Three Ways To Lower Your Buckhead Property Taxes

By June 3, 2017News

Update to this story: On Wednesday, June 21st the Fulton County Board of Tax Commissioners met and decided unanimously to rescind all 2017 Notices for residential properties. All values for residential properties will ‘roll back’ to 2016 values. This roll back will exclude any properties that are new construction or that have recently been improved. All 2017 notices are nullified, and there is no longer a deadline to appeal for July 3rd. This rollback to does not apply to commercial properties. The county will be sending out new notices to residential properties in mid-August. 2017 Tax Bills will be reflective of the new notice values; however, the amount you pay may increase from last year (should the millage rate increase as a result of this roll back).

Last week my phone lit up with calls from clients and neighbors who were shocked to see increases of 20-60% on their property assessments. It’s that time of year…when the Fulton County Tax Assessor mails out notices to property owners across Buckhead informing them of any changes in appraised value on their homes and corresponding potential property tax increase or decrease. When I got home I was welcomed by my own assessment that had increased 25% from last year. I dug into all available information, spoke with several legal experts, and compiled what I hope will be a valuable guide in understanding, and acting on, your Buckhead Property tax assessment.

Read on below to better understand your assessment, what the experts have to say, and how to fight your Buckhead property tax assessment if you believe it is wrong.

No assessment in the mail yet? Look up your most recent assessment and estimated tax bill by clicking here.

An Assessment Increase Does Not Mean A Tax Increase

The first thing you need to understand is that the assessment notice is not your tax bill! It simply the county appraisers’ opinion  of what your property is worth.

Fulton officials have acknowledged that their average property appraisal has increased 13% this year over last. Dwight Robinson, chief tax appraiser for Fulton County, has stated that the steep increases are simply to “catch-up” tax appraisals that have not kept pace with real estate appreciation in recent years. However, it is important to know that the Fulton County Commission has the power to set the millage (or tax rate) later this summer based on their budget needs. They do this by looking at the updated overall real estate assessments and setting the millage rate to generate tax revenue that will match their budget needs.

Just last year, the Fulton Commission technically lowered taxes in August when they voted to institute a rate of 10.45 mills. This represented a reduction from the 2015 rate of 10.5 mills, and was 0.10 mills lower than the proposed revenue-neutral rate of 10.55 mills. It seems quite clear that a rate reduction for 2017 might be on the table, contact your commissioners on this matter if you want to be heard.

Mapping Buckhead Property Assessments

I love visualizing data, so I took all residential assessments for 2016 in Buckhead and mapped them. I grouped them by neighborhood (darker colors mean higher values) and found that Tuxedo Park came in top position  (surprise!) with average county appraisals of $1.7 million. Click on your neighborhood below to see how you rank! To see the appraisal value on any individual property, simply de-select the “Neighborhoods” box in the upper left corner and then click away. See if you can find the highest residential appraisal value…it’s over $16 million!

What Can You Do To Lower Your Buckhead Property Taxes ?

  1. Contact Your County Commissioner to voice your opposition to a tax increase and encourage them to keep the millage rate revenue-neutral. Click Here to find your commissioners.
  2. Contest Your property Tax Assessment yourself by following instructions posted here. You can even file an appeal online.
  3. Take my advice, and hire a professional to file an appeal on your behalf. As with any expert, they will help you avoid expensive mistakes. I have a few listed below that have done good work for some of my clients.

Note that an appeal of your Buckhead property taxes is due prior to the date listed on the upper-right corner of your assessment notice. This deadline is based on when your notice was mailed and is between July 1-10 for most taxpayers this year in Buckhead.

When To NOT File An Appeal

  1. If you purchased your property last year or the year before and your new assessed value matches your purchase price, you might be wasting your time to appeal that unless conditions have changed.
  2. If you had a large increase in assessment, you may be indignant….but if you know deep down that your property would appraise for more…then you may do more harm than good in appealing!  As Leah Cadray with Preferred Tax Services says below: “filing an appeal is not advisable in all situations. In a way, filing an appeal is shining a spotlight on your home. So if you have recently pulled a construction permit to improve your home or have it listed at a value higher than your 2017 Notice Value, an appeal would not be recommended. “

Expert Advice On Contesting Your Buckhead/Atlanta Tax Assessment

Below is a helpful Q & A I had with some of the best local Buckhead professionals who will assist in filing your property tax appeal:

Campbell & Brannon Property Tax Services

Q: I have been hearing reports from my clients that many tax appraisals have been increased by 20-60% this year. Is this widespread? Has the Fulton assessor stated a new strategy or objective behind this?

A: All of Fulton was hit. Some areas more than others. Some areas more than 50% for everyone. Fulton is notorious for over-assessing so this is nothing entirely new. They feel since the market is improving they need to get their cut.

Q: Does it make sense for people to file an appeal on their own. Why hire a professional?

A: Most people have no idea what information to present and what format it needs to be presented in.

Q: How long does the process of appeal take and what should people expect?

A: Appeals normally take between 6-12 months. This year I anticipate it could easily take longer.

Q: Does filing an appeal have any downsides? Could it backfire in a possible further increase? Does it give the assessor the right to conduct an internal inspection of your home?

A: If you are trying to hide something from the county like extra square footage or finished basements or something that the county does not know about you better weigh it if it is worth it or not because it will likely come out in the open. The county does not need to come in unless you ask them to.

 

Costs: Our Professional Appeal service is $500 admin fee plus 25% contingency fee on the first years’ tax savings

Contact:

Campbell & Brannon Property Tax Services

One Buckhead Plaza
3060 Peachtree Road, Suite 1735
Atlanta, GA 30305
Phone: (404) 924-7040
Email:

ehale@campbellandbrannon.com or

jelrod@campbellandbrannon.com
www.campbellandbrannon.com

Preferred Tax Services

Q: I have been hearing reports from my clients that many tax appraisals have been increased by 20-60% this year. Is this widespread? Has the Fulton assessor stated a new strategy or objective behind this?

