File tax appeals, early and often, reader says
To the Editor:
With a July 20 deadline for appealing your property tax assessment, time is of the essence. If you believe your property has been unfairly assessed and you have not appealed then it is time to be proactive. The first step is to not rely on what is printed in the tax assessor's annual assessment notice. Do your homework. You have to go to the tax commissioner's office and request and review your tax record card for more detailed information. Or, you can email or call the chief appraiser, Chuck Anglin, at (706) 342-0551 and have this year's card sent to you. You can review it online, BUT that is not this year's notice, it is last year's.
Do they not want you to see it?
In fact, you can request and will receive tax records of any property in the county, whether it is an adjacent neighbor or a home located down the street. That is the best way to get an indication if all are being assessed equally. It will be apparent from that document and comparing it to past years and other tax record cards if your property is being arbitrarily increased.
With just a little digging you may discover your acreage is overvalued, you are being assessed for a finished basement or attic space, when it is not, your square footage increased for no apparent reason and/or out buildings are suddenly overvalued. Interestingly, when the tax appraiser shrugs his shoulders and comments, "We can't come in, so if it looks like a two-story house, well, then...," how is that a fair assessment?
You won't know any of this if you don't examine your tax record. For example, some people have found they paid for a finished basement last year when it is not. You cannot recoup the money from years past for an incorrect assessment but you can correct it now. Oh, by the way, meetings with the tax assessor can be recorded. If your initial meeting with the tax assessor's office proves to be unsatisfactory, and from my past experience that is the case, then it is time to file an appeal.
State your reason for an appeal whether it is value, uniformity of assessment, taxability of property, and/or denial of homestead exemptions and other exemptions. Once you receive your notice you have 21 days to either accept or appeal again. They will probably reduce it in hopes you will go away. Don't go away. If you are still dissatisfied request either the Board of Equalization or an Arbitration Board. I have had the experience of the Equalization Board. They had no interest in reviewing the documentation I wanted to present. They politely listened and said, "We will take it in to consideration."
As far as I was concerned it was merely a rubber stamp for the tax assessor's assessment. The Arbitration Board, which is rarely used by the residents of Morgan County, would be far better and fairer. It may very well be to your advantage to obtain a recent appraisal. Although there is some cost it will be more leverage when going before the Arbitration Board. The burden of proof lies not with the homeowner but with the tax assessor.
If 10 percent of the homeowners file an appeal an investigation by the Georgia Department of Revenue can be requested to review the tax digest. Approximately 1,060 appeals are needed. If you own multiple properties file an appeal for each. According to Chuck Anglin they expect 400 to 500 appeals. Let's surprise them and double that number with a few hundred more. Maybe then, every property owner would be treated equally. Morgan County property should be assessed at or below fair market value as in other counties. Some people's property is valued at over double what the fair market value is while others are getting gigantic decreases. If the county has got to have more money from its citizens they should raise the millage rate and value everyone's property fairly.
They know raising the millage rate will cost them votes in the next election, so instead they raise appraisals using a paid employee and therefore not be blamed. Is this corruption or ignorance? Appeal.