I think my real property assessment is too high. What should I do?
To contest the County’s assessment, you should file an appeal to the Board of Equalization. We have extensive experience filing appeals and handling negotiations and hearings, and we would be happy to assist you.
How do I start an appeal?
An appeal must be initiated by following the guidelines set forth by the County Board of Assessors and Georgia law. Additionally, the assessment you received should provide instructions on appealing. There are three entities that hear an appeal – the Board of Equalization, a hearing officer, and an arbitrator; the taxpayer chooses one. We routinely navigate this process and would be happy to initiate and handle your appeal.
What are the steps of an appeal?
The initial step is filing a written appeal of the assessment. With the written appeal, we will include a suggested value that you think is fair. The County will review the paperwork and will either change your assessment to your suggested value (this is rare) or will send the matter to the Board of Equalization for a hearing (this is much more common). Typically, we communicate directly with County appraisers prior to the Board of Equalization hearing to gather their evidence and try to reach an agreement on value. If we cannot reach an agreement with County appraisers, then the appeal is heard by the Board of Equalization, which is comprised of three residents of the County. The taxpayer and the County appraisers present to the Board of Equalization, and the Board of Equalization will issue an opinion on that same day. The Board of Equalization may either side with the taxpayer, side with the County, or assign another value it deems fair. Either the County or the taxpayer may appeal the Board of Equalization decision to Superior Court.
What is the timeline?
The deadline to initiate an appeal in Glynn County is July 2, 2018. This deadline varies from year to year and by county. Once appeals are filed, we begin the process of communicating with County appraisers. Board of Equalization hearings are typically set for mid to late fall.
I think my real property assessment is fair. Should I take any action?
Yes, you should initiate an appeal in most circumstances. Initiating an appeal will create a “freeze” that prevents the County from raising your property value for the following two years. It is worth noting that, in the event the County agrees with your suggested value and the matter does not proceed to the Board of Equalization as described above, then the freeze will not apply. Appealing a favorable assessment to freeze it does present a small risk, as an appeal allows the County to adjust the value upwards if it chooses. It is unusual, however, for the County to do that.
What is a freeze?
A freeze is a creation of Georgia law that is intended to provide the taxpayer with some certainty that he/she will not have to fight the same battle with the County the very next year. Unless the County agrees with the taxpayer’s suggested value and unilaterally changes the assessment, then an appeal triggers a freeze on the real property for the two years following the year in which the value is appealed. For instance, if you appeal your 2018 assessment, the County is prohibited from increasing your value until 2021.
Can a freeze be broken?
Yes, a taxpayer or the County may break a freeze in certain situations. A taxpayer will break a freeze if he/she does any construction on the property, transfers the ownership of any part of the property, or changes the boundaries of the property. The County may break a freeze in rare situations where it conducts a wide-ranging revaluation.
How much will this cost?
Many tax appeals are able to be settled prior to appearing at the Board of Equalization. If this is the case, then we charge a flat fee of $850 to file the appeal, familiarize ourselves with the property, work up arguments, and negotiate with the County appraisers. If the additional step of appearing at the Board of Equalization is required, then we charge a flat fee of $1,500.
What happens at the end of an appeal?
In most cases, either the taxpayer or the County may appeal the outcome to the Superior Court. At this point, the appeal would become a lawsuit and both parties may engage in discovery. Please note that the flat fee does not apply once matters advance to this stage.