Ad Valorem Tax Process
(For the complete official code of Georgia, referred to throughout as O.C.G.A, click HERE.)
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 (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 r each $1,000 of assessed value, or .001).
Property is taxable in the county where it is located unless otherwise provided by law. (See O.C.G.A. § 48-5-11).
Several distinct entities are involved in the ad valorem tax process:
- The State Revenue Commissioner is responsible for examining the tax digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties (O.C.G.A. 48-5-340). In addition, the State levies ad valorem tax each year in an amount which cannot exceed one-fourth of one mill (.00025).
- 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 values and assessments made by the Board of Tax Assessors
- The County Commