The tax assessor’s office is not working against property owners, despite what some people might think. The problem lies in the tax assessment process, which can be complex and confusing for the average property owner. People often immediately jump to blame the assessor when their tax bill goes up or the information is incorrect. However, the issues that you are having with your property taxes are usually above what a Dekalb County tax assessor has control over.
The job of a tax assessor is to evaluate properties to determine their applicable tax rates. Because of the sheer volume of available properties, this is done through what is known as mass appraisal, or the assessment of groups of homes that are similar in size, sale price, features, and value. You may or may not receive an accurate tax assessment because of the way taxes are calculated, but you don’t need to stress over paying too much. If your assessment doesn’t look right, speak up. A simple phone call to your tax office can go a long way.
Here are the things that you need to know.
Why can’t you do an actual assessment of my specific property?
Tax assessors have a big job ahead of them. Think about all of the residential and commercial properties in your city, or even just your neighborhood. The state of Georgia relies on a mass appraisal process, as the statistical data used often gets a very accurate tax assessment value for the majority of properties. In the event that you don’t agree with your assessment, you can file an appeal and use your own independent inspection report to provide updated or corrected information.
What’s the difference between assessed value and improvement value?
On a property record, you will typically see the assessed and improvement values combined to reach a total property value. The improvement value is usually easy to understand-- this is how much value is in the land and structure of the home based on its characteristics and features. The assessment value is what is used for tax purposes. This is a standard 33.33% of your property’s fair market value, which is determined by averaging sales data from the past three years.
What does it mean to file an appeal? Do I need an attorney?
When you file an appeal with the Dekalb County tax assessor’s office, you are simply telling them that something in your assessment is incorrect or you feel that information may be missing that could impact your tax bill. The application process is fairly straightforward, simply requiring you to provide as much information as possible about what you believe is wrong with your tax assessment. Once you file for this appeal, you will be assigned a hearing date. You have until then to collect evidence and gather information to support your claim.
For example, if your tax assessment was based on your property record listing your most recent home sale for $20,000 more than it actually was, you are going to have a higher tax rate. Missing or incorrect sales information is rare, but it can happen. You will simply need to supply proof of the actual sales value to the county records and tax assessor’s offices, respectively. It is far more likely for you to find discrepancies in square footage, land value, or other smaller details.
You do not need an attorney to file an appeal on your property tax assessment. However, the process is tedious and takes a lot of time. Companies exist that deal exclusively with these problems for property owners, and you should take advantage of them when you can. Not only will they take care of everything for you, but they do this for a living, so they know the ins and outs of the process. While not required, professional assistance can definitely be an asset in your appeal.
What if I’m underpaying? Do I need to correct that?
It’s easy to assume that paying less is a good thing. However, if your tax assessment is incorrect in some way that lowers your taxes errantly, you need to speak up. Paying less at first may be nice, but eventually someone will figure out the error and it will come back on the property owner in some cases. The result is usually a sizeable penalty that could have been avoided if the owner had just fixed the assessment information right away and paid the higher tax rate.
What this also does (underpaying for taxes) is it undervalues your property. Therefore, if you are looking to sell, you won’t get as much out of the sale price if your value is lower. The best thing to do in this situation is to use a recent appraisal or have an appraisal done by an independent appraiser to get an accurate home value and update the property record accordingly.
What if I just feel like the numbers aren’t right?
You don’t have to have a specific reason to file an appeal with the Dekalb County tax assessor’s office. If you think that something about your assessment is off, it’s time to start investigating. Just fill out the appeals application and then start looking through your tax card and property record to see what information could have been entered incorrectly or affected your tax assessment. You can even ask the assessor what factors are used to determine your tax rate, so you know more specifically where to start your search.
If this all seems like too much, or if you just aren’t sure where to start, you can contact the team at Fair Assessments, LLC. We work exclusively with tax assessment appeals and other property tax issues in the southern United States, including Georgia and Florida. We can often find the issues quickly and make it easy for you to prove your case and get your property taxes corrected the first time. We will even provide you with documentation of the outcome so that you have it for your records. Call us today to discuss your case or learn more.