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What Happens if the Assessors Don't Lower My Assessment?

 
Most states have more than one level of appeal. Generally speaking, there is a  "impartial" board that hears appeals if the tax assessor does not give you any tax relief. In Georgia this is called the Board of Equalization (BOE). In North Carolina this is called the Board of Review. In most states the last level of appeal is to the court system.

Here in Georgia, when you appeal your value the tax assessors office you must select your second level of appeal at that time. This is because by law, if the assessors won't lower your value they must automatically send you to the next level of appeal. The three options for your second level of appeal are the Board of Equalization, arbitration, or a Hearing Officer.

The Board of Equalization is made up of tax payers from the County where the appealed property is located. The board members are selected by a grand jury. The Georgia Department of revenue trains the board members in Georgia property tax law, real estate appraisal, and mass appraisal. This is not in depth training. This is just enough training to get by. The board members will hear your side of the story and the County side of the story and will make a decision based on what they have heard. There is no cost associated with appealing to the Board of Equalization.

Arbitration is another choice for your second level of appeal. There's a cost involved with appealing to arbitration and as result very few people choose this route. If you have a high value property and you have had mixed or bad results at the Board of Equalization in the past, you may want to consider arbitration.

The third option for your second level of appeal in Georgia is a Hearing Officer. A Hearing Officer is available to hear disputes about value as long as the property is valued at over $1 million and it is not your primary residence. This is a relatively new option for your second level of appeal in Georgia. I am not sure what kind of luck people are having with this procedure. The Hearing Officers are all licensed or certified appraisers.

The decision of the Board of Equalization or the Hearing Officer can be appealed to Superior Court. Arbitration is performed through the court system and any decision by the arbitrator is final. Appealing your Board of Equalization value or Hearing Officer value to the Superior Court system does include filing fees and you may need to engage an attorney at this point. As a result only very high value properties typically end up court system.

For further information please contact the Georgia property tax appeal experts at Fair Assessments LLC. There you can obtain a free guide to appealing your assessment.

Should I Contact the Tax Assessors to Discuss my Appeal?

 
You should always file your appeal before discussing your value with the assessors. You need to do this in order to preserve your rights. If you attempt to negotiate a reduction in value and the deadline to appeal slips by before you settle, or get written confirmation of the value, you may be out of luck. Always file a formal appeal so that if your negotiations with the assessor don't go well you have other options.

In Georgia there is something called a property tax return. The property tax return is used by the assessors to discover taxable value that they may not otherwise know about. You are legally obligated under Georgia law to report changes to your property description on the property tax return form. You are also supposed to supply the assessors with your estimate of your property value on the form. Some people think that this is equivalent to appealing your value. That is not the case. If the assessor does not give you your returned value and you do not file an appeal your rights will be lost for the year.

Once you have filed a formal appeal you can attempt to discuss your value with the assessment personnel. Whether you supplied supporting information with your appeal or not it is worthwhile to find out who is the appraiser handling your property, and determine whether or not they are willing to work something out. Depending on the County and the number of appeals that they have this may be difficult. In some of the Metro counties that get a lot of appeals the appraisers are less willing to work with you one-on-one. If you have supplied supporting information with your appeal you may have to wait until they make a decision on it and send something to you in the mail.

Due to the fact that most counties have a large number of appeals at this time the assessor offices should be willing to negotiate values in lieu of a long drawnout appeal process. However this won't always be the case. Some County appraisers don't want to recommend reductions and would rather have it be a Board of Equalization decision. If that's the case you will be discussing your appeal until you get a hearing date.

If you would like to put your Atlanta property tax appeals on autopilot, contact the property tax consultants at Fair Assessments LLC.

What Information Should I Provide to the Tax Assessors?

 
In some States you have to provide all of your supporting evidence with your initial appeal. In other states all you have to do is send in a letter stating that you want to appeal your value. This may even vary by county in some states. Check with your local assessor's office to find out if you have to provide all evidence up front. If this is a requirement then you should be able to request all information that the assessor's office is using to appraise your property. It's only fair.

In Georgia there is no requirement that you supply your supporting information with your appeal. As a matter of fact the State of Georgia has an appeal form that can be used and there is no requirement that you attach anything to it. If you do not supply information with your appeal you will probably end up at the Board of Equalization, because the assessors will not change your value unless you give them a reason.

I always recommend that if you want to give the assessors information in the hope that they will reduce your value, only give them some of your information, if possible. That way you have some evidence to present at the Board of Equalization that the county appraiser hasn't had a chance to prepare a case against. Too often the appellant provides information to the assessors, gets no relief, and then goes to the BOE to argue against someone that has had months to prepare a case against them.

Remember that given the state of housing in particular and real estate in general there are a lot of appeals going on. The county appraisers have very little time to consider anything you send to them. But they will be under pressure to resolve as many appeals as quickly as possible so it may pay to include some good information in your appeal that supports a lower value. For more information or assistance with your property tax appeals contact FairAssessments.com

What's the Chance My Assessment Will be Reduced If I Appeal?

 
That's a tough question to answer. It has a lot to do with how much preparation and time you put into your property tax appeal. If you have the resources and you have a few hours to prepare a case then I think you have a good shot at a reduction. Of course, you may not get any relief from the assessor's office. You may need to go to a formal board hearing in order to get the reduction.

Many times, you and the assessors will have what appears to be good cases. When presenting your case before formal board argue for a lower value, but don't get too greedy. If you have a good case and the assessor has a good case the board will often split the difference. But if the assessor is it $300,000 and you're at $25,000 there is little chance that the board is going to put $165,000 on it. If you are that far apart the board will often side with the County.

