ATLANTA - If you own real estate in Georgia, you’ve got a property tax bill coming. It’s going to happen, probably around the first week in June. And when it happens, you’ll probably wish you had done something ahead of time to make the amount of that tax bill smaller.
Real Estate Expert John Adams is here to tell us how to do just that:
Question: John, it’s only the first week in February, so why are we talking about property taxes now?
Adams: Great question, two answers: 1) you have probably been paying more than your fair share of property tax and 2) NOW is the time to do something about it.
Q: What do we need to know?
In Georgia, our property tax is an ad valorem tax, meaning each owner pays his fair share based on the appraised value of that property on January 1st.
Your local tax assessor is responsible for determining that value.
Typically, a valuation does not happen every year, and because of the recent volatility housing prices, a review of value may save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.
However, it is your responsibility to take control of the process for 2018.
Q: What’s next?
Know that there is absolutely no relationship whatsoever between the assessed value for property tax purposes and the real market value of the property. While all of us want our homes to be worth as much as possible, you don't need to worry that a low assessment will hurt your selling price should you later decide to sell.
Beginning on January 1, 2018, every owner has the opportunity to file a taxpayers return of property with the Tax Assessor of the county where the property is located. This form simply notifies the assessor of your opinion of the value of the property in question on January 1, 2018. The form is known as “Georgia PT-50R” and can be found on my website at Money99.com. It should only take about ten minutes to fill out.
Q: But how do we come up with a value to submit?
5. Your estimate of value should be based on sales of comparable homes which occurred during the twelve month period between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. If possible, find at least three sales which are a) similar in age, style, and size to yours; b) have the same bedroom and bathroom count; and c) are located within a mile of your home. Local real estate agents can help you locate these sales
Q: Any other tips?
Make sure your estimate of value for 2018 is lower than the assessed value assigned for last year. If it looks to you like your value is truly higher, don’t file anything. The assessor may simply leave well enough alone.
Because this is simply your estimate of value, you don’t have to be able to back it up with data. Filing the form simply tells the county you want them to re-examine their estimate of value before they propose a valuation for 2018 later this year.
Q: And what do I do with this form?
8. Your completed Georgia Form PT-50R should be mailed or hand-delivered to the local Board of Tax Assessors by April 1, 2016. And the sooner you do it, the better your odds of gaining the attention of a real person at the assessor’s office. Every day that passes between now and April 1 will mark an exponential increase in demands on their time. Eventually, they will simply be unable to respond to review requests.
For your best chance of success, my advice is to file your return during the month of February.
Q: Is this something I can do online?
Some counties, like Gwinnett, allow you to file your FORM online. However, the safest method of filing is to hand it to the assessor and get a receipt. Submitting that paperwork tells the county you want them to review 2017 sales data before they calculate a proposed valuation for 2018.
We’ll examine each of these steps in more detail as we move into the new year, but the bottom line is this: you can save significant sums of money by making sure the county is not overcharging you for your property taxes.