As most private property valuation firms will tell you, the majority of mistakes made by a Cobb County tax assessor are due to misinformation and often through no fault of the assessor directly. These people are tasked with valuing thousands of properties across the county, including residential and commercial properties, which is done using methods that rely on statistics and data. If that data isn’t accurate, your tax assessment won’t be, either.
Understanding how mistakes happen, and which ones are most common, starts with knowing where the information comes from in the first place.
Where Assessors Get Property Information
Assessors are given real property information from the local tax office or county auditor. This information is compiled in property deeds, recombination and subdivision plats, and other recorded documents and surveys that describe the property in question and categorize it into the appropriate assessment neighborhood.
At the time of a sale or transfer of ownership, the Register of Deeds in the county will be required to submit to the tax office:
- The name and address of the new property owner
- A description of the property that includes location information and identifying details
This information is also conveyed visually through a GIS, or Geographic Information System, which maps properties by parcel number and owner based on recorded information obtained by the tax office. These maps will be prepared based on the office’s interpretation of the documents in question, and unless they are notified of an error or see obvious problems in the legal description of the property, they may not notice small issues that could affect whether or not your property tax assessments are accurate.
Misinformation is Usually the Culprit
As you can assume, based on the way that information is passed along to your Cobb County tax assessor, the biggest cause of errors in property tax assessments is inaccurate or misleading information. Therefore, it’s going to be up to the property owner to take responsibility for their tax assessments in order to ensure that they aren’t overpaying for property taxes. A little due diligence can go a long way. Visit your local auditor or assessor’s office, or get online and obtain a copy of your property tax card. Look at the real property listing and check all areas for accuracy. Look for any errors, no matter how small, that will permit you to request a reevaluation of your taxes.
The Big Errors and How to Avoid Them
The generalized nature of mass appraisal causes a lot of issues for accuracy when it comes to property tax assessments. Here are the most common errors associated with tax assessors and what you can do about them:
- Living Area/Square Footage Discrepancies
- Incorrect Assessment Neighborhood Assignment
- Land Values or Size Discrepancies
- The assessor is going to use county records to obtain your land value and size for the sake of a tax assessment. The county is going to use recent land sales and similar property sales that involved land-only transactions to determine how much land value your property has. While this is a fairly effective method, there are times when it can go very wrong and cost a fortune in extra taxes. This could occur as a result of a failure to complete a current comparables assessment for land values, or a misrecording of information by the county records office that holds real property information.
The county information website and physical records are notorious for having incorrect or conflicting information about the square footage and available living area of a specific property. Homes that have multiple stories are most likely to have incorrect living area information. If you feel that your property listing is incorrect, you have a couple of options. If you have a recent appraisal from a private company, check the gross living area on that report and compare it to the county records. Remember to include the basement. You can also have an appraisal done with full measurements of the home, or request a measurement-only appraisal service to verify this information before you file for a correction.
As discussed earlier, assessors use the most up-to-date information that they have available to determine property values for groups of homes based on the mass appraisal method. That doesn’t mean that they actually have the most current information. This, among other things, could lead to your home being assigned to the wrong assessment neighborhood. These neighborhoods are usually designated as comparable properties with similar values and construction, and when a home is put into the wrong one, it can seriously affect property values and taxes for everyone involved. We can help you determine whether your home is where it should be or if there are other properties in your neighborhood that incorrectly affected your property taxes or home value.
Don’t Pay Until You Correct Everything
Unfortunately, because of the massive nature of property tax assessments, the job of fact-checking often falls to the property owner. If you receive a tax assessment that you don’t agree with or feel that the assessor has made errors in their valuation, don’t pay your tax bill until you get all of the errors corrected and get a re-assessment with the right information.
Bear in mind that Georgia has rules in place regarding prior year errors or values. If a major error is discovered in the property description and it would have seriously impacted your prior year value, the county will reduce both the tax and the value for three years. It is extremely rare that an error would be so extreme that you would be entitled to any kind of refund, though.
At Fair Assessments, LLC, we understand the complexities that come with tax assessments in Cobb County and throughout Georgia. We can review your tax assessment and your property record to help find and fix any errors that could be causing you to have a higher tax bill. Whether you have already started your appeal or are just noticing some discrepancies in your newest assessment, contact us right away.