In the Atlanta Metropolitan area there are many property tax consulting firms. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Georgia tax law does not require that the counties appraise all properties every year, and infrequent appraisals often resulted in large percentage increases in value. Also, the county tax assessors’ values were incorrect in many cases and unfair (inequitable) in others. When property owners get large increases in tax assessments and corresponding tax bills in general they are outraged and want to do something about it. That is why there are so many property tax consultants in the Atlanta Metro area.
There are many national property tax consultant firms with offices in the Atlanta area. Generally speaking, having a property tax consultant located in the area of your property is more desirable than hiring someone from out of town. Since all real estate value is based on location, it’s good to have someone familiar with the location and also with the county tax assessor staff.
Since the start of the great recession, many people got into property tax consulting because of the decline in real estate values. Some of these people had some real estate appraisal experience. Some of them were realtors, some of them appraisers, but most of them had little or no idea what type of work the Georgia tax assessors actually do.
It’s a good idea to use an Atlanta property tax consultant that is an intimately familiar with the mass appraisal process that the Georgia tax assessors use. Mass appraisal is significantly different than other forms of real estate appraisal in that the tax assessor staff are dealing with a universe of properties, developing models to value those properties, and testing those models with statistics.
Rather than appraising properties on an individual basis, properties are grouped by neighborhood or by property type and analyzed in groups. Mass appraisal models are used to appraise all of the properties in the groups. What matters most is how these computer-generated assessments compare to the sale prices for those properties that have sold. The tax assessors use median sale ratios to determine what their level of assessment is. They use a coefficient of dispersion to determine how confident they are in their level of assessment. They use price related differential’s to be certain that they are not favoring any particular class or type of property.
Before choosing an Atlanta property tax consultant, it is a good idea to find out what their background is. How long have they been providing property tax reduction services? How long has the company they own or work for been in existence? It isn't unreasonable to ask for a resume or qualifications brief to be certain of the experience of the person you hire to handle your property tax appeal.
If you’re looking for property tax consultants that know real estate appraisal and mass appraisal contact Fair Assessments LLC. We have an inside view of the tax assessor’s mass appraisal process from eight years inside their offices. We also have ten years’ experience as Atlanta property tax consultants.
Recently much news has been made about the increasing house values around the country. Apparently the depths of the Great Recession are behind us and real estate is in full recovery mode. According to the Case-Shiller Atlanta home price index, housing values increased 18.44% year-over-year as of August 2013.
This is, of course, an average increase in house values for Atlanta real estate as a whole. I have found wide disparities from this average as I analyze values by neighborhood throughout the metro area. If we dig into the Case-Shiller Atlanta home price index a little further we can see where some of the variation is coming from.
The Case-Shiller Atlanta data can also be viewed as raw price tier data. They have segmented the sales data into three price tiers. The lowest tier is properties that are worth less than $131,936. The middle tier are properties between $131,936 and $249,761. The highest tier is properties worth more than $249,761.
The lowest tier was hit the hardest during the recession. Lower valued property values dropped over 60% from the market peak in the summer of 2007 to the bottom early in 2012. These properties have also rebounded the most over the year ended in August 2013. The lowest tier has increased approximately 34% over the year ended August.
The middle tier of Atlanta real estate values lost approximately 44% of their value from the top of the market to the bottom. These properties have increased nearly 28% over the year ended August. They didn’t fall as much as the lowest tier and their bounce-back hasn’t been as strong.
The top tier of Atlanta real estate values declined the least during the Great Recession. The top tier lost just over 31% of value from the top of the market to the bottom. Over the year ended August 2013 the top tier has gained nearly 13% in value.
Of course these three tiers of values are for the entire Atlanta metro area. As a result, we can expect to find wide variation in average increase from neighborhood to neighborhood within the same price tier. For an independent estimate of your Atlanta real estate value contact an Atlanta appraiser. For help in getting your property tax reduced contact Fair Assessments.
The Fulton County tax assessors have begun work on the 2013 property tax appeals. Some Fulton County property owners have received no change letters from the tax assessors regarding their 2013 appeals while some have been offered reductions in what is called a 30 day letter. After you receive a reduction offer from the tax assessors you have 30 days to either accept the reduced value or appeal to the second level of appeal, which is the Fulton County Board of Equalization.
