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.

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