Are You Choking on your Fulton County Property Tax Increase?

Are You Choking on your Fulton County Property Tax Increase? Then, the following information may be very helpful.

Choking on your Fulton County Property Tax Increase

Many homeowners have received notices that their taxes jumped 20-30% this year. This news can be quite a shock! Even so, the assessed value of many homes is still lagging way behind true market value and has been for years.  So, the big question is “why this year?” Well, if you listen to the news the Case-Shiller Home Price Index for Atlanta is trending upward at an 8-10% rate, annually – so that could account for part of it. The NEXT question will probably be “who can I talk to about this?”  Answer: Someone who is experienced and knowledgeable about the people and the process. Below is a wealth of information we received recently from an interview with Jack Florek who consults on tax appeals in Fulton County, Georgia.

Please bear in mind that the staff at the Board of Tax Assessors are just trying to do their job.

That said, you still need to advocate for your best interests and exercise your rights. In recent years, Jack says he has helped homeowners achieve tax reductions of 15-20%.  He also recommends an appeal for no other reason that to ‘freeze’ the value of your property and the corresponding taxes for 3 years. Jack is available to calculate a realistic Fair Market Value Estimate for your appeal, prepare everything you need to justify the reduction and then prepare you for the hearing. He will even represent you at the Board of Equalization (BOE) hearing if you are unable to attend. His fee is $40/hour and the process normally runs 6-7 hours plus $80 for representation at the BOE hearing.

Want more info? You can reach Jack Florek via 404-844-7131 or his email at reduceyourpropertytaxga@gmail.com

OR, To sign-up, click on this link.


In Fulton County, Atlanta Georgia, the final day

for filing an appeal is July 20th.


Fulton County Property Tax appeal rules

The Board of Equalization (BOE) is charged by the O.C.G.A. §48-5-311 to hear appeals of property tax matters that include:

  • Value – What the property would sell for in a transaction between a knowledgeable buyer and a willing seller in a bone fide arm’s length transaction.
  • Uniformity of value – Assessment values that are fairly equalized between individual taxpayers.
  • Taxability – All real property and all personal property shall be liable to taxation and shall be taxed, except as otherwise provided by law.
  • Denial of homestead exemptions – The homestead of each resident of this state actually occupied by the owner as primary residence and homestead shall be exempted from all ad valorem taxation for the state, county, and school purposes.
  • Denial of special assessments – Georgia law provides for special assessments of certain types of property such as, property used for agricultural purposes (conservation use, agricultural preferential), rehabilitated and landmark historic properties, contaminated property (also known as Brownfields), certain environmentally sensitive property and storm water/wetlands.

Appeals

Property owners who filed an appeal to the Board of Tax Assessors within 45 days of the postmark date on their assessment notice are called an Appellant. The appeal is reviewed by the Board of Tax Assessors and if the Board’s decision is a “no change,” the appeal is forwarded to the Board of Equalization.

Hearings

Appellants (people who filed an appeal) will receive a notice of the date and time of the scheduled hearing. All appeal hearings are held at 141 Pryor Street, Suite 5001 located on the fifth floor of the Government Center. The Board of Equalization is comprised of property owners appointed by the Grand Jury of this county. In addition to being property owners, the appointees to the Board of Equalization (BOE) must also be qualified and competent to serve as grand jurors and be high school graduates. Each member must satisfactorily complete 40 hours of certified training before he or she can participate as a member of the Board. Each member must also complete an eight (8) hour continuous education class annually. To reschedule your hearing you must notify the Board of Equalization Office a minimum of 24 hours in advance of your scheduled hearing at (404) 613-7792. To withdraw your hearing you must notify this office in writing a minimum of 24 hours in advance of your scheduled hearing.

Attendance

An Appellant may appear before the Board of Equalization or with a representative or authorize a representative to represent him/her in their absence. However, the taxpayer shall specify in writing to the Board of Equalization the name of such agent or representative prior to any appearance by the agent or representative before the Board.

Evidence

Documentation you may consider presenting to the Board of Equalization may include: Evidence of purchase price; Appraisals; Photographs of the interior, exterior, and surrounding area; Evidence of sale Prices; Comparable property values in your area (Typically, ONLY information from the prior calendar year qualifies).

Superior Court

The Appellant or the County Board of Tax Assessors may appeal decisions of the Board of Equalization. The notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days from the date on which the BOE decision was mailed. The appeal to Superior Court is a jury trial and Appellant may wish to consider engaging an attorney. The appeal must be filed with the Board of Tax Assessors by the owner or his/her attorney. If anyone has any questions concerning an appeal or wants additional information about the Board of Equalization you may contact the office at (404) 613-7792.

Board of Equalization (BOE)

Melvin B. Richardson became the Director of the Board of Equalization Office in October, 2009. As the Director Melvin is responsible for the administration of policy development, operational management, and analytical reporting of the adjudication of all certified appeals. The Board of Equalization is governed by Georgia Statute O.C.G.A § 48-5-311 which requires fair and impartial appeal hearings to property owners regarding disputed assessment valuations issued by The Board of Tax Assessors in the annual Tax Digest.

Fulton County
Board of Equalization
141 Pryor Street, Suite 5001
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 613-7792

Thumbnail info from the Fulton County Chief Appraiser and the Director of the Board of Equalization (BOE) at the Property Tax Town Hall hosted by Commissioner Lee Morris on June 24th:

Chief Appraiser:

  • Has over 45 full-time appraisers working for him.
  • Has 349,000 residential properties to assess each year.
  • Has 22,000 commercial properties to assess each year.
  • His appraisers use a software package called CAMA. Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) . (system contains ‘Models’ that characterize like properties such as type (e.g. Ranch, Colonial, Craftsman, etc.), bedrooms, baths, square footage, construction material, type of garage, etc.) [Note-1}
  • Fair Market Value is computed based on above category models and complex algorithm. [Note-2]
  • No physical audit of the entire 349,000 residential inventory since 1995. [Note-3]
  • Going forward, they plan to use aerial imagery from Pictometry to look at your property. [Note-4]
  • He does not have control of the BOE process.

