Are You Getting All the Georgia Property Tax Breaks You Deserve?

It might be worth pursuing an appeal of your Georgia property tax bill.

You probably love your home in the Peach State, but receiving your annual property tax bill might not be so peachy. As a sophisticated homeowner, you should make sure that the amount billed is accurate, so that you are not overpaying.

What can you do to reduce your property tax burden? There are two methods to consider.

The first method is available to all Georgia homeowners, and simply involves some investigation. The second depends on whether you (and your home) meet certain qualifications under the applicable tax regulations. If so, you can seek tax relief using both methods.

Remember, most homeowners tend to remain in their homes for years or even decades. Even a seemingly modest downwards adjustment to your Georgia tax assessment can add up significantly over time. Examining your tax assessment is well worth your time.

Method #1: Appeal the Taxable Value of Your Home

You might know that the Georgia tax authorities compute property tax by multiplying a home’s taxable value by the applicable tax rate. To see how this process works, consider this example:

David and Patricia own their two-bedroom home in the suburbs of Atlanta. The assessor has placed a taxable value of $200,000 on the home. If the tax rate is 1%, David and Patricia will owe $2,000 in property tax. However, imagine that they believe, based on evidence, that their assessment is too high, and appeal the $200,000 taxable value. The appeals board reduces that value to $150,000. Now, Patricia and David owe only $1,500 in property tax on their Georgia home.

To get contact information for your tax assessor and information about the process for filing appeals, go to the Georgia assessor's website, and click on the alphabetical list of county names.

If you believe that the tax assessor has misjudged the value of your home, for example, by stating that it is larger than it really is; or if the taxable value is suspiciously higher than that of similar homes in the neighborhood, you might want to pursue an appeal.

Method #2: Take Advantage of All Applicable Tax Breaks

Georgia law allows for reduced property taxes if you and your home meet specific requirements. Below is a summary of the most common such tax reduction categories for homeowners to consider:

Standard homestead exemption: The home of each Georgia resident that is owner-occupied as a primary residence may be granted a $2,000 exemption from most county and school taxes. The $2,000 is deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead. The owner of a dwelling house of a farm that's granted a homestead exemption may also claim a homestead exemption in participation with the program of rural housing under contract with the local housing authority.

Line-of-duty exemption: Were you married to a police officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty? If so, and if you have not remarried, your Georgia home is 100% exempt from any property tax.

Senior citizen exemptions: If you are 62 years old or older, and your annual family income is $10,000 or less, up to $10,000 of your Georgia home’s value may be exempt from school tax. And if you’re 62 years or older and your family income doesn't exceed $30,000, a part of your home may be exempt from county tax. The amount of the exemption depends on how much this year’s assessed value exceeds last year’s.

Veteran exemptions: A disabled veteran or the unmarried surviving spouse of such a veteran qualifies for a substantial Georgia property tax exemption based a complex set of rules. A similar exemption is available to the unmarried surviving spouse of a United States armed forces member who died in a war or conflict involving the United States military.

Although Georgia laws set statewide property tax rules, your local government handles the administration and levying of the tax. Contact your local tax assessor for complete details on property tax exemptions. Be sure to ask about any forms you need to complete and the deadline for filing those forms.

In addition to the property tax, which is based on the assessed value of your home, your tax bill may include special assessments. Typically these are made to pay for neighborhood improvements, such as street paving or repaving.

Depending on the complexity of your situation, you might want to seek legal help to reduce your Georgia property tax. To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Georgia, check out Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

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