Ad Valorem tax, more commonly known as property tax, is a large source of revenue for local governments in Georgia. The basis for ad valorem taxation is the fair market value of the property which is established as of January 1 each year. The tax is levied on the assessed value of the property which, by law, is established at 40% of fair market value. The amount of tax is determined by the tax rate (mill rate) levied by various entities. One mill is equal to $1 for each $1000 of assessed value or 1.
Several distinct entities are involved in the ad valorem tax process:
The County Tax Commissioner, an office established by the constitution and elected in all counties except two, is the official responsible for receiving tax returns filed by taxpayers or designating the Board of Tax Assessors to receive them; receiving and processing applications for homestead exemption; serving as an agent of the State Revenue Commissioner for the registration of motor vehicles; and performing all functions relating to billing, collecting, disbursing, and accounting for ad valorem taxes collected in the county.
Board of Tax Assessors
The County Board of Tax Assessors, appointed for fixed terms by the county commissioner(s), in all counties except one, are responsible for determining taxability; the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county. They notify taxpayers when changes are made to the value of the property, they receive and review all appeals filed, and they insure that the appeal process proceeds properly. In addition, they approve all exemptions claimed by the taxpayer.
Board of Equalization
The County Board of Equalization, appointed by the Grand Jury, is the body charged by law with hearing and adjudicating administrative appeals to property values and assessments made by the Board of Tax Assessors.
Arbitration method of appeal is available to the taxpayer in lieu of an appeal to the Board of Equalization at the option of the taxpayer at the time the appeal is filed.
Board of County Commissioners
The Board of County Commissioners, the sole commissioner in some counties, establishes the budget for county operations each year, and then they levy the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.
Board of Education
The County Board of Education, an elected body, establishes the annual budget for school purposes and they then recommend their mill rate, which, with very few exceptions, must be levied for the School Board by the County Commissioners.
State Revenue Commissioner
The State Revenue Commissioner exercises general oversight of the entire ad valorem tax process. In addition, the State levies ad valorem tax each year in an amount which cannot exceed one-fourth of one mill (025).
Taxpayers are required to file at least an initial tax return for taxable property, both real and personal property, owned on January 1 of the tax year. In Morgan County the time for filing returns is January 2 through April 1. The tax return is a listing of the property owned by the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s declaration of the value of the property. These returns are filed with the Tax Assessor and forms are available in that office at:
150 E Washington Street
Madison, GA 30650
Once the initial tax return is filed, the law provides for an automatic renewal of that return each succeeding year at the value finally determined for the preceding year and the taxpayer is required to file a new return only as additional property is acquired, improvements are made to existing property, or other changes occur.
A new return, filed during the return period, may also be made by the taxpayer to declare a different value from the existing value where the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the current value placed on the property by the Board of Tax Assessors. This serves the purpose of establishing the taxpayer’s appeal rights if the declared value is changed again by the Board of Tax Assessors.
When the Board of Tax Assessors changes the value of property from the value in place for the preceding year or from the value that was returned by the taxpayer for the current year, a notice of that change must be sent to the property owner. Upon receipt of the notice, the property owner desiring to appeal the change in value must do so within 45 days. The appeal is filed with the Board of Tax Assessors who reviews again their valuation and the appeal filed and informs the taxpayer of its decision. If the taxpayer remains dissatisfied, the appeal is forwarded to the County Board of Equalization. A hearing is scheduled and conducted and the Board of Equalization renders its decision.
If the taxpayer is still dissatisfied, an appeal to Superior Court may be made. In lieu of an administrative appeal with the Board of Equalization, an arbitration method of appeal is also available to the taxpayer. The Board of Tax Assessors can provide details regarding this procedure.
The assessment appeal may be made on the basis of the taxability of the property, the value placed upon the property, or the uniformity of that value when compared to other similar properties in the county. The appeal must be filed within the applicable time period and cannot be filed after that time. Additionally, the appeal should no be based on any complaint about the amount of taxes levied on the property.