Guest post by Sara Sorenson, Sorenson Law
When it comes to income taxes, most people don’t want to pay a penny more than they have to. The same applies to property taxes—we all must pay our fair share, but you can keep your property taxes in check by adopting a proactive and informed approach.
While Georgia’s property tax system is based on statewide laws and regulations, it is administered on a local level. Each year, county tax assessors set the value of each property; taxing authorities (county governments, city council, and school boards) determine the rate at which property must be taxed to fund their annual budget; and tax commissioners calculate, mail, and collect property taxes.
Here are a few tips to help homeowners understand their annual property tax assessment and identify opportunities to lower their property tax bill:
- Be Proactive. Know the assessment value of your home and the deadlines in your jurisdiction. The property tax system can be confusing. A proactive, informed homeowner has the best chance to anticipate, react, and avoid increases in their property tax bills. Reading this article is a great first step!
- Verify the property tax record data on your home. Tax assessors rely primarily on public data—including building permit records, real estate listings, and GIS maps—to value homes. Occasionally, this data is incorrect and can inflate your property’s value. Correcting the data can result in a lower value (and lower taxes) for the current year, future years and in some cases, even past years.
- Apply for Homestead exemptions. County and city Homestead exemptions are available on your primary residence – the home that you own and where you live as of January 1 of the tax year in question. Homeowners must apply when they purchase a new home (often with both the county and city), and the exemption is renewed automatically while you own your home. The Homestead exemption “removes” part of your home’s value from taxation. Savings vary depending on your jurisdiction, and many counties and cities have ‘floating’ exemptions that increase as the value of your home increases. Make sure you apply as soon as possible to maximize your savings!
- Review your annual assessment notice and consider an appeal. Each year between April and June, assessment notices are mailed to every property owner and includes the tax assessors’ valuation of your home for the current year, your Homestead exemption status, and an estimated property tax bill. Most importantly, the assessment notice includes the deadline for a property tax appeal if you believe the tax assessors have overvalued your home or if your homestead exemption was denied or changed. Appeals are due 45 days from the issuance of the assessment notice. Appealing your assessment is your best opportunity to lower and/or lock in your valuation and have the greatest impact on your property tax bill.
- Pay property tax bills on time. Due dates for county and city property tax bills vary and must be made directly by homeowners’ mortgage company unless you have paid off your house entirely. Even if you have a pending property tax appeal, it is important to pay your bill in a timely manner to avoid interest, penalties, and liens against your property. Typically, by the time you receive your tax bill, it is too late to file an appeal of your assessment value, which is why it is important to carefully review your assessment when it arrives.
Sara Sorenson’s law practice focuses on Georgia property taxation, providing valuation and legal strategies to property owners looking to reduce their property tax burden. Sara handles residential and commercial property tax appeals at the administrative level and in litigation. Learn more about Sara and property taxes at www.SorensonLawGA.com. Ready to take a proactive approach to property taxes? Contact Sara for a free consultation when you receive your property’s 2020 notice of assessment.