GA tax assessors have a huge job in front of them. They are also relying on information and statistics provided to them for the sake of providing accurate tax assessments. Therefore, you can’t guarantee that they are always right. No one is perfect, and there are any number of situations that can result in an incorrect tax bill from the county that you live in. Georgia uses a mass appraisal method because there simply isn’t enough time to do individual assessments in person. This can create a lot of opportunities for mistakes or misinformation, so it’s up to you to pay attention.
The process of filing an appeal is simple and outlined by the county assessor or tax office, so it shouldn’t be hard to learn what you need to know before getting started. If you can follow the procedure and provide enough evidence that your taxes are incorrect, you can have a much better chance at getting your taxes lowered or at least corrected, if nothing else.
What to Look For
If you are looking at the numbers, check the dollar amount and the percentage (if provided) that you are being told to pay. Compare that to your previous tax bill and make sure that there are no huge variances. This is the most obvious way to notice a discrepancy, and money always gets people’s attention.
Another thing to look at is the number and type of comps used. In doing a mass appraisal, GA tax assessors use a lot of historical data and the “most current” information available, which may not be the most current information at all. Check out what other homes are being valued at and how yours compares. While you’re doing this, check out the land value comps because this is one of the most common errors.
If there is information that is missing or incorrect on your property record or tax card, make sure that you take note of that and provide as much detail as you can to help them correct the information.
The living area and land area are two big concerns in property records. This information is often incorrect, for any number of reasons. If you notice that your land or living space measurements don’t seem right on your tax card or property record, consider checking a recent appraisal that was done independently. If you haven’t had an appraisal done, it should cost less than $500 and even less if you only want measurements of the property taken. Then, you can report the new information to the county and the tax assessor to have your property record and tax rate adjusted accordingly.
Another common error in tax assessments is in the variance of the assessed value and the recent sales price. While foreclosures and “handyman specials” don’t qualify for reductions based on sales price, traditional home and commercial properties will be able to appeal based on a sales price discrepancy. For the most part, the county doesn’t recognize short sales, foreclosures, and other similar transactions as valid sales for the sake of market and tax valuation.
If, however, you purchased a home at a slightly lower price than what is listed on the record or in the assessment, you may be able to add the correct sale information to help lower your taxes. The county will appreciate this because they will also have more accurate information on file.
Land value is estimated during an appraisal and then reported to the county records office. The total tax that you will pay combines the land value with the improvement value of the property. If either one of these numbers is incorrect, it could skew your tax value and increase your bill. Land value is easy to get wrong because there is little standard for measurement or the “property description” that is required.
While one property might be listed as “part of lot 3 development, Shoreville subdivision, parcel 2043”, another property might simply be listed as “at the address shown, running along the creek to West and treeline to East”.
Can you see the problem in these variations? The first provides a detailed explanation of the property, which is good, but not everyone uses this information. The second, and far more common description, is usually one that is too descriptive, because it leaves too much to interpretation.
File an Appeal
As soon as you notice that something isn’t right with your property taxes, you need to call your tax office and inquire about the appeals process. This will give you the chance to argue your case and get the correct information put on file for the public record. It will also result in a better chance of getting your taxes correctly adjusted. Note that it isn’t always about lowering your taxes. That is the ideal situation, but getting the information correct is far more important. After all, if you aren’t paying enough in property taxes, it could cause a lot of trouble in the way of fines down the road.
To file an appeal, you simply have to fill out the application to request a hearing. Then, you will be able to take the time until your hearing to collect evidence to support your case. This could be something as simple as an updated residential sketch or a full barrage of evidence that points to a number of discrepancies in your tax assessments. Make sure that you follow the county process to the letter because some Georgia counties have different appeals procedures than others.
You don’t have to take this process on by yourself. Fair Assessments, LLC has a full staff of professional valuation experts who can assist you with all of your property tax concerns, including assessment mistakes or omissions. We understand that there are a lot of variables involved and many steps in the process, which is sometimes complicated for the average property owner. If you need assistance with your property tax appeal, contact us today.