Recently, some of the 2013 property tax appeals have been scheduled to be heard by the Fulton County Board of Equalization. As recently as last month, the Board of Equalization was continuing to work on 2012 property tax appeal hearings and even a few 2011 property tax appeal hearings were being heard. They are not done with 2012 hearings, however. It appears that the Fulton County Tax Assessors staff is frequently using the board of equalization hearing as a tool to gain access to properties.
Occasionally, while at the Board of Equalization for a 2012 hearing the County appraiser has claimed that they cannot make a judgment on the value without inspecting the property. Here we are in the fall of 2013 and during a 2012 Board of Equalization hearing the County appraisers are asking to check the property description. Will the 2012 appeals ever be done? It remains to be seen.
Now that we know that the Fulton County tax assessor staff is working on the 2013 appeals it may be a good time to approach the appropriate appraiser about working out a value reduction. There is an advantage to waiting for a Board of Equalization hearing however. A Board of Equalization value decision is subject to what is called the 299c section of the Georgia property tax code, which states that any value decision made by a Board of Equalization or the Superior Court shall be held for a period of three years.
If you're concerned that values may be rising over the next few years it's a good idea to have your value settled at the Board of Equalization. However, you may want your appeal settled as quickly as possible so that you can also have your tax bill settled as quickly as possible. In that case it may be in your best interest to negotiate with the County appraiser and try to work out a reduction prior to a formal hearing.
If you appealed your taxable value because your neighbor said you should but you're not sure about whether or not you have a solid case for a reduction now might be a good time to actually take a look at your value. Take a look at some of the sales in your neighborhood that are similar to your house. Consider some assessment data on similar houses as well to see if your tax assessment is fair and make a decision about whether or not you think you can really get a reduction.
It's a good idea to get a copy of your property record card from the County just to see what their property description looks like and whether or not it's accurate. If they haven't been by your property in many years there's a chance they don't have some addition that you put on the house in their records. Something like a new porch or basement finish which might increase the value may have been missed. So if your value is reasonable and you don't want any County appraisers poking around your house, it might be in your best interest to just withdraw your appeal.
If you do have a case for an appeal, and the subject property is a house, you might want to check out our guide to how the tax assessors use the cost approach to value properties. If you have an income producing property, or commercial property, you may want to check out our guide to how the tax assessors use the income approach to value on properties. If you'd like to have a professional to handle your property tax appeal, just contact us directly and we will be happy to help you.
As of July 1, 2013, any appeal related adjustments to value are subject to these new provisions. The taxpayer may be charged interest on tax amounts due when the taxpayer owes the county money after the property tax appeal is resolved. Likewise, the tax commissioner may owe interest on refunds owed the taxpayer after the property tax appeal is resolved.
For tax year 2013, when the taxpayer would like to pay at 100% of the tax, they must request this change BEFORE the first installment of the 2013 property tax has been made or before the first installment due date for the 2013 property taxes, whichever occurs first. Otherwise, the temporary value will be calculated as provided in this code section.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 48-5-311 (e)(6)(D)(iii)(I) If the county's tax bills are issued before the county board of equalization has rendered its decision on property which is on appeal, the county board of tax assessors shall specify to the county tax commissioner the lesser of the valuation in the year preceding the year in which the appeal was filed or 85 percent of the current year's value, unless the property in issue has been issued a building permit and structural improvements have occurred, or structural improvements have been made without a building permit, in which case, it shall specify 85 percent of the current year's valuation as set by the county board of assessors. Depending on the circumstances of the property, this amount shall be the basis for a temporary tax bill to be issued; provided, however, that the taxpayer may elect to pay the temporary tax bill in the amount of 100 percent of the current year's valuation if no property improvement has occurred. The county tax commissioner shall have the authority to adjust such tax bill to reflect the 100 percent value as requested by the taxpayer. Such tax bill shall be accompanied by a notice to the taxpayer that the bill is a temporary tax bill pending the outcome of the appeal process. Such notice shall also indicate that upon resolution of the appeal, there may be additional taxes due or a refund issued.