Given the continued slack in the economy and weakness in the real estate sector, provided you haven't appealed your property tax assessment every year for the past several years, I think you'll have a good chance to secure a reduction. It may not be as big a reduction as you hope for, but it will save you money and that's the important thing. If you would like assistance with your Georgia property tax appeal or your commercial property tax appeal please contact us.

Should I Get Professional Help for My Property Tax Appeal?

 
It all depends on the amount of time that you have and the interest that you have in learning how the assessor values your property and the hoops that you have to jump through to get your value lower. Anyone can appeal their property tax value, but you need to do some preparation first. If you have a full-time job, a family life, and enjoy a little R&R, then you may want someone else to handle this for you.

There are firms out there that will provide you with market data that you can use in your property tax appeal for a fee. If you go this route, then you will be arguing with the tax assessor's office or with the board of equalization in order to get the value lowered. This isn't a bad way to go if you don't mind taking time off from work to get to a formal hearing or to meet with a County appraiser.

There are other firms out there, like ours, that will appeal your value on your behalf for a flat fee, a percentage of the tax savings generated, or a combination of both. For commercial properties with high values, generally property tax consultants will work these for from 25% to 33% of the tax savings. For residential properties, due to the fact that the values are generally lower and as a result the tax savings are lower, a flat fee is usually charged as well. This is because a residential appeal can take as much time as a commercial appeal even though the tax savings are lower.

If you are uncomfortable talking to a County appraiser or in front of a board of equalization about real estate appraisal issues that you are unfamiliar with, then you might want to consider using a professional. A property tax consultant has a lot of experience working with County appraisers, knows the mass appraisal process that they use, knows traditional real estate appraisal methodology, and has a lot of experience testifying before a board of equalization.

If you would like additional information about property tax appeals and how a professional can assist you please visit Fair Assessments LLC the Atlanta based property tax reduction specialists.

If I Appeal My Property Tax Can the Assessor Raise My Value?

 
In my experience is a very rare occurrence. Although there is currently no prohibition against the raising of a property tax value in appeal in the Southeastern States I am familiar with, most counties and cities will not do this. In many cases the reason that the tax assessment should be raised is because the assessors property description is incorrect.

During the review of the property description as a result of the appeal the assessor may discover characteristics that add value. However, the reason the assessors property description is incorrect is because the assessor's office did not follow up on building permits, or haven't reviewed their property descriptions for the county or city as a whole for many years or even decades. Because this is not the property owners fault assessors generally will not penalize the property owner in the year they appeal. Typically they wait until the following year to add value as a result of changes to the property description.

I highly recommend that any property owner that is considering appealing their property tax assessment should go to the County and ask for a copy of their property record cards. This will give you the counties description of your property. The property record cards may have many codes on it that are incomprehensible. Ask the assessor's office for a key to what these codes mean. Thoroughly review the property record card and be certain that it is accurate before you file a property tax appeal. You don't want to appeal your value if your house is a two-story McMansion and the assessor shows it is a one-story bungalow.

Use your head, gather solid market data that supports a lower value, and just do it!
For professional assistance with your property tax appeals contact Fair Assessments LLC your property tax advisers.

What Should I Expect When Appealing My Property Tax Assessment?

 
If you have an opportunity to appeal your property tax assessment in 2012, you can bet that the tax assessors are going to be very busy. Values in most parts of the country are still well below where they were when the market peaked in 2007. Assessors may be proactive and reduce values, however, County and city budgets are tight and they may sit on their hands.

Regardless, if you have an opportunity to appeal your property tax assessment in 2012 expect a long delay before you hear anything back from the tax assessors office. Some counties will require that you send in any information you have supporting a lower value. If this is the case, you'll just have to send it in and wait for their decision. If you want to be a little more aggressive you can call the County and request a meeting with the appraiser that is handling your appeal. That way you may get a chance to talk to the appraiser before they form an opinion about the value. This may give you an opportunity to influence them.

I typically tell people that if they don't have to send in their supporting documentation, then don't. When you do the County appraiser has an opportunity to look over your data and their data and form an opinion before you ever get a chance to talk to them. I prefer to send in only a portion of my supporting information and reserve most of it for a formal hearing if I need to attend one later. Much of the time I don't send any supporting information with my appeal.

If you are appealing a new 2012 value County appraisers will probably be somewhat receptive to your appeal and be willing to consider your information. If you are in a County or State that hasn't reappraised in several years they may be less willing to consider your appeal, figuring that it should have been appealed in a previous year, if at all. If you're city or county sends property tax assessment notices annually, but doesn't change values often, they may also be less inclined to consider your appeal unless the market has changed substantially in the past year.

If you have good market data, sales data from your market area that supports a lower value you should be polite but firm when dealing with the County appraiser. Just like anyone else they want to look good and don't want to be belittled in front of their peers. Tell them that you know they're doing the best job possible given the resources available to them but that you have some information that you want them to consider. The mass appraisal process that the County uses is imperfect and that's why there is an appeal process.

If you have to go to a board of equalization or board of review hearing in order to attempt to get your property tax assessment reduced, there is no reason to be nervous. In the South Eastern states that I have been working in for the past eight years these boards are typically composed of other County taxpayers. They may or may not have prior real estate experience. In some cases they may have little knowledge of real estate valuation. Just know that they are no better than you are and remember that you are just there to present your case. Again, being polite but firm is usually the best policy.

If you would like professional assistance in the handling of your property tax appeal please contact Fair Assessments LLC. We are an Atlanta based property tax consulting firm focusing on commercial tax appeals throughout the southeastern United States and residential property tax appeals in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Let's all save some money in 2012.
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