For the past two years I have worked with Attorney Walter Hotz (appeals @boetaxappeals.com) to level the playing field for homeowners and businesses when they appeal their property tax valuations.
Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and all other county commissioners need to remember that the property tax bill is the largest obligation that many of their constituents face. I introduced Walter to Commissioner Nancy Jester who gets it and she recently had him speak at two of her Town Hall meetings. We want to make sure the provisions outlined below are followed in all counties:
HB202 became law on July 1, 2015 and I want to summarize the improvements that we made.
Effective Jan. 1, 2016 the taxpayer can request certain information on how the board of tax assessors arrived at the new assessment value. There are now penalties if the board of tax assessors does not respond or responds with less than candid information within ten business days.
The tax assessor representative must now meet with the taxpayer at the taxpayer’s request within thirty days of the taxpayer’s request and there are monetary penalties to the tax assessor for failing to comply. Also the taxpayer can record the interview.
The taxpayer should now put in their opinion of the assessed value when they appeal. If the tax assessor fails to do certain things, then the taxpayer opinion becomes the assessed value (Section 15).
If the taxpayer submits an appraisal performed by a licensed appraiser and it was done nine months prior to the date of assessment, then the tax assessor has 45 days to state whether the value is accepted, and if rejected, must give the reasons.
If the taxpayer is appealing more than one property then the taxpayer can consolidate all the appeals into one (taxpayer cost savings).
The taxpayer may now request that the county provide the evidence that the county will use against the taxpayer in the tax appeal hearing. This must be provided at least seven days in advance of the appeal hearing. This is the most significant success for the taxpayer.
Three negatives in the bill (not from us – effective January 1, 2016) require the taxpayer to attend the appeal hearing or submit evidence in writing to get the freeze (current year plus two more years). Filing an appeal during the freeze also “unfreezes” the freeze. Finally the freeze is lifted if the county made any error in their records as to the description or characterization of the property during the freeze.
Going forward, three big issues I plan to try and resolve via legislation. First, the Board of Tax Assessors cannot change a person’s tax assessment once it is published. One county is telling the Board of Equalization (the panel you sit in front of at the appeal hearing) that they have the power to RAISE the taxpayer’s assessment if evidence is presented in the appeal hearing that justifies such an increase. This needs to be specifically prohibited by statute.
Second, one county is threatening to put in a letter to taxpayers that if they pursue an appeal then the Board of Equalization may increase the assessment without limitation. Furthermore, the taxpayer would be given a space on the notice to sign and return if they wish to withdraw their appeal. This would be an attempt to kill appeals and again needs to be prohibited by statute.
Finally, we need to look at a cap of how much an assessment can increase in a given year. I am not sure what the correct percentage should be but discussion needs to be taken place on this topic. Your thoughts are welcome.
Senator Fran Millar