Board of Tax Assessors
The County Board of Tax Assessors, appointed for fixed terms by the county commissioners in all Georgia counties except one, is responsible for determining taxability: the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county.
Assessors are required by law to pass a state examination and complete a continuing education program consisting of 40 hours of formal classroom instruction with a passing grade of 70 percent. They must successfully complete at least 40 hours of approved appraisal courses during each two years of their tenure as a member of the county board of tax assessors.
The board notifies taxpayers when changes are made to the value of any property, receives and reviews all appeals filed, and ensures that the appeal process proceeds properly. In addition, the board approves all exemptions claimed by the taxpayer.
The Board of Tax Assessors is not responsible for:
- Collecting taxes
- Calculating taxes
- Determining tax rates
The Assessors are concerned with value, not taxes. Taxing jurisdictions such as schools, cities and counties adopt budgets after public hearings. This determines the tax levy, which is the rate of taxation required to raise the money budget.
Fair Market Value
Residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural real and personal property are appraised at 100 percent market value. Market value of a property is an estimate of the price that the property would sell for on the open market on the first day of January of the year of assessment. This is often referred to as the "arms length transaction" or "willing buyer/willing seller" concept. The Assessor must determine the fair market value of real and personal property. To do this, the Assessor generally uses three approaches to value.
The first approach is to find properties that are comparable to the subject property and that have recently sold. Differences between the sales and the subject property are then considered. This method is generally referred to as the market approach and is usually considered the most important in determining the value of residential property.
The second approach to value is the cost approach, which is an estimate of how many dollars at current labor and material prices it would take to replace a property with one similar to it. In the event the improvement is not new, appropriate amounts of depreciation and obsolescence are deducted from replacement value. Value of the land is added to arrive at an estimate of total property value.
The income approach is the third method used if the property produces income. If the property is an income producing property, it could be valued according to its ability to produce income under prudent management; in other words, what another investor would give for a property in order to gain its income. The income approach is the most complex of the three approaches because of the research, information and analysis necessary for an accurate estimate of value. This method requires thorough knowledge of local and national financial conditions, as well as any developmental trends in the area of the subject property being appraised since errors or inaccurate information can seriously affect the final estimate of value.
Why Values Change
After properties have been appraised, the values are analyzed to ensure accurate and equitable valuations. Changes in market value as indicated by research, sales ratio studies, analysis of local conditions, as well as economic trends, both within and outside the construction industry, are used in determining property values.
If the Board of Tax Assessors changes a property owner's value, it is required to send the taxpayer a "notice of change in assessment." The owner who disagrees with the Assessor's estimate of value should consider these three questions:
- What is the actual market value of my property, or what would it sell for?
- How does the value compare to similar properties in the neighborhood and is it valued uniformly?
- Is my property taxable?
If the owner decides to appeal the assessment, it must be done in writing.
Taxpayers may appeal their assessment to the county board of equalization by mailing or filing with the county Board of Tax Assessors a notice of appeal within 45 days from the date on which the notice was mailed. In counties where the governing authority allows payment of taxes in installments, a notice of appeal must be filed or mailed within 30 days.
The Board of Tax Assessors will review the appeal, and if a change is made to the value, a written decision will be mailed to the owner. If the owner is still not satisfied with the BTA decision, he/she will the have 21 days to respond in writing requesting the appeal be forwarded to the Board of Equalization. Of course, if the owner is satisfied with the change, there is no need to respond.
If the Board of Assessors does not find a reason to change the value, the appeal will be forwarded to the board of equalization or to arbitration without the necessity for the taxpayer to file another written appeal.
If you have any questions about the assessment of your property, please contact your county assessor's office.
Specialized and Preferential Assessment Programs
Two general types of specialized or preferential assessment programs are available for certain owners of certain types of property. One of these programs authorizes assessment at 30 percent rather than 40 percent of fair market value for certain agricultural properties being used for bona fide agricultural purposes.
The second type of preferential program is the Conservation Use program which provides that certain agricultural property, timber land property, environmentally sensitive property, or residential transitional property is to be valued and assessed for ad valorem purpose at its current use value rather than its fair market value.
Each of these specialized or preferential programs require the property owner to covenant with the Board of Tax Assessors to maintain the property in its qualified use for at least 10 years in order to qualify for the preference. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for either of these programs.
Board of Equalization, Arbitration, and Binding Arbitration
The Board of Equalization is an independent board appointed by the Grand Jury in each county. Some counties may have multiple boards of equalization.
Each person who is, in the judgment of the appointing grand jury, qualified and competent to serve as a grand juror, who is the owner of real property, and who is at least a high school graduate shall be qualified and competent to serve as a member or alternate member of the county board of equalization. No member of the governing authority of a county, municipality, or consolidated government; member of a county or independent board of education; member of the county board of tax assessors; employee of the county board of tax assessors; or county tax appraiser shall be competent to serve as a member or alternate member of the county board of equalization.
There is no cost involved in filing an appeal to the Board of Equalization, unless the owner chooses to hire a representative or attorney. The decision of the board of equalization is appealable by either party to the superior court.
Arbitration is a totally different process. If the taxpayer requests arbitration in lieu of the Board of Equalization, the Board of Tax Assessors will file the appeal with the Clerk of Superior Court, and a judge will assign a referee. If both parties agree, the matter may be submitted to a single arbitrator. If both parties agree, the referee may serve as the single arbitrator.
If the parties do not agree to a single arbitrator, then three arbitrators shall hear the appeal. If one or both parties are unable to select an arbitrator, the appeal shall be heard by a single arbitrator that is appointed by the judge of the superior court.
To be qualified to serve as an arbitrator, a person must be at least a registered real estate appraiser as classified by the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board.
The taxpayer shall be responsible for the fees and costs of such taxpayer's arbitrator and the county shall be responsible for the fees and costs of such county's arbitrator. The two parties shall each be responsible for one-half of the fees and costs of the third arbitrator. In the event the appeal is submitted to a single arbitrator, the two parties shall each be responsible for one-half of the fees and costs of such arbitrator;
The decision of the arbitrator(s) in this case is appealable by either party to the superior court.
Binding Arbitration is yet another option for the property owner. Binding arbitration is available beginning in 2009 for disputes of value on real property only and is in lieu of either the board of equalization, or non-binding arbitration. This form of arbitration involves only one arbitrator and is very time sensitive. Within 30 days of filing the notice of appeal, the owner must submit a certified appraisal. The board of assessors must either accept the certified appraisal within 30 days or certify the appeal to the clerk of superior court. Each step has a deadline. The arbitrator must choose between owner's certified appraisal or the tax assessor's value. The party whose value is not chosen must pay the cost of the arbitrator. The decision in this case is not appealable to the superior court.
This information is provided as a summary of the appeals process only. For complete details on the appeals process, see OCGA 48-5-311
- Valuation date for Taxation
- Date owner must reside at property to qualify for Homestead and other related Exemptions
January 1 until April 1 (March 1 in some counties)
- Period to file tax returns
- Period to file personal property reporting forms
- Period to file applications for Freeport Inventory Exemption
- Period to file Applications for Preferential Agricultural, Conservation Use, Freeport
- Residential Transitional and Environmentally Sensitive Exemptions
- Application Deadline for Homestead Exemptions
The Board of Tax Assessors web site is maintained separately and independently from Dade County. The web site contains additional information about taxes and exemptions.