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 of each year. The tax is levied on the assessed value of the property which, by law, is established at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law through the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A. 48-5-7). Fair market value, means “the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm’s length, bona fide sale.” (O.C.G.A. 48-5-311) The amount of tax is determined by the tax rate (mill rate) levied by various entities (one mill is equal to $1.00 for each $1,000 of assessed value, or .001).
Several distinct entities are involved in the ad valorem tax process:
Taxpayers are required to file at least an initial tax return for taxable property (both real and personal property) owned on January 1 of that tax year. The tax return is a listing of the property owned by the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s declaration of the value of their property.
Property tax returns must be filed with the Spalding County Tax Commissioner's office between January 1 and April 1 of each year. After the taxpayer has filed the initial tax return for real property, the law provides for an automatic renewal of that return each succeeding year at the value 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. Personal property tax returns are required to be filed each year.
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 initiates the taxpayer's appeal process if the declared value is not accepted 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. The property owner desiring to appeal the change in value must do so within 45 days of the date of mailing of this assessment notice. 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. Additionally, the appeal should not be based on any complaint about the amount of taxes levied on the property.
The appeal is filed with the Board of Tax Assessors who again reviews 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 with the decision, 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.
PLEASE SEE THE BACK OF THE TAX BILL FOR A FULL BREAKDOWN OF LOCAL EXEMPTIONS
Homestead exemptions have been enacted to reduce the burden of ad valorem taxation for Georgia homeowners. The exemptions apply to homestead property owned by the taxpayer and occupied as his or her legal residence. Homestead exemptions are deducted from the assessed value of the qualifying property (40% of the fair market value).
To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. In Spalding County the application is filed with the Tax Commissioner. With respect to all of the homestead exemptions, the Board of Tax Assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility; however, if the application is denied the taxpayer must be notified and an appeal procedure then is available for the taxpayer.
Georgia law allows for the year-round filing of homestead applications, the application must be received by April 1 of the year for which the exemption is first claimed by the taxpayer. Homestead applications received after that date will be applied to the next tax year.
Once granted, the homestead exemption is automatically renewed each year and the taxpayer does not have to apply again unless there is a change of residence, ownership, or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.
To receive any exemption for the current year, you must have applied by the April 1st deadline in that year. Anyone applying after that date will receive the exemption in the following year. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to re-apply when the homeowner becomes eligible for a different age-based school exemption.
Under authority of the State Constitution, several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. These are called State Exemptions. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts. These are called Local County Exemptions. Spalding County has such local county exemptions. The Local County Exemptions supersede the State Exemptions when the Local Exemption amount is greater than the State Exemption amount. The Tax Commissioner can answer questions regarding the standard exemptions as well as any local exemptions that are in place.
Available Spalding County Homesteads (these are State & Local exemptions combined):
Homestead EXEMPTION (S1)
Veterans (S5, SS)
Standard Elderly Exemption (S4)
School Exemption (L7)
Homeowners 75 or older
Two general types of specialized or preferential assessment programs are available for certain owners of certain types of property. One of these programs authorizes assessment at 30% rather than 40% of fair market value for certain agricultural properties being used for bona fide agricultural purposes.
The second type of preferential program is the Conservation Use program which provides that certain agricultural property, timber land property, environmentally sensitive property, or residential transitional property is to be valued and assessed for ad valorem tax purposes at its current use value rather than its fair market value.
Each of these specialized or preferential programs requires the property owner to covenant with the Board of Tax Assessors to maintain the property in its qualified use for at least 10 years in order to qualify for the preference. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for either of these programs.
Owners of mobile homes that are located in Spalding County on January 1 must pay the ad valorem taxes on the home by April 1 of each year and obtain their location permit at that time. Failure to pay the taxes and obtain the permit will result in a 10% tax penalty, issuance of a citation for appearance in Spalding Magistrate Court or possible sale of the mobile/manufactured home.
Mobile home owners desiring to declare a different value from the existing value on the home must file a tax return with the Board of Tax Assessors between January 1 and March 1.
For further information regarding property taxation in Georgia, please visit the State of Georgia Department of Revenue website.