(II) For the purposes of this Code section, any final value that causes a deduction in taxes and creates a refund that is owed to the taxpayer shall be paid by the tax commissioner to the taxpayer, entity, or transferee who paid the taxes within 60 days from the date of the final determination of value. Such refund shall include interest on the amount of the deduction at the same rate specified in Code Section 48-2-35 which shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the date the final installment was due or was paid, whichever is later, through to the date paid or 60 days from the date of the final determination, whichever is earlier. In no event shall the amount of such interest exceed $150.00 for homestead property or $5,000.00 for nonhomestead property. Any refund paid after the sixtieth day shall accrue interest from the sixty-first day until paid with interest at the same rate specified in Code Section 48-2-35. The interest accrued after the sixtieth day and forward shall not be subject to the limits imposed by this subsection. The tax commissioner shall pay the tax refund and any interest for the refund from current collections in the same proportion for each of the levying authorities for whom the taxes were collected.
III) For the purposes of this Code section, any final value that causes an increase in taxes and creates an additional billing shall be paid to the tax commissioner as any other tax due along with interest as specified in Code Section 48-2-35. The tax commissioner shall adjust the tax bill, including interest, within 15 days from the date of the final determination of value and mail the adjusted bill to the taxpayer. Such interest shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the final installment of the tax was due through to the date the bill was adjusted and mailed or 15 days from the date of the final determination, whichever is earlier. The interest computed on the additional billing shall in no event exceed $150.00 for homestead property or $5,000.00 for nonhomestead property. After the tax bill notice has been mailed out, the taxpayer shall be afforded 60 days from the date of the postmark to make full payment of the adjusted bill and interest. Once the 60 day payment period has expired, the bill shall be considered past due, and interest shall accrue as specified in Code Section 48-2-40 without limit until the bill is paid in full. Once past due, all other fees, penalties, late charges, and collection notices shall apply as prescribed in this chapter for the collection of delinquent taxes.
For more information
In accordance with Georgia Law (OCGA 48-5-264.1), the chief appraiser, other members of the county property appraisal staff, and members of the county board of tax assessors may go upon property outside of buildings, posted or otherwise, in order to carry out the duty of updating property records to facilitate the estimating of the fair market values of taxable property in the county.
The person representing the board shall carry identification which is sufficiently prominent to permit the occupant to readily ascertain that such person is a representative of the assessor's office. Also if practicable shall first advise and/or shall not enter upon such property unless written or other reasonable notice has been provided to the occupant of the property regarding the purpose for which such person is entering upon such property.
This appraiser/data collector does not set values and will only gather the necessary property information including exterior measurements, various coding, exterior photos, etc. Collecting this information does not require access to the interior of the home or business. If the owner/occupant is not at the property at the time of the visit, a door hanger will be left indicating the visit. In the case of residential property visits, if an adult is home, the appraiser/data collector will want to ask some questions in an attempt to make sure the records are as accurate as possible. Answering these questions is purely voluntary.
The purpose of these site visits is to update the property record which enables the Cobb county Tax Assessors office to more accurately determine fair market values and/or make other determinations as required by law. The appraiser/data collector will have a photo identification badge and will be driving an appropriately marked vehicle. If there is any question about the identity of the appraiser/data collector, do not hesitate to contact them at 770-528-3100.
The view the list of properties scheduled for a site visit within the next 30 days, please click here.
My last blog talked about how to appeal your tax assessment and its process. As discussed, you may opt to appeal to the County Board of Equalization, to a Hearing Officer or to an Arbitrator. To help you with your decision, I decided to discuss further how these 3 work and their differences.
BOE or Boards of Equalization Each board has 3 members and 5 alternates, appointed by the Grand Jury. A hearing is scheduled and you may decide to let an authorized agent present the case for you (Letter of Authorization must be provided before hearing). They will have to review your letter of appeal, and they will listen to your presentation as well as to the county appraiser. The BOE shall render its decision at the conclusion of the hearing and you will be notified of their decision in writing. If the you are dissatisfied with the BOE’s decision, an appeal to the Superior Court may be made. However, fees will be required if you appeal to Superior Court.
To better understand the BOE, you may also read our previous article: About the Board of Equalization Georgia
Arbitration (Binding) is limited to appeals of Real Property Value only. Within 10 days of filing your tax appeal to Binding Arbitration, the Board of Tax Assessors (BOA) must send an acknowledgment to you stating your responsibility to provide a certified appraisal (prepared by a qualified appraiser), and provide a court filing fee within 45 days. If the BOA accepts your certified appraisal, it shall become the final value but when the BOA rejects the certified appraisal, it must within 45 days certify the appeal to the Clerk of Superior Court. If the BOA neither accepts nor rejects the certified appraisal within 45 days, the certified appraisal shall become the final value.
