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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Should I Appeal my Ad Valorem Tax Bill to the County Board of Equalization or to a Hearing Officer?

 

One of the most important decisions you will make during the ad valorem tax appeal process is whether to appeal to the county board of equalization or to a hearing officer. In this article, I will explain the differences between these two forums, and the advantages of appealing your case to each.

            You may elect to file an appeal to a hearing officer, but only as to matters of value and uniformity of assessment for a parcel of non-homestead real property. Also, the fair market value of your property, as reflected on your annual notice of current assessment must be $750,000.00 or greater. The benefit of appealing to a hearing officer is that a hearing officer is required to have experience or expertise in appraising the type of property that is the subject of the appeal. The downside of appealing to the hearing officer is that the hearing officer can lower, affirm, or even raise the assessed value on your property. Thus, it is important to consider the risk that the county board of assessors may argue for an even higher value on your property than they originally assessed.

Alternatively, you may elect to file an appeal to the county board of equalization as to matters of taxability, uniformity of assessment, and value. This is the most common election option for tax appeals because there is no $750,000.00 value requirement. For residents, you can also appeal the issue of a denial of a homestead exemption. Issues of taxability include whether your property qualifies for a preferential assessment, such as landmark historic property or property devoted to bona fide agricultural purposes. If you are appealing the assessors’ decision of denying a preferential assessment of your property, you do not have the option to appeal to a hearing officer. The downside of appealing to board of equalization is that the board members do not have to be appraisal experts. They merely have to complete forty (40) hours of instruction in appraisal and equalization procedures. One benefit of appealing to the board of equalization is that the affirmed value can only be affirmed or lowered. The board may not increase the assessed value.

            Ultimately, the decision of which forum to appeal to depends on what issues you plan to raise in your appeal and whether your property can meet the $750,000.00 threshold to appeal to a hearing officer. This decision is one of great strategic importance in how best to handle your appeal. For that reason, it is important to understand your options and talk with an experienced real estate attorney about your ad valorem tax appeal.

Do you have questions about your ad valorem taxes? If so, please contact Brandon Palmer at 770-957-3937, or bpalmer@smithwelchlaw.com.

Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of attorneys routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.  


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