Ad Valorem Tax Process 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 fair market value. The amount of tax is determined by the tax rate (mill rate) levied by various entities (one mill is equal to $1.00 for each $1,000 of assessed value, or .001).
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 one, 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 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 this county.
- The County Board of Tax Assessors, appointed for fixed terms by the county commissioners, is responsible for the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county. They notify taxpayers when changes are made to the value of property, receive and review all appeals filed, and insure that the appeal process proceeds properly. In addition, they approve all exemptions claimed by the taxpayer.
- The County Board of Equalization, appointed by the Grand Jury, is the body charged by law with hearing and adjudicating administrative appeals to property assessments made by the board of tax assessors (Note: An 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).
- The Board of County Commissioners or County Governing Authority (or the sole Commissioner in some counties), an elected body, establish the budget for county government 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.
- 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 commissioner(s).
- 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 (.00025).
Generally, Carroll County property taxes are due by December 1st. If taxes are not paid on the property, it may be levied upon and ultimately sold. When mailing in tax payments a United States Postal Service postmark will be accepted (not metered post marks).
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 Carroll County, the time for filing returns is January 1 through April 1st. These returns are filed with the Tax Assessor and forms are available in that office. The tax return is a listing of the property owned by the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s declaration of the value of the property.
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.
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 (some exceptions to this rule apply and your tax commissioner can explain them to you). Homestead exemptions are deducted from the assessed value of the qualifying property (40% of the fair market value).
An applicant seeking a homestead exemption shall file a written application with the Carroll County Board of Tax Assessors at any time during the calendar year subsequent to the property becoming the primary residence of the applicant up to and including the date for the closing of the books, which is April 1 for Carroll County, for the return of taxes for the calendar year. 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 ownership or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.
First time homeowners need to bring a copy of their warranty deed to insure their application is filed correctly.
Georgia law allows for the year-round filing of homestead applications but 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.
Under authority of the State Constitution several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts and several have done so. The tax commissioner in your county can answer questions regarding the standard exemptions as well as any local exemptions that are in place.
For Exemption information, contact:
Carroll County Tax Assessor’s Office
423 College Street, Room 405
Carrollton, GA 30117
ALL EXEMPTIONS MUST BE FILED BEFORE APRIL 1 TO RECEIVE THE EXEMPTION FOR THAT YEAR!
The Local County Exemptions
Local county exemptions supersede the state exemption amount when the local exemption is greater than the state exemption.
Age 65 or older as of January 1st
$8,000 exemption for County and total School tax exemption for primary residence (no income requirements). Local County Exemption increases as your property is revalued by the Board of Assessors due to market value and applies only to the county portion of your tax bill. Your county exemption will go up to offset the revaluation amount – beginning year 2003. Any improvements will not fall under new law and will result in an increased assessment on your home.
Age 65 and Older Exemption from State Ad Valorem Tax
If you qualify for one of the other homestead exemptions listed and are age 65 or older as of January 1, you also qualify for an exemption from the State portion of ad valorem taxes in an amount equal to 100% of the value of your home and up to 10 acres of land. The value of any additional land or improvements on the same parcel will be granted the standard maximum exemption of the homestead exemption for which you otherwise qualify.
The Standard Homestead Exemption
The Standard Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners who otherwise qualify by ownership and residency requirements and it is an amount equal to $2,000 which is deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property. The exemption applies to the maintenance and operation portion of the mill rate levy of the county and the county school system and the State mill rate levy. It does not apply to the portion of the mill rate levied to retire bonded indebtedness.
The Standard Elderly School Tax Homestead Exemption
The Standard Elderly School Tax Homestead Exemption is an increased homestead exemption for homeowners 62 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. A portion of Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption applies to school tax including taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness. The amount of the exemption is up to $10,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property.
The Standard Elderly General Homestead Exemption
The Standard Elderly General Homestead Exemption is available to homeowners who otherwise qualify and who are 65 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption, which is in an amount up to $4,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property, applies to county taxes, school taxes, and the state tax and it does apply to taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness.
The Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption
The Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption is available to certain disabled veterans in an amount up to $109,986. This exemption applies to all ad valorem tax levies, however, it is restricted to certain types of very serious disabilities and proof of disability, either from the Veterans Administration or from a private physician in certain circumstances. The un-remarried surviving spouse or minor children of any such disabled veteran shall also be entitled to an exemption so long as the un-remarried surviving spouse or minor children continue actually to occupy the homestead, or any subsequent homestead within the same county, as a residence and homestead.