Within 15 days of filing the appeal with the Clerk of Superior Court, the Chief Judge shall issue an order authorizing the arbitration. Within 30 days of the Arbitrator’s appointment by the Clerk of Superior Court, he/she shall schedule the time and location of the hearing.
The Arbitrator shall render a decision regarding the value of the property by choosing either the value presented by the Board of Tax Assessors, or the value presented by you at the conclusion of the hearing. The "loser" must pay the cost of the arbitrator. Provisions of binding arbitration may be waived at any time by written consent of both parties. The decision of the arbitrator is final and is not appealable to Superior Court.
A Hearing Officer is a state certified general real property or state certified residential real property appraiser and is approved as a hearing officer by the Real Estate Commission and the Real Estate Appraiser Board. He deals with the issue of value or uniformity of non-homestead real property, but only when the value is equal to or greater than $1,000,000.
The Board of Tax Assessors has up to 90 days to review the appeal and notify you of its decision. You have 30 days to notify the BTA if you are not satisfied with its decision. Upon receipt of such notification, the BTA has 30 days to send the appeal to the Clerk of Superior Court for scheduling a hearing. If the Clerk cannot find a Hearing Officer, the appeal shall be moved to the Board of Equalization.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer shall notify both parties of the decision verbally and shall send the decision in writing. Either party may appeal to Superior Court within 30 days of this decision.
Click here for a list of hearing officers published by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board.
For advice and help with your tax appeals, please call us at (404) 644-1667.
After receiving your Notice of Assessment, a taxpayer/property owner may file a written appeal within 45 days (depending on your county) of Notice Date. Click here to obtain a copy of the appeal form.
The appeal must be filed with the County Board of Tax Assessors and must state your chosen method of appeal.
• Appeal to the County Board of Equalization - Property Owner may appeal based on taxability, uniformity, value, and denial of exemptions.
After the Board of Equalization’s decision, either the taxpayer or the Board of Assessors may appeal to the Superior Court within 30 days.
• Appeal to a Hearing Officer - Limited to Non-homesteaded real property in excess of $1 million
After the Hearing Officer’s decision, either the taxpayer the Board of Assessors must appeal to the Superior Court within 30 days.
• Appeal to an Arbitrator - Limited to Real Property Valuation Only
The decision of the Arbitrator is final and not appealable to the Superior Court. And the loser pays the cost of Arbitration.
The county Board of Tax Assessors will certify the Notice of Appeal to the clerk of the superior court. The taxpayer or their attorney or agent will be served with a copy of the Notice of Appeal with its Civil Action File Number. Before the superior court can hear an appeal, the ad valorem taxes must be paid in an amount equal to the last year in which taxes were determined to be due. (O.C.G.A. 48-5-29)
In certain instances, the property owner may recover court costs and reasonable attorney fees incurred in the appeal hearing before the superior court. The property owner could recover these costs and fees if the court finds the final value to be 85% or less (80% for commercial property) of the board of equalization's determination of value. This would not apply, however, if the property owner had failed to return the property for taxation.
For more details, please download:
As stated in Georgia law, before tax bills are released, all counties should have already issued an Annual Assessment Notice to all taxable real estate owners. This Tax Assessment Notice should be distributed April - June of each year.
If you have a Tax Appeal in process, you may check the status of your appeal here. You may enter your Parcel ID Number or your street address and then press Search. This will bring you to an Overview page which gives you basic information about your property. In the section called "Appeal Status" you will see the status of your appeal.
If you have yet to file for a tax appeal, you will not be given consideration by your county Tax Assessor’s Office as it has already been past the 45 day appeal period since your Tax Notice has been released. Moreover, the 2013 Tax Bills are already out.
