By: Jason E. Little, RF, Certified Appraiser, Forest Resource Consultants, Inc.
As an owner of real property in Georgia, you have always had the right to appeal a property’s assessed value. Senate Bill 346, which passed in 2010, changed some of the rules and regulations regarding appeals. In this article, we have summarized the property tax appeal procedures and highlighted the major changes from previous regulations. Admittedly, the appeal process can be confusing at times and knowing the rules of the game will help you plan appropriately.
In order to gain the best understanding of the current regulations, it would be best to quickly review the former regulations. Previously, the Board of Tax Assessors (BOA) in any given county was only required to send assessment notices to property owners when there was a revision to the previous year’s assessed value (county-wide revaluation, etc.). Property owners could only initiate the appeal process by filing a Property Tax Return before either March 1or April 1, depending on the county. If the deadline passed, property owners had no further recourse for appealing property values that calendar year. This all changed with SB 346.
Now, the BOA is required to send annual assessment notices to all property owners of real property by July 1. Furthermore, the new law has given property owners two ways to initiate appeal of assessed property values by i) filing a Property Tax Return (as before) or ii) by waiting for their annual assessment notice and appeal thereafter. In summary, every owner will receive an assessment notice every year, and the time allowed to initiate an appeal is much longer.
Filing a Property Tax Return
If property owners wish to initiate the appeal process prior to receiving their annual assessment notice, they may simply file a Property Tax Return with either the county tax commissioner or county board of assessors in their county. Specific information by county on where to file a return can be found online using the link below:
County Property Tax Facts
The taxpayer must complete a PT-50R Form, and the appropriate county officials must receive this form between January 1 and April 1. This form can be printed directly from the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website. After considering the Property Tax Return, the BOA is required to send an initial assessment notice that may or may not reflect a revised value. If you are in agreement with the assessment, your work is done; if not, you must then go through the appeal process as outlined below.
Filing a Property Tax Appeal
The second option is to simply wait to receive your annual assessment notice from your County BOA, which must be mailed by July 1. You then have a 45-day period from the date the notice is mailed to file an appeal. A written appeal is filed initially with the BOA. In that initial written dispute, property owners must specify grounds for the appeal (uniformity, value, taxability, etc.) and choose one of three available methods of appeal. The three methods of appeal are i) Board of Equalization, ii) Hearing Officer, or iii) Arbitration. Once the BOA receives your appeal, they have two options: amend or not amend. If the BOA does not amend the initial appeal, the process automatically moves forward based on the property owner’s chosen method of appeal. If the BOA amends the assessed value, they return an amended Assessment Notice. If the property owner agrees with the amended value, the work is done; if not, property owners may appeal the amended assessment within 30 days. If the property owner does appeal the amended value, the appeal moves forward automatically based on the property owner’s original chosen method of appeal. Below is a general summary of the three available methods of appeal.
- Appeal to the County Board of Equalization: Once the Board of Equalization (BOE) receives an appeal from the BOA, a hearing is scheduled and conducted with the BOE. The property owner is notified in writing of the BOE hearing date. The property owner and/or authorized agent may appear to present their case. The BOE must render a decision at the conclusion of the hearing and notify the property owner and BOA in writing. Either party may appeal the BOE’s decision to Superior Court within 30 days.
- Appeal to a Hearing Officer: If the real property is valued at $1,000,000 or greater and is not subject to homestead exemption, then the taxpayer may appeal to a Hearing Officer. This officer must be a state certified general real property or state certified residential real property appraiser. The Georgia Real Estate Commissioner and the Georgia Real Estate Appraiser Board must have approved he/she as a Hearing Officer as well. Either party may appeal the Hearing Officer’s decision to the Superior Court within 30 days.
- Appeal to an Arbitrator: An appeal of value may be filed to Arbitration by filing your appeal with the BOA within 45 days of the date of the notice. The BOA must notify the taxpayer of the receipt of the arbitration appeal within 10 days. The taxpayer must submit a certified appraisal of the subject property within 45 days of the filing of the notice of appeal, which the BOA may accept or reject. If the taxpayer’s appraisal is accepted, the work is done; if it is rejected, the BOA must certify the appeal to the county clerk of superior court for arbitration. The judge authorizes the arbitration, selects an arbitrator, and a hearing is scheduled within 30 days. The arbitrator will issue a decision at the conclusion of the hearing, which is final and may not be appealed further. The losing party is responsible for the clerk of the superior court’s fees as well as the arbitrator’s fees and costs.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the appeal process. As taxpayers, you have options and rights to appeal property values that can be advantageous for you and your family. We have extensive experience with the process and knowledge of property values, so if FRC can assist you in any way, please give us a call.