The Un-remarried Surviving Spouse Exemption
The Un-remarried Surviving Spouse Exemption shall be granted in an amount up to $109,986 from all ad valorem taxes levied, if such person’s spouse, who as a member of the armed forces of the United States, was killed or died as a result of any war or armed conflict. Documents from the Secretary of Defense must be provided stating that spousal benefits are received as a result of the death.
The Un-remarried Surviving Spouse of a Fire Fighter or Peace Officer
The Un-remarried Surviving Spouse of a Fire Fighter or Peace Officer shall be granted total exemption from all ad valorem taxes levied, if such person’s spouse, who as a member of a qualified Fire Department or Peace Officer Agency, was killed or died as a result of injury in the performance of their duty. Documents from the agency must be provided.
The Floating or Varying Homestead Exemption
The Floating or Varying Homestead Exemption is an exemption which is given to the homeowner once they sign up for the homestead exemption. The exemption applies to county ad valorem taxes but it does not apply to school tax. The exemption is called a floating exemption because the amount of the exemption increases as the value of the homestead property is increased.
The Homeowners Tax Relief Grant
The Homeowners Tax Relief Grant, authorized by the Governor and the General Assembly provides a tax relief credit in an amount up to $18,000 for 2023 in assessed value for all homeowners who are receiving one of the state homestead exemptions. This relief is shown on the property tax bill for State, county, school, and city purposes as a credit against taxes that otherwise would have been due.
In addition to the various homestead exemptions that are authorized, the law also provides a Property Tax Deferral Program whereby qualified homestead property owners 62 and older with gross household income of $15,000 or less may defer but not exempt the payment of ad valorem taxes on a part or all of the homestead property. Generally, the tax would be deferred until the property ownership changes or until such time that the deferred taxes plus interest reach a level equal to 85% of the fair market value of the property.
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 is then available to the taxpayer.
Specialized and Preferential Assessment Programs
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.
Rehabilitated and Landmark Historic Property
Historic property that qualifies for listing on the Georgia or National Register of Historic Places may qualify for preferential assessment. The preferential assessment shall extend to the building or structure, the real property on which the building or structure is located, and not more than two acres surrounding the building or structure. Property under this special program must be certified by the Department of Natural Resources as rehabilitated historic property or landmark historic property. The exemption equals the difference between current fair market value and the higher of the acquisition cost or assessment of fair market value at the time the original 10-year covenant was entered.
Property which qualifies for participation in the State’s Hazardous Site Reuse and Redevelopment Program and which has been designated as such by the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources may qualify for preferential assessment. This special program provides for the preferential assessment of environmental and contaminated property by effectively freezing the taxable assessment for ten years as an incentive for developers to clean up the property and return it to the tax rolls. It also allows an eligible owner to recoup the eligible costs associated with the cleanup of this type property against their tax liability.
Forest Land Conservation Use Assessment
Forest Land Conservation Use Assessment provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for property primarily used for the good faith subsistence or commercial production of trees, timber, or other wood and wood fiber products and excludes the entire value of any residence located on the property. In addition, the property may have secondary uses such as the promotion, preservation, or management of wildlife habitat; carbon sequestration in accordance with the Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; mitigation and conservation banking that results in restoration or conservation of wetlands and other natural resources; or the production and maintenance of ecosystem products and services such as, but not limited to, clean air and water. This 15-year covenant agreement between the taxpayer and local board of assessors is limited to forest land tracts consisting of more than 200 acres when owned by an individual or individuals or by any entity registered to do business in Georgia.
The annual notice of current assessment required to be sent by the County Board of Tax Assessors shall be dated and contain the fair market value and the assessed value of the taxpayer’s property. This notice will be mailed no later than July 1st. This notice will also contain an estimate of the current year’s taxes for all levying authorities (based on the previous year’s millage rate) and a statement of the taxpayer’s right to appeal these values to the county Board of Tax Assessors. At the time of filing an appeal the taxpayer must select one of the following options:
- An appeal to the County Board of Equalization with appeal rights to Superior Court;
- To arbitration without an appeal to Superior Court; OR
- For a parcel of non-homestead property with a fair market value in excess of $1 million, to a hearing officer with appeal rights to Superior Court.
If you wish to file an appeal, you must do so in writing no later than 45 days after the date of the notice. If you do not file by that date, your right to file an appeal will be lost. The Board of Tax Assessors can provide details on these procedures.
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 not be based on any complaint about the amount of taxes levied on the property.
For further information regarding property taxation in Georgia, please visit the State of Georgia Local Government Services Division website at http://dor.georgia.gov/.