They’re at it again.
The DeKalb County Tax Assessors have sent out reassessment notices. Having received one this year, and having heard from many of my constituents who have received one, it appears that there is a common thread in this year’s crop of reassessments.
The common thread is that, if you filed a Form PT-50R Georgia Real Property Tax Return (click for an article that I previously wrote on how to file this form), the tax assessors included the amount that you provided on your Property Tax Return as the “previous year’s value” for the bygone 2009 tax year. Then, the assessors increased that amount to what had been your 2009 assessment amount, telling you that the old 2009 amount would be the “current year’s value” for the 2010 tax year.
Through a clever sleight of hand, the tax assessors are telling you that, even if you filed a Form PT-50R, your property assessment hasn’t been changed for the current tax year. This is absurd. It shows that the tax assessors never bothered to look into your assessment after you sent in your Property Tax Return.
There are two things you should know:
First, you are not alone. I have received scores of calls and e-mails from constituents who have been treated the same way by the tax assessors.
Second, you can fight back. You can appeal your reassessment notice, if you received one. To do so, you should write a letter that includes the parcel identification number for your home (which is found on the front of your notice of assessment change) and your name, property address, and daytime telephone number. You should enclose documents that show the sales prices or fair market value of comparable homes in and around your neighborhood.
You also will need to state in your letter whether you want your appeal to be heard by the Board of Equalization or by an arbitrator. Under Senate Bill 240 (click for information), which was bipartisan legislation sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Chip Rogers and in the House of Representatives by Representative Kevin Levitas, you have the right to choose binding arbitration.
The way this arbitration works is that you and the tax assessors will each have a chance to present evidence to support the value that each has assigned to your property. Based upon the evidence, the arbitrator will then choose which value is correct. In other words, the arbitrator will not “split the baby” between the values. He or she will choose your value or the tax assessors’ value on an either-or basis.
You should only choose arbitration if you have a high level of confidence in the value you have assigned to your property and sufficient evidence to prove that your value is closer to the actual value of your home than the value that the tax assessors have assigned to it. This is because the losing party will have to pay the arbitrator’s fees. If the tax assessors lose, the county pays for the arbitrator, but if you lose, the costs of arbitration become your responsibility.
Therefore, if you are less confident in the value that you believe is correct, you should choose to have your appeal heard by the Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization process comes at no cost to the taxpayer, regardless of whether you prevail.
In addition, you should consider including language in your letter that says something like this:
“O.C.G.A. § 48-5B-1 provides that my property assessment may not be increased between the 2009 and 2010 tax years. I am filing this appeal because I received a notice of assessment change reflecting an assessment increase between the 2009 and 2010 tax years.”
As part of House Bill 233 (click for information), which was legislation that I helped to pass, your property assessment cannot be increased between the 2009 and 2010 tax years. Raising your assessment between 2009 and 2010 is exactly what the recent notices sent out by the tax assessors appear to do.
The assessors likely will argue that the language on the notice after the asterisk “based on taxpayer return” means that the tax assessors never really accepted the value that you wrote on your Form PT-50R as the actual value of your property for 2009. However, if you read your reassessment notice closely, the actual language printed on the notice appears to have a different meaning than this.
If you plan to appeal your reassessment notice, please make sure that your appeal letter is hand-delivered, or is mailed and postmarked, no later than June 7, 2010 to the following address:
DeKalb County Board of Tax Assessors
120 West Trinity Place, Room 208
Decatur, GA 30030
If you have further questions, you can call the DeKalb County Property Appraisal Department at (404) 371-2471 or (404) 371-0841 or visit their website at www.co.dekalb.ga.us/propappr.