Tips for Property Assessment Appeals

A week ago, I held a town hall meeting at Chamblee First United Methodist Church. The subject matter was how to appeal your property assessment. You can read about the meeting in the Dunwoody Crier and Brookhaven Reporter. We had about 150 chairs. Every chair was filled, and the meeting was standing room only.

The high attendance was a symptom that our community has been hit especially hard this year with property assessment hikes. It’s summertime, and I recognize that some residents who would like to appeal their assessments were not able to attend the meeting. I have compiled this summary of some of the information shared in the meeting. I hope you will forward it to your neighbors, some of whom may not have been able to attend. The advice given in this e-mail is more detailed and less generic than you will find elsewhere.

There are two main grounds for appealing your property assessment: fair market value and uniformity. Fair market value is what it sounds like. You should review comparable properties that sold in and around your neighborhood to determine the price at which a willing buyer would purchase your property. You have a legal right for the 100% assessed value of your property — the relevant value for purposes of your appeal — to equal its fair market value.

Please note that the tax assessor only considers sales that occurred during the 2013 calendar year (January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013) to determine the fair market value of your property for 2014 tax purposes. Sales before January 1, 2013 and after December 31, 2013 will not be considered. The best place to find 2013 sales is Zillow.com. Search the yellow “recently sold” properties from 1/1/13 to 12/31/13.

The other basis for an appeal is uniformity. The calculation used by the tax assessor is a bit more complicated than this, but as a shorthand, if the properties in your neighborhood are of a similar type and are on similar tracts of land (1/4 acre, 1/3 acre, 1/2 acre, etc.), then the assessed value per square foot for your home should be the same as the others in your neighborhood.

To determine if you have a uniformity appeal, use the tax assessor’s website in your county (DeKalb or Fulton) to search the other houses on your street or in your neighborhood:

DeKalb County Property Appraisal Search

Fulton County Property Appraisal Search

The tax assessor’s record for each house will show a 100% assessed value and total square footage. For each house, divide the 100% assessed value by the total square footage. Then, average the “assessed value per square foot” results for your entire street or neighborhood. If your house is above the average, multiply the average by your house’s square footage and request that amount as your 100% assessed value.

The Georgia Department of Revenue provides a useful form for your appeal, which you can use with any county tax assessor. To create your appeal package, it’s best to use this form and attach a narrative explanation and supporting documents to the completed form:

Georgia Department of Revenue Property Appeal Form

Even if you are only appealing fair market value or uniformity, be sure to check both “value” and “uniformity” in case you ultimately would like to argue both of these grounds before the Board of Equalization. The type of appeal you are filing is a “real” property appeal. Although there is an arbitration process you can use, there are potential costs to it, so I highly recommend that you check the box for a “BOE” appeal which will send your appeal to the Board of Equalization.

DeKalb County property appeals must be postmarked no later than Monday, July 14. Fulton County appeals must be postmarked no later than Monday, July 21. Below are the mailing addresses for the DeKalb or Fulton office to which you should send your appeal. I also have included their telephone numbers in case you have any questions:

DeKalb County Property Appraisal Department
120 West Trinity Place, Room 208
Decatur, GA, 30030
(404) 371-0841

Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors
141 Pryor Street, Suite 2052
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 612-6440

The tax assessor will review your appeal and send you a response letter letting you know if they have decided to grant a reduction in value. If they don’t grant a reduction, you have the right to go before the Board of Equalization. If they grant a reduction, you nevertheless can choose to go before the Board of Equalization.

You may want to continue to the Board of Equalization even if you are satisfied with the reduced value from the tax assessor. A reduction given by the tax assessor lasts for the current tax year only. A reduction awarded by the Board of Equalization last for three years, the current tax year plus two more. You can start your Board of Equalization hearing by noting the lower value that the tax assessor gave you. Sometimes the tax assessor will agree to that value right there on the spot and it will be formalized in the decision of the Board of Equalization.

Here are four additional tips for your Board of Equalization hearing:

1. You have the right to review the tax assessor’s comparable properties and other documents before entering the hearing room. You also can request the documents in writing prior to your hearing. Avail yourself of this opportunity.

2. Each side will present their case to the Board of Equalization. Often, the tax assessor’s representative will sit silently and let you go first. Request that the tax assessor present their case first, so you can respond to it.

3. The Board of Equalization should be comprised of three citizen members. Sometimes they are short-handed and might request to proceed with two members. Insist on three.

4. Bring five copies of your appeal documents with you to the hearing, one copy for each member of the Board of Equalization, one for you and one for the tax assessor’s representative.

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