My Property Tax Assessment Went Up: What do I do now?
For most people, your home is your biggest investment and your most valuable asset. An increase in value may be good in theory, but it can also mean increased taxes. In Georgia, property taxes are based on the assessed value that your local county board of tax assessors places on your home. If there is no increase in assessed value from the previous year, you may not get a notice. But if your assessed value does go up, is there anything you can do about it? The short answer is yes, but only if you act quickly.
An appeal of the Annual Assessment Notice can be made on five grounds (value, uniformity, taxability, exemption, and breach of covenant), but the most common are value and uniformity. Some counties in Georgia will allow you to appeal online, while others require you to mail in a form to contest the valuation. You will be required to state your grounds for appeal and what value you believe is correct. At the time of filing an appeal you will be required to choose how your appeal will be heard, most commonly the County Board of Equalization (but in certain cases you may choose an arbitrator or a hearing officer). An experienced property tax lawyer can help you determine which route may be best for you.
After an appeal is filed, you have an opportunity to get information from the Tax Assessor on how they determined your valuation. You may also be able to discuss your issues with them and attempt to negotiate the assessment. If that is unsuccessful you will move on through the appeal process.
The County Board of Equalization is made up usually of three citizens from the county who will determine who wins the hearing. The County Board of Assessors will present their valuation and the taxpayer (or their attorney) will be allowed to present their valuation and rationale. The Board will vote on which valuation they agree with and subsequently send out a written decision by mail. If you are unsatisfied with the decision, you may appeal the decision to the Superior Court and have a trial by jury or judge. See O.C.G.A. 48-5-311(g).
At trial, the County Board of Tax Assessors will have the burden of proving its opinions of value and the validity of its proposed assessment by a preponderance of evidence. If the final determination of value at the superior court is 85% or less of the valuation set by the Board of Equalization, the taxpayer will be entitled to costs of litigation and reasonable attorney’s fees as well as interest on the overpayment.
An experienced property tax attorney can help you review valuation, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Tax Assessor’s position, prepare for and try the case. Matthew Matson has argued tax appeals before dozens of local and state boards and litigated property tax appeals cases across the Southeast. If you have a potential property tax appeal case, set up a time to talk with him about your case.