5 Things You Need To Know About Your 2018 Buckhead Property Tax Assessment


5 Things You Need To Know
About Your 2018 Buckhead Property Tax Assessment

In May of 2017 the Fulton County Tax Assessor sent out notices to property owners that raised the “Fair Market Value” (the value on which the property taxes are calculated) by an average of 13% across Fulton county. There was an immediate and fierce outcry among Buckhead residents, where many had seen much higher than average increases. Within 30 days the Fulton County Board of Tax Commissioners met under intense political and public pressure, and voted unanimously to rescind all 2017 increases for residential properties.

It had been a public-relations disaster, but Dwight Robinson, chief tax appraiser for Fulton County, stated at the time that the steep increases are simply to “catch up” tax appraisals that have not kept pace with real estate appreciation in recent years. State law requires counties to keep their property appraisals up to date, and Robinson was just doing his job, he contended.

This year the county appraiser has learned a valuable lesson. From the very beginning of the year they have been reporting to the media that appraised values would have a median increase of 33%. The resulting outcry has been far more muted thanks to the advance notice, but there is still much confusion and worry.

To help Buckhead residents understand the new assessments and how to take action, below are 5 important things to know about your Buckhead property taxes:

#1: Find Your New Appraised Value

If you did not get your assessment notice in the mail, you can look it up here at the Fulton County Tax Assessors Website.

I love visualizing data, so I took all single-family residential assessments for 2018 in Buckhead and mapped them. I grouped them by neighborhood (darker colors mean steeper increases). What I found when analyzing the data is the the average increase in the tax appraisal for Buckhead homes was 27.4%. You can search for an address by clicking on the magnifying glass icon, or hover over your neighborhood to see the average increase and then click on any property to see a comparison of the 2017 vs 2018 tax appraisal:

#2: An Assessment Increase Does Not Have To 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 appraiser’s opinion of what your property is worth. The taxes due for the year at the bottom of your notice is estimated based on this year’s property value and LAST YEAR’S tax rate. I have completed a lot of “spot-checks” on properties in Buckhead to compare their appraised value to my opinion of the actual market value. As best I can tell, only about 25% of homes have been overvalued by the tax commission, around 50% are in the margin of error, and the final 25% are still undervalued.

It is important to know that the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Atlanta Public Schools, and City Of Atlanta each has the power to set their millage (or tax rate) based on their funding goals. 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.

In order to reduce the actual property taxes we pay in Buckhead, each of us must hold the following agencies accountable for the millage rate that they set. We cannot allow them to blame the tax appraisal for the increase while they have the actual power to set the taxes we pay through their millage rate. Contact each of the agencies below and ask them what they plan to do with the millage rates:

Fulton County Commissioners
Atlanta City Council

Atlanta Public Schools

#3: Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?

4. What Can You Do To Lower Your Buckhead Property Taxes ?

  1. Contact your County Commissioner, school board member, and city council member to encourage them to keep the millage rate revenue-neutral. Contest your property tax assessment yourself by following instructions posted here. You can even file an appeal online.
  2. 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 July 6th for most taxpayers this year in Buckhead.

5. 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 2018 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:

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 2018, 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 2018 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

Preferred Tax Services
Piedmont Place Office Building
3520 Piedmont Road, Suite 200 Atlanta, GA 30305

Preferredtaxservices.com
404-262-2000

Residential Contacts:
Leah Cadray – leahcadray@preferredtaxservices.com
Jay Dermer – Jaydermer@preferredtaxservices.com

Commercial Contacts:
David Dermer – Daviddermer@preferredtaxservices.com
Adam Richmond – Adamrichmond@preferredtaxservices.com

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 2018 coupled with the extent of the increase, we estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 appeals being filed. This means the 2018 appeal process will extend far into 2019.

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.

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

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

Campbell & Brannon Property Tax Services

One Buckhead Plaza
3060 Peachtree Road, Suite 1735
Atlanta, GA 30305
www.campbellandbrannon.com
(404) 924-7040
ehale@campbellandbrannon.com or
jelrod@campbellandbrannon.com

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