Property taxes are a pain in everyone’s wallet. Although it will never go away, there are some things that you can do to make it better. One of those is to educate yourself about your taxes, how they are calculated, and what you should be paying. The assessment process is mostly foreign to the average homeowner, but it isn’t especially complicated.
Dekalb County property tax is much lower than a lot of areas in the United States, as are the taxes in most of the counties in Georgia. The average property tax in the state is $1,770, which is significantly less than a state like New Jersey, where property taxes can be as high as $7,000 or more. To understand how much you should be paying, here are some important things to know about tax assessments.
1. Property taxes are determined by a data-driven method known as “mass appraisal”.
The sheer volume of work in assessing real property is intimidating. If you think of all the houses in your neighborhood, imagine how much time it would take to appraise and assess all of them. Counties can’t possibly employ enough people to personally visit every house, every single year. Therefore, a method is used that is known as mass appraisal.
Mass appraisal involves grouping similarly sized and valued homes into groups, or “neighborhoods”, for the sake of assessment. Data provided by the county records office will be used to determine an appropriate tax value based on things like property size, land size and value, and residential use of the home. Your property will also be compared to those comparable homes nearby to determine the appropriate tax amount. It is not an exact science and mistakes do happen at times, which is why knowing what you are dealing with can make all the difference.
2. Your tax assessment isn’t written in stone.
The majority of homeowners get their tax assessment, notice that it isn’t actually a bill, and toss it out without a second thought. Some people do save them or look over them, but it usually isn’t anything serious. If you’ve noticed a new assessment that doesn’t seem right, don’t panic. You aren’t forced to pay the amount they assessed for you, and you can actually take steps to pay less if their information is incorrect or you have other reasons to ask for an appeal.
Just remember that you need to keep an eye on your current Dekalb County property tax statements. There is virtually nothing you can do to go back and recover overpayments from previous years. It is all but impossible to get a refund for incorrect tax assessments. If you start now and succeed in your appeal, you will be able to have future taxes capped for up to three years.
3. There are a number of factors affecting the tax value of your property.
Just as with your value appraisal, your tax appraisal is calculated by using a number of different elements. We touched on this above, but it’s important to know a little more. Things that will affect the amount of your tax bill include:
- Land size
- Land use
- Building size
- Building use
- Comparable homes in the area
- Sales records
The tax office might try to confuse you by telling you that the assessment rate is actually a percentage based on which jurisdiction you live in. Your tax rate may be 8%, but you still need to know how the assessor gets to that number. The items listed above are used to determine where your home should fall in terms of tax values.
4. GIS Map conveyances aren’t always measured the same.
One of the biggest discrepancies on tax assessments is the land size or GIS Map parcel sketch. This is often because GIS Maps have no standard system of measurement for land. The parcel may be improperly sketched, or described in such a way that it can’t be accurately conveyed. For example:
- Latitude and longitude descriptions can be difficult to draw on a map.
- Landmarks or natural borders used to describe property lines (such as a creek or a treeline) can be misinterpreted.
- When the real property record measures in acres and the GIS doesn’t use the same system of measurement, it is left up to the interpretation of the assessor.
To most people, a slight variance in their property line isn’t a huge issue. However, having the wrong information on a tax assessment could result in land being assigned to the wrong owner and a higher tax bill as a result. If some of the land is included on the Map but not in the tax listing, you might see a smaller bill at first, but if you don’t catch their error, you may pay a high penalty down the road. If the GIS Map doesn’t match the property card or the county records, make sure that you take the necessary steps to provide the assessor with the correct information.
5. Winning your appeal could cap your property tax for three years.
If you do notice a discrepancy in your listing or GIS Map, or anywhere else in your tax assessment, you are entitled to file an appeal. Because of the mass appraisal system, the state understands that mistakes can happen and they are willing to hear you out. They will make you do all the work, but if you can prove that your Dekalb County property tax is too high or that incorrect information was used, you may win the right to a new assessment.
You can provide an appraisal that was recently performed on your property to assist in correcting the missing or wrong information on your tax assessment. You can also enjoy the benefit of having your property taxes stay the same for up to three years if you do win your appeal.
If you’re ready to file an appeal or you’ve already started the process, Fair Assessments, LLC can help. Our team understands the complexities of property tax appeals and can assist you in the process, no matter what you need. Remember that when it comes to property taxes, it’s up to the owner to practice due diligence. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone.