Board of Equalization 101, a few things one needs to know before heading to his or her appeal.

Once a property owner has filed an appeal on his or her parcel, and it doesn’t get reduced at the assessor’s office, it gets forwarded onto the board of equalization.  This is who will listen to the appeal from the assessor’s office as well as the property owner. 

After the board listens to the appeal, they will render a decision as to the value and the results will be mailed to the homeowner via certified mail within a week to ten days after the hearing.  If the homeowner is still not satisfied with the board’s decision, he or she may file the matter onto superior court within 30 days of the results being mailed out.

The members of the board of equalization or “b.o.e” are “supposed” to be independent of the assessor’s office and they are usually appointed by the grand jury of the county the property is located in.  For the most part, the clerk of court or the district attorney’s office,  oversees the board of equalization and members who make up the boards.

Typically the board members are retired and come from all walks of life.  Each of them must take a 40 hour course on appraisal methods, etc. as well as a few hours of continuing education annually.  After this, they are allowed to listen to appeals and render the decisions as to the fair market value on millions of dollars of real estate.  That alone is plain scary because it takes years to understand how land and improvements are valued and how improvements are depreciated and how to understand an income approach to value or market approach to value.  What i’m trying to say is that 40 hours of course work on this will provide someone with just enough information to basically be “dangerous.”

If a taxpayer goes to his or her hearing and gets a “bad” board, he or she will receive a “no change” in the value and then no money will be saved on the tax bill for that particular tax year.  If at all possible, it is best to to meet with the appraiser handling your appeal, to try to come up with something agreeable to both parties.  If one doesn’t do this, then it is a “crap” shoot of how the appeal is going to go because the person appealing the assessment won’t find out what board he or she has until he or she arrives at the hearing. 

I have been appealing assessments for the past 17 years and i still run into some of the same board members who have been doing it for as long as i have or longer than i have.  Some of them are good to appear in front of, and will do their job correctly, and for the most part the taxpayer has a chance to obtain a reduction in their value.  On the flip side, some of them don’t have a clue, really, as to what is going on and they typically always side with the appraiser and do whatever he or she recommends (even though they are supposed to make a decision on their own independent of what the appraiser says or what the taxpayer says.)

I’ve found that when appearing before the board of equalization, it is important to allow the county appraiser to go first and it is important not to interrupt the appraiser or any of the board members.  It also helps to speak slowly and clearly and to engage the board and make sure they are paying attention to what is going on and that they get the gist of what the taxpayer is trying to convey.

From my past experience in some of the larger counties in metro Atlanta, I’ve noticed that some of the board members feel that they are “un-touchable,” because they don’t really answer to anyone and they can seem uppity, rude, condescending and “pro-county.” 

I’ve done over 1,000 hearings in my time and i know how the process works and i have pretty much seen about everything there is to see at these hearings.  I’ve been treated well by some boards and very poorly by others, but i know what i can do about it. 

The sad thing is that the property owners doing their own appeals for the first time may get “run over” by a board and not even know it.  It is imperative for a taxpayer to report this behavior if he or she feels that they were mistreated.  It is important that the people in charge at the county, who run the board, know what was experienced and it’s important to let the d.a.’s office know what happened as well as the clerk’s office if applicable. 

The board members have to answer to someone just like the rest of us and they can be fired or removed from their position.  Many of them, being retired and all, don’t want to lose their position, because then they don’t get paid and they have nothing to do really and it’s hard finding work these days.

The bottom line is remember the “golden rule” and treat the board like you would want to be treated.  

I’ve made it a practice to speak up immediately, if i’ve had a negative experience at any board in any county.  It’s like a lady from the d.a.’s office at a large, metro, county told me one day, “the d.a’s office giveth that board position and the d.a’s office can taketh that position away too.”

If any of you have had a bad experience at a board of equalization hearing, I would like to hear about it.  Also, if any of you feel like you will be outside your comfort zone, presenting an appeal, contact me.  It doesn’t cost as much as you think to have professional representation.

The property tax appeal process.

For tax year 2011, each property owner, in every county in Georgia, will automatically receive an assessment notice.  This notice will have the proposed fair market value on it as well as an estimate of the property taxes due, based on that proposed fair market value. After one receives a notice, there will be a six week window to file an appeal letter with the assessor’s office, if one desires.

 After the assessor’s office receives the appeal letter, they will either issue a “21” day letter where they “lower” the value.  If that value is satisfatory, the appeal process ends there.  If not, the parcel owner must file another appeal letter and then that appeal will be forwarded to the board of equalization.  It is imperative that all appeal deadlines be met because if they aren’t, the appeal is null and void and the property owner is stuck with that value and can’t appeal it until the following year.  Time is definitely of the essence in this game.

Once the appeal is at the board of equalization level, the taxpayer must wait until his or her appeal is scheduled.  Once it is scheduled, he or she goes and appears on that particular date and time before the board of equalization, which will be comprised of three people who will listen to the appeal and render the decision as to value.  The “B.O.E” are in no way affiliated with the assessor’s office and they are supposed to be act independent, and act on their own.  The county will have an appraiser there representing them and the homeowner will be there representing himself unless he or she has a tax representative there with them or there for them on their behalf.

