property tax values are never a factor in the professional calculation of market value. First, the county assessor has likely not seen the inside of your home since the day it was built, and makes his estimates based on outdated (and frequently erroneous) information. Second, county tax assessors simply do not have the staff or the budget to review every parcel of land every year, so it may have been several years since anyone at the county has even looked at your case. And finally, most assessment changes are in response to sales activity, and are often applied in a sweeping manner to dozens or hundreds of homes in a neighborhood or community.
Q: I am worried that if I submit a property tax return this week asking for lowered value, the county will then use that as an excuse to really raise my valuation. How often does that happen?
A: The fact that you have submitted a property tax return or protested an assessment may not be used against you as a basis for raising your valuation. You have nothing to worry about.
Q: What if I end up protesting my valuation, and am called to appear before the Board of Equalization, but I can’t find time to appear. Is there a penalty?
A: No, there is no negative impact for failure to appear in person to present your case to the Board of Equalization. In fact, you can send a letter of explanation presenting the facts of the case as you see them and asking for a favorable determination of value.
Q: This sounds like a lot of work. How much does it cost?
A: There is no charge for filing a “property tax return” suggesting your opinion of your home’s value on Jan. 1 of this year. That is form PT-50R, and is available on my website at Money99.com along with instructions. However, the deadline for filing that form is April 1, and there are no provisions for extensions.
Q: If I miss the deadline on April 1, am I stuck with the county’s decision?
A: No, under the new regulations the county must send a “notice of assessment” to every property owner in the county advising the owner of the county’s intention to tax based on a certain value. That notice is mailed usually in June or July, depending on the county.
From the date of that mailing, you have exactly 45 days to protest the proposed valuation. If, after that protest, you are unable to reach an agreement with the county assessor, then you may appeal the valuation to the Board of Equalization (BOE). That Board will hold a hearing and make a judgment between your suggested value and that of the county. There are even steps you can take after that if you feel the county’s value is wrong, but it gets more complicated and cost becomes a factor.
John Adams is a broker, investor, and author. He answers real estate questions every Sunday at 3 pm on WGKA-am(920). He welcomes your questions and comments at Money99.com, where you will find an expanded version of this column.