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Your tax Q&A: Officials answer questions about appeals

Bills Bills due Dec. 1, with penalty for late payments

POSTED: July 27, 2014 12:24 a.m.

Several Hall County residents who are appealing the reassessments of their lakefront home values have raised questions about that process.

They question much of the information coming out of the Tax Assessors Office, so The Times asked Chief Assessor Steve Watson to address some of the more common concerns.

Average increase

As previously reported in The Times, the reassessments have driven up taxes on about 90 percent of lakefront properties. The average increase in assessed value is 39 percent, or about $104,000, and this equates to a more than $1,000 hike in taxes, on average.

The most vocal residents during the appeals process have said their home values increased much more than 39 percent, sometimes doubling and tripling over the last year.

But Watson reaffirmed Thursday the average increase previously reported is accurate.

“It does not include any other type of property, otherwise the average increase would be less,” he said.

Payment plans

Residents appealing their property value assessments have questioned why a payment plan is not an option. This, however, is actually a question for Tax Commissioner Darla Eden.

“The payment terms are driven by dates and events that are set by the Georgia Department of Revenue,” Eden told The Times in an email. “We do not have an official payment plan, but citizens are encouraged to pay their property tax as it is available to them after the tax statements are mailed Oct. 1. For payments received after the Dec. 1 due date, the state of Georgia does apply interest monthly and a 10 percent penalty on the unpaid tax on March 1.”

Payment plans, however, did exist a few years ago.

“I also want to point out that in 2010, the Board of Commissioners voted to collect taxes twice a year in the form of a two-payment installment plan system for the 2011 tax year,” Eden said. “It is my understanding that the two-payment installment plan was not successful for several reasons and the vote was made to implement the single-year payment back in 2012, and thereafter.”

Why now?

Residents have repeatedly asked why the reassessments were done now and why there wasn’t some effort made to spread the increases in assessed value across several years. It is, perhaps, their biggest complaint.

Watson said lakefront properties were not singled out, but rather had been left unaddressed for far too long.

He also points to several state laws that require the county to assess property at fair market value, with parameters set for the process.

The county could be penalized or fined if valuations are not corrected.

“Lakefront property, as a whole, was valued far below what most lakefront property was selling for,” Watson said.

Watson said more than 5,000 appeals were made and that staff is working on and resolving appeals each day.

He said revised assessment notices would likely be mailed in late August or early September.

“I’m hopeful that now that we’ve made these adjustments we will be able to stay up to date with these and all other property valuations so that there won’t be a need to make such dramatic changes in property values in future years,” Watson said.



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