Appealing assessments before the board of equalization is not easy, and right off the get go the advantage is with the assessor’s office and their appraiser.  Face it, they have nothing to lose and they don’t have to pay the property tax bill.  They want to collect as much money as possible for their county and they are going to do everything they can to “uphold” the assessment that they stuck on there.  The terms related to valuation and appraisal are not very common or used everyday, and most people won’t know the definition of them.  Property record cards are not easy to decipher or read as there are alot of codes and abbreviations on there pertaining to the grade of the property, the topography of the land, and the depreciation of the improvements, etc.  Also, chances are the appraiser has done hundreds or thousands of these appeals and he or she will be at ease doing so.  On the other side, more than likely, the homeowner has not done this very often, and will typically feel very intimidated or it may seem awkward.

When someone has to appear before a court of law, he or she will typically hire a lawyer to represent them, to protect their rights and act on their behalf.  It’s the same thing for appealing assessments.  It’s always better to hire someone who does it for a living, who has appeared before the board over 1,000 times, and knows the process inside and out.  Also, the “tax rep” knows how to remove objections and keep it fair and this comes from experience.  Sometimes the appraiser’s may “stretch the truth” about a property or flat out lie to misinform the b.o.e. about something and chances are the homeowner won’t know what’s happened or how to remove that objection.  A “tax rep” has probably seen or heard every scenario imaginable, and can think fast and “say the right thing” to help the property owner in the eyes of the “b.o.e.”  In hiring a “tax rep” the property owner has the benefit of knowing that if he or she is to be successful, this is the best chance he or she has at obtaining a reduction in the fair market value of their property.  Hundreds if not thousands of valuable tax dollars could be at stake here.

If the tax representative is successful in reducing the fair market value, that assessment will remain the same for the year appealed, plus the following two years, as long as the assessor’s office doesn’t conduct a countywide reappraisal.  So, the savings will compound, less the one time fee for the “tax rep.” 

For more information on the property tax appeal process, please contact me here.

Has the value of your home or property decreased in the past several years? Probably so, so it may be time to appeal your real estate tax assessment.

Unless one lives under a rock, he or she knows that real estate is not selling for what it once did several years ago.  With that being the case, chances are the tax assessment on one’s home or property is too high and the property owner is paying more than his or her fair share for their property tax bill. 

There are many things that go into appealing one’s assessment.  One can’t just show up at the board of equalization and say “my value’s too high, please reduce it.”  No, a person has to have sales to show that things in the vicinity of the property are lower than what the subject property is being assessed at.  Also, it’s good to compare the subject property to other like and similar properties in the vicinity, to check out the overall dollars per square foot, to see how the subject property compares to the comparables. 

Face it folks, the counties and municipalities were “chasing” those sales in the mid 2000’s and they were putting those assessments at or near what things were selling for.  They also didn’t decrease the millage rates on the tax commissioner’s side, so the tax money came pouring in.  Well, now that the values of real estate have vastly declined, the counties and municipalities are not wanting to or willing to decrease  the tax assessment on their own, because that reduces the amount of money they can collect at the commissioner’s office.  Also, here in GA, the education portion of the millage rate is the largest part of a tax bill.  From what i understand, it can’t exceed 20 mills without putting it up for vote for the tax payers to decide.  So, with that being the case, just about every school system in every county and municipality in GA is at 20 mills or darn near close to it, so when the overall tax digest decreases by people winning lower assessments through property tax appeal, that means the school systems collect less money from the county they are in as well as the state.  That’s not the taxpayer’s fault though, and no one should pay more than their fair share for property taxes.  If one hasn’t appealed his assessment in the past couple of years, chances are he or she is getting ripped off and paying more than should be paid. 

If anyone reading this feels like that applies to him or her, i may be able to help you to be able to pay only your fair share for your property taxes by appealing your assessment.  Please contact me with any questions or comments.  I work in all of the 20 major metro counties in and around Atlanta as well as some of the larger municipalities in GA.

If you’re in GA, and want to appeal your property tax assessment for tax year 2011, you’re in luck!!!

This year in the State of GA, for tax year 2011, every assessor’s office, in each of the 159 counties, will have to “Automatically” issue an assessment notice to every parcel owner via mail.  There will be a six-week window in which folks may file an appeal. On these notices the assessor’s office will have to show what the proposed fair market value is along with an estimate of the property tax amount due based on that assessment. 

This is something new as for all of the years past, a property owner would have to file a return; which would make the assessors tell the property owner what they were going to be taxed at, unless there was a county wide reappraisal,and they would have to mail out the new assessment notices.  If the property owner missed a return deadline or an appeal deadline, too bad, they couldn’t appeal their value and they were stuck with it until the following year. 

If anyone is interested in having a professional appeal their assessment, please contact me for more information.  I have 17 years experience appealing assessments in metro Atlanta, including Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, Clayton, Rockdale and most of the other metro Atlanta Counties.  I have also worked throughout the rest of the state of GA, as well as in AL, TN, NC, VA, MD, FL, KY, AR and MS.  Throughout those 17 years, i have saved my clients millions of valuable tax dollars that would have been lost for good.  In fact, today at Fulton County, GA, I saved one client over $20,000 on three of his appeals that i did for him.  Needless to say, he was ecstatic.  Stay tuned for more! Contact me at info@taxappealatlanta.com