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Taxes. For most Americans, that word immediately brings to mind the 15th of April and the payment of federal income taxes. But as property owners in Georgia are well aware, there is another kind of that can have just as much impact on the bottom line – ad valorem property taxes, usually due in the fall of each year. Surprisingly, though, not every owner is aware that property values, on which ad valorem taxes are based, can be appealed.
Since 2009, the Georgia Legislature has made changes to the appeal process almost every year, and 2015 is no exception. Amendments in previous years have added the options of having an arbitrator or hearing officer hear the appeal, instead of the Board of Equalization. The latest round of revisions provide taxpayers with additional rights, including:
The amendment also allows the parties to skip over the Board of Equalization hearing, and take the appeal straight to Superior Court, if the taxpayer and Board of Tax Assessors agree to do so in writing. In addition, the parties are required to attend a settlement conference within 45 days of the notice of appeal, and before it is certified to Superior Court. There are stiff penalties for failing to attend the settlement conference. If the Board of Tax Assessors refuses to attend, then the taxpayer’s stated value is deemed to be the fair market value for the tax year in question, and can not be increased for the two (2) years following. If the taxpayer does not attend, he is not allowed to seek or be awarded attorney’s fees or costs of litigation in Superior Court.
Another change is a reduction in the cost to take a tax appeal to Superior Court. Previously, the filing fee was the same charged by the Superior Court for any other civil action. Once the latest amendment takes effect, the filing fee is reduced to $25.00.
The changes enacted in the most recent amendments take effect on July 1, 2015. The entire text of House Bill 202 can be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153902.pdf