Do you plan to appeal your property taxes?

Word comes today that you’re probably paying too much on your property taxes.

AJC reporter Michelle Shaw says a new report concludes that property owners in the five core metro Atlanta counties overpaid their property taxes by an average of $244 in 2009.

Homeowners who live in areas hard hit by foreclosures overpaid by even more, says an analysis commissioned by the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.

Are you planning to appeal? Have you done so in the past? What happened?

Should local governments bite the bullet and beef up their staffs and budgets to get a better handle on this? Or is it something we can’t afford in this economy?

If property values are lowered, officials can raise millage rates to make up the difference. What do you think of that option versus service cuts?

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20 comments Add your comment

JC

February 18th, 2010
8:16 am

I am definitely going to investigate appealing my property taxes. However, I live in Walton County and most folks that I’ve talked to haven’t had much success in reducing their obligation. It’s a double edge sword though- because it’s a cause and affect thing…reduce property tax and they’ll raise the millage rate. What to do? Our schools are suffering…and I don’t see a lot of relief in sight! Perhaps we can take some that SPLOST money and use it to fund our schools?

W. Stewart

February 18th, 2010
8:23 am

Counties don’t have to be fiscally responsible, they can just raise the appraisals or the millage rates to meet their expenses. Wouldn’t everyone love to be able to spend without concern! Common sense says that when property prices drop, so should the tax, no excuses no back door shenanigans, you only spend what the actual market gives you!

Dekalb Homeowner

February 18th, 2010
8:59 am

caught in the que?

Paul Camp

February 18th, 2010
9:01 am

I appealed a few years ago, when Fulton jacked my assessment 54% in one year. The process goes like this: The Board of Equalization claims (falsely, it turns out) that recent home sales are irrelevant and mostly doesn’t look at your evidence of recent valuations. They do not look at evidence of inconsistent valuations. This is not surprising since they are ordinary citizens but trained by the county. They see the law the way the county wants it seen.

In my case, I demanded that the county assessor present evidence showing exactly how the value of my house was computed. She did not have that evidence with her and waved her hands about what she “usually does.” The Board decided in the county’s favor. Talking with others in my neighborhood, it seems that they pretty much always do.

Your options are that case are limited. You can appeal to superior court, but the county knows that is going to be difficult and expensive. I did it anyway because I was angry (and eventually won a significant reduction) but my legal fees were north of $7000. The case first goes to mediation. In a mediation session, the county is required by state law to do two things: send a representative authorized to negotiate all matters under dispute, and pay your legal fees if the reduction is greater than 15%. The county refuses to obey the law. Their representative is not authorized to negotiate much, and is frequently calling back to the office for permission. And they flatly refuse to pay any fees. Your option is to go to jury trial if you don’t like it, and the county is well aware that most people won’t want to face that expense. So the county attorney feels free to disobey state law with impunity.

I complained vigorously about this to my county council representative, Nancy Boxill. Her position is that both the county attorney and the assessor’s office are completely beyond her control. Council has no responsibility for the operations of county government, it appears.

This is proof of the old adage that for most people local politics is far more important and far more corrupt that national politics, but far fewer people pay attention to it. Fulton County, at least, is systematically disobeying state law as a matter of policy. This was seen on the large scale in your series, and on the small scale in my experience. They do what they feel like and dare you to do anything about it.

It seems that only the state government will be able to bring counties in line with the law, but they aren’t going to do so if no one cares enough to bother with appealing. That is the reason why, despite the difficulties, I encourage everyone to take their case at least as far as the Board of Equalization. You probably won’t get much, but it also doesn’t cost anything and a flood of cases is bound to get the attention of state legislators. I don’t know anything else to do about county officials who are in charge of enforcing the law and instead spend their days figuring out ways to evade it.

Rob Vinson

February 18th, 2010
9:08 am

I’m a property tax consultant, and appeal assessments for a living. I will be appealing the assessments on a couple of my properties. I am also appealing many assessments in Fulton and Dekalb and other metro counties this year for my clients. I believe people are better off hiring a professional to appeal their property tax values because the process is long and tedious and unless one knows how the county arrived at the value for the property, he or she is going to have a hard time obtaining a reduction. Simply saying “it’s too high” isn’t going to cut it.

David

February 18th, 2010
9:15 am

I did appeal my Cobb County property tax. I did it and they sent back the exact same value they had sent before. So what is the next step? Apparently they have the right to put any value on it they want.
I felt like it was a futile effort. So go ahead and have it appealed, just don’t expect it to change.

JH

February 18th, 2010
10:02 am

My property tax appeal is in the works. Purchased the foreclosed property last year and had all the paperwork necessary to back up my claim.

Yes the process is a bit time consuming, but it is not that difficult. Why would you hire someone and spend money on their services in order to save money? Property tax consultants have no magic formula or special contacts, they are the business of the moment out to make money.

TnGelding

February 18th, 2010
10:20 am

No, I’ll gladly pay it. I wouldn’t sell our house for what it is currently valued. Prices will eventually recover and we need the services the county provides. And like you stated, all they have to do is raise the milage rate on the lower values if they so desire.

ugaaccountant

February 18th, 2010
10:41 am

It doesn’t matter if you appeal or not, unless there is just a blatant mistake on your property. The values are intentionally well over the real value because that is how they plan to collect enough sales tax to meet the budget. If they had to use a realistic property value, they would just change the millage rate. So unless they mistook your 1 bedroom for a Mansion, you’re not going to really get anything out of an appeal.