If you have an outstanding tax appeal for 2012, and have some questions about your 2013 tax notice, this should help clear things up:
Special Notice Regarding 2012 Board of Equalization (BOE) Decisions
“Many 2012 Board of Equalization (BOE) Hearings were not completed, or our office had not received the decisions by the time our 2013 Notices were sent to print. In accordance with GA Code 48-5-299(C), if the 2012 BOE decision is LOWER THAN our 2013 Appraisal, we will roll the 2012 BOE value forward to 2013 automatically, unless there was a change to the property for 2013 (such as new construction). Therefore, if you are satisfied with the 2012 BOE decision you do not need to file an appeal in 2013 to have this value moved forward - we will do that automatically. If you have not yet received a decision for 2012 or are not satisfied with the 2012 decision, you may want to file an appeal in 2013. Please feel free to call us at (404) 371-0841 if you have any questions.” Source: Dekalb County Tax Assessor’s Office
2013 Tax bills are due on October 3; after this due date, any unpaid amount is subject to a 1% monthly interest charge. Unpaid bills are also subject to a 10% penalty if not paid within 90 days of the due date.
Hungry for more information?
The Gwinnett County Tax Assessor’s office has now issued the 2013 Property Tax Bills to the
residential as well as the commercial property owners.
In case you have filed an appeal which is still currently being processed during the time you received your tax bill, it should only reflect the partial amount of eighty-five percent (85%) of your original 2013 value. This tax bill is temporary until the property tax assessment appeal is resolved. When your appeal is resolved, there can be an additional bill or a credit issued, based on the concluding decision.
If you settle your property tax appeal with the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor, the settled value should be obtained by the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner in a reasonable time. If you settle your tax appeal at the Gwinnett County Board of Equalization (BOE), you have 30 days after the BOE decision to appeal to superior court. Those 30 days have to expire before the settled value gets put into the tax assessor’s system, and then eventually the Tax Commissioners system.
All bills must be paid on or before October 3. Taxpayers may choose to make partial payments provided that the entire amount will be settled by October 3. If you pay after October 3, you will be subject to one percent (1%) interest for each month the outstanding balance remains due. A ten percent (10%) penalty will be added if any of the tax is unpaid 90 days after it is due. After that, the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner may send you a notice of intent to issue a tax lien on your property. When the tax lien is issued. it can affect your credit rating.
To view your tax bill or pay your taxes, click here.
File your tax appeal now!
The Fulton County Tax Assessor's staff just can't get enough of being one year behind on their property tax appeal work. Twice in the past month I have been at Fulton County Board of Equalization hearings for tax year 2012 and the staff appraisers have requested a "field check." Once the appraiser produced an aerial photograph of the property in appeal and proclaimed that the size of the building in the County record must be wrong based on the photo alone. The other time the appraiser just seemed unprepared and wasn't willing to present what he had and let the Board make a decision. Again, he claimed that he needed to inspect the property before making any recommendation.
This would be a reasonable request if this was July of 2012 but it is July of 2013. The worst part is that the Fulton County Tax Assessors have really just begun the process of pushing all of the 2012 appeals through to the BOE. Just like the Fulton County Board of Equalization was hearing 2011 property tax appeals earlier in 2013, they will be hearing 2012 property tax appeals in 2014.
Now we have new 2013 tax assessment notices dated June 15 with a property tax appeal deadline of July 30. If you have an outstanding 2012 appeal, even if you didn't receive an increase in assessment, you don't really have much choice but to appeal the 2013 value too. You have no idea what the result of your 2012 property tax appeal will be. You have no idea if it will be settled in 2013 or 2014. If the appraiser and BOE side together and issue a "no change" decision on 2012 you need to be in appeal for 2013 to get another chance at a reduction.
And so it goes year after year. Issue new values before prior year appeals are heard. Force the taxpayers to appeal year after year for a chance at the relief they seek. Add other taxpayers to the growing number of appeals by increasing values agressively. The Fulton County Tax Assessor's staff apparently has no incentive to get these appeals settled and through the system.
I know that the Fulton County Tax Assessor's office has more appeals than other counties in the metro area, but they also have more parcels and a larger staff. For the life of me I cannot remember being this far behind when I worked for Fulton County. My last year there I was the commercial manager and I know that we worked 2003 appeals in 2003. Prior to that I was a residential manager and I don't remember working appeals into the next year either.
At some point somone in the room has to recommend that they send out thousands of 30 day letters with reductions on them and hope to cut the number of outstanding appeals way down. They need to motivate the staff to complete appeals in the same tax year. Many people are happy with a reduction regardless of magnitude. Most are amazed that the Fulton County Tax Assessors would give them any relief at all. That's the image, and image is reality.