Director of the Board of Equalization (BOE):

  • Has enough trained people to make up 13 Boards. (see below)
  • Averages 8 Boards per day [Note-5]
  • Boards adjudicate Fair Market Value appeals and denied Exemption appeals.
  • He described what to bring to the Board to make an argument for your Fair Market Value.
  • His Boards are funded by the judicial office of Fulton County, not the Board of Assessors.

The Board of Equalization is comprised of property owners appointed by the Grand Jury of this county. In addition to being property owners, the appointees to the Board of Equalization (BOE) must also be qualified and competent to serve as grand jurors and be high school graduates. Each member must satisfactorily complete 40 hours of certified training before he or she can participate as a member of the Board. Each member must also complete an eight (8) hour continuous education class annually.

Note:

  1. Potential for error is large. Both in terms of record accuracy, data entry error and appraiser understanding of the algorithms in their sophisticated software package. http://www.msgovern.com/software/detail/govern_cama/
  2. The current data base falls short of ALL the possible number of models that exist.
  3. No physical audit of the entire 349,000 residential inventory since the 1990’s.
  4. Time to hide that swimming pool or patio or gazebo you had installed without a permit.
  5. Potential cases heard per year = 23,040 (8 boards x 12 sessions/day x 240 days/year; assuming no cancellations)

Want more info? You can reach Jack Florek via 404-844-7131 or his email at reduceyourpropertytaxga@gmail.com

Filing for Homestead Exemption in Metro Atlanta

Every spring, home buyers are filing for Homestead Exemption in Metro Atlanta.

Homestead ExemptionDon’t leave money on the table! For this post, we asked Pam Robinson with closing attorneys Neel, Robinson and Stafford, LLC to simplify the Homestead Exemption process for us.  So, Pam, thanks so much for your help on this!

What is a Homestead Exemption

It is a Tax Savings. When it comes to Property Taxes, a homeowner is entitled to a “homestead exemption” on their personal home and land underneath provided the home was owned by the homeowner and was their legal residence as of January 1 of the taxable year. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-40)  Buyers only have to file for this once following their purchase. After that initial filing, it stays in place in subsequent years. Typically, when someone buys a home (other than an investment property) there is Homestead Exemption in place through the current owner. When that property is sold, the Homestead Exemption will drop off. The new buyer must then apply for the Homestead Exemption so it can be reinstated under their name. If a new Buyer does not file for their Homestead Exemption by the county imposed deadline, the taxes will be higher than the previous year because the Homestead Exemption was not in place. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions of the deadline is missed. The only action to take is to file for the Homestead Exemption as soon as possible so that the exemption will be in place for the next year.

What and/or Who Qualifies?

You only get one homestead exemption at a time and it is on your primary residence. To be granted a homestead exemption, a person must actually live in the home and the home is considered their legal primary residence for all purposes.  Persons that are away from their home because of health reasons will not be denied homestead exemption. If this is the case, a family member or friend can notify the tax receiver or tax commissioner and the homestead exemption will be granted. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-40)

How Do You Apply?

Homestead Exemptions applications must be filed by April 1. Applications filed after this date will not be granted until the next calendar year. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-45)

Failure to apply by the deadline will result in loss of the exemption for that year.  (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-45)

Applications for homestead exemption must be filed with the tax commissioner’s office, or in some counties the tax assessor’s office who has been delegated to receive applications for homestead exemption. Filing for Home Exemptions is a one time event.

A homeowner can file an application for homestead exemption for their home and land any time during the calendar year. We suggest you apply at least 30 days in advance of the filing deadline to allow plenty of time for the tax office to review your application.  To receive the homestead exemption for the current tax year, the homeowner must have owned the property on January 1 and filed the homestead application by the same date property tax returns are due in the county. 

Exemptions Offered by the State and Counties

The State of Georgia offers homestead exemptions to all qualifying homeowners.  In some counties they have increased the amounts of their homestead exemptions by local legislation above the amounts offered by the State.  As a general rule the exemptions offered by the county are more beneficial to the homeowner.

What is needed to Apply?

Homestead ExemptionYes, this is a bit of a pain.  Here is a quick checklist to help you achieve success in just one trip:

  • Driver’s License – that matches the property address
  • Social Security Number
  • Motor Vehicle Registration(s) – that matches the property address
  • Warranty Deed – book and page numbers (recorded copy received from closing attorney 3-4 months after closing)
  • Mortgage Statement – proof of residence
  • HUD-1 Closing Statement (received at closing)

Below are links to the various Metro Atlanta Counties:

Cherokee County – deadline is April 1            678-493-6120

Clayton County – deadline is April 1               770-477-3311

Cobb County – deadline is April 1                  770-528-8600

DeKalb County – deadline is April 1               404-298-4000

Douglas County – deadline is April 1              770-920-7272

Fayette County – deadline is April 1               770-461-3652

Forsyth County – deadline is April 1               770-781-2106

Fulton County – deadline is April 1                 404-612-6440

Gwinnett County – deadline is April 1           770-822-8800

Henry County – deadline is April 1                 770-288-8180           

Paulding County – deadline is April 1            770-443-7606

Fine Print

This is our best effort to provide a quick convenient resource to get started.  It is not the be all/end all.  The links could stop working.  The municipal websites could change. Life is not perfect! Hopefully, though, this will still save you some time.