A: Yes, Fulton County has revalued many residential neighborhoods in the county in 2017, increasing taxable values dramatically.  In statements made by county officials, Fulton County is making an effort to increase values to reflect the growth that we have started to see since the 2008 market crash. 

Q: Does it make sense for people to file an appeal on their own. Why hire a professional?

A:People can certainly file an appeal on their own, as they could also cut their own hair, fix their own cars, sell/buy their own houses. As an expert in the property tax field, our firm specializes in research and market analysis. We can make informed choices to help maximize the potential for a reduction for each property we represent.  In contesting the proposed increase for 2017, I would certainly recommend enlisting the help of an expert.

Q: How long does the process of appeal take and what should people expect?

A:The appeals process is long, and the county will likely be processing an unprecedented number of appeals this year. I would expect to see resolve of most cases in the new year. 

Q: Does filing an appeal have any downsides? Could it backfire in a possible further increase? Does it give the assessor the right to conduct an internal inspection of your home?

A: Yes, filing an appeal is not advisable in all situations. In a way, filing an appeal is shining a spotlight on your home. So if you have recently pulled a construction permit to improve your home or have it listed at a value higher than your 2017 Notice Value, an appeal would not be recommended. At the regular appeals level, you do not have to allow any county representatives into your home, though they do have the right to walk around your property. 

Q: What other advice would you give people?

A: I would recommend that all property owners check to see if they qualify for a homestead exemption. Fulton County’s different exemptions and qualifications for each exemption can be found at: www.fultonassessor.org

Costs: We charge a contingency fee based on tax savings.

Contact:

Preferred Tax Services
Piedmont Place Office Building
3520 Piedmont Road, Suite 200 Atlanta, GA 30305
Residential Contacts:
Jay Dermer
Commercial Contacts:
David Dermer
Adam Richmond

Equifax

Q: I have been hearing reports from my clients that many tax appraisals have been increased by 20-60% this year. Is this widespread? Has the Fulton assessor stated a new strategy or objective behind this?

A: Yes, and in many cases 100% increases and higher.  Also, there are some, but few, who have had no increase in their 2017 assessment.  We know of no new strategy behind these increases but believe the State Department of Revenue fines to local counties for under assessing properties may be one of the motives behind the massive reappraisal.  Also, it’s EQUITAX’s view that the County is trying to recoup some of it revenue last during the recession that had a devastating effect on property values.  Perhaps the tax rate will be adjusted downward to offset this huge digest increase.

Q: Does it make sense for people to file an appeal on their own. Why hire a professional?

A: A reduction in a parcel’s property tax assessment directly correlates to a lower property tax bill for the parcel. Unlike the local tax rate (or “millage rate”), which is typically non-negotiable, the assessment of a parcel is a negotiable factor. The tax rate is typically set by community officials, state and local politicians, and local school boards. The assessment is, however, a negotiable factor. The key in petitioning for a lower assessment lies in understanding the assessment process, recognizing the appraisal methods utilized, and identifying the reasons why a property might be entitled to an assessment reduction. Of course, presenting accurate and persuasive evidence in a succinct, knowledgeable, effective, and professional manner is critical to winning an assessment appeal. That’s where EQUITAX can help!

Q: How long does the process of appeal take and what should people expect?

A: There are roughly 400,000 parcels in Fulton County.  Approximately 90% are residential and 10% are commercial.  A typical year in Fulton has an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 appeals.  With the high volume of assessment increases in 2017 coupled with the extent of the increase, we estimate between 75,000 and 100,000 appeals being filed this year.  This means the 2017 appeal process will extend far into 2018.

Q: Does filing an appeal have any downsides? Could it backfire in a possible further increase? Does it give the assessor the right to conduct an internal inspection of your home?

A: There are times when filing an assessment appeal is not advisable.  Doing so may open the door for even higher taxes.  This is another reason for getting a professional involved in a tax appeal case.  The Tax Assessor does not have the right to inspect the interior of one’s home, unless the appeal has been filed to Fulton County Superior Court.

Q: What other advice would you give people? 

A: Successful property tax management involves a professional knowledge of both assessment practices and valuation techniques. In truth, a tax appraisal is a subjective valuation. The tax appraisal function is not an exact science and involves a valuation judgment. There is often a wide divergence of opinion, not only in the value of a certain property, but also in the methods used in estimating its value. Methods of taxation valuation vary considerably from state to state and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Mass appraisal techniques employed by taxing jurisdictions often do not consider the specific and particular value dynamics of individual properties.

Taxes have always been a part of society, serving as a necessary means of concentrating resources for the accomplishment of things that would be impossible for most individuals. Our democratic government decrees that “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny”. As a result, the determination of our taxes is an open process subject to interpretation. Because of this, our legal Courts have consistently ruled that there is nothing sinister in arranging one’s affairs to keep taxes as low as possible. As one Judge noted:

“Nobody owes any public duty to pay more property taxes than the law demands”

Costs:

For the services described above, Client agrees to pay Consultant One of the following fees:

  1. _________    An administrative fee of $250  plus  25% of the first year’s tax savings, or
  2. _________    An administrative fee of $150  plus  35% of the first year’s tax savings, or
  3. _________    An administrative fee of  $ 75  plus  45% of the first year’s tax savings.

Contact:
Email: Support@equitaxusa.com
Phone: (404)351-5354
Website:  www.equitaxusa.com
Principal: David Humphreys

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