Dolores

February 18th, 2010
10:50 am

Wow,I’ve read through several of the posts and am now completely discouraged. I know my property is over valued…fine. But what gets me is don’t send me a bill in August at an increased rate and then only give me until December to pay it. Do the tax commissioners not understand the term UNEMPLOYED? Especially being unemployed in a state where you are not guaranteed unemployment benefits? Shame on the powers that be…SHAME!

JohnF

February 18th, 2010
11:01 am

I did appeal my 2009 assessment with Dekalb County. This is a 2/2 condo that they appraised at $279,000.00. That is way overvalued but the kind folks at Dekalb County told me the prices were based on 2008 and that’s how they’ve done it for 30 years, so tough. Now that is is 2010 and I have 2009 comps showing the average comp sale price is about $60,000 less than their appraisal and I have filed a property tax return requesting a review..we’ll see if they do it. I do understand their postion however..county services have a cost. So homeowners either pay more to keep the services or do without. Personally, as far as one service goes..police protection..I’d rather go in with my neighbors and spend the money on our own security…considering the lousy county law enforcement we have.

SouthFultonMom

February 18th, 2010
11:01 am

I will be appealing because my home is extremely over valued. My zip code is listed as one with a high number of foreclosures. It is shameful that consumers are taken advantage of at every turn.

Bryan

February 18th, 2010
11:26 am

They don’t take in account foreclosures when doing the estimates. They don’t consider those “real” sales. This allows them to up the average price that a home is bought or sold so that they can justify keeping your taxes high. They base the 2010 estimates off of the sales from 2009. Like everyone has said, they might lower your assessment but they will then just increase the millage rate. My question is, what did they do in the 1990’s when the prices were not as high? Were all these services required? The balance sheet literally is out of control and now you are expected to pay for it and they hamstring you by saying these are essential services…. I call the BLUFF!

JH

February 18th, 2010
11:41 am

“They don’t take in account foreclosures when doing the estimates. They don’t consider those “real” sales.”

That is flat out wrong. Foreclosures are practically the only sales out there, so they most certainly are “real” sales. That was a fact of the past and a complete myth in today’s RE market. All these posts do sound as though people have given up the fight and are listening to all the “bull”. This is what the tax commission wants you to do – give up! If your value have dropped significantly, they have no other choice.

This is exactly what they want to happen. They want you to give up so they do not have to make cuts. They are simply using scare tactics and threats.

ugaaccountant

February 18th, 2010
11:43 am

Bryan – In general, I believe Millage rates were higher last decade. Not sure any specifics though.

Bryan

February 18th, 2010
1:24 pm

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-faces-100dekalb-faces-100-million-310927.html?cxtype=ynews_rss

FYI “In addition to the sagging economy, Ingersoll blames the value drop on a state law that went into effect last year that requires the county to include foreclosures and bank sales when handling revaluations. “

Spanky Spankmeyer

February 18th, 2010
2:00 pm

The best advice I could give is to let your property/fire insurance lapse then burn the residence to the ground, file bankruptcy and tell them all to F-off!

Rob Vinson

February 18th, 2010
2:53 pm

Hey JH, what i do is not a “profession du jour” for me…sure, some people are hanging out their shingle….becoming a “property tax consultant,” but i’ve been doing it for the past 16 years. I am a current licensed appraiser as well as a realtor and that has helped me save my clients millions upon millions of valuable tax dollars that would have been wasted had it not been for me. Contrary to your belief, there is a method to the madness used to obtain a reduction in the value on the different types of properties. I was merely stating that going in and saying it’s “too high” isn’t going to cut it…at least it hasn’t cut it for me in the past 16 years in any of the counties i have worked in from Mississippi to Maryland. If you get a DUI and show up in court, are you going to try and defend yourself, or are you going to hire an attorney to help you?

JH

February 18th, 2010
4:35 pm

“If you get a DUI and show up in court, are you going to try and defend yourself, or are you going to hire an attorney to help you?”

Equating your “services” to that of a legal counsel is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?

“Contrary to your belief, there is a method to the madness used to obtain a reduction in the value on the different types of properties. I was merely stating that going in and saying it’s “too high” isn’t going to cut it”

Wrong again, there is no “method of madness”. You are trying to strike fear into folks that simply own a modest home.

rwh

February 19th, 2010
8:48 am

The property tax that all of us homeowners face has indeed cause a stir; in fact, we have questioned how can this be when our homes are not increasing but decreasing. Is this had to do with the homestead exemption taxes that the governor withdrew or is it that this is another way to steal property-owner’s money; but doing it in a way that many of us just don’t pay any attention too. Whas has our government gone to in continuing to make we who work hard and trying to do what is right; yet, we continue to get slaped directly with more taxes for this and that. It has to be a point that that says, if your property values is down, then your taxes cannot be raised. Is there anyone in our government failing to realize the impact this has cause all of us…or are we just taking this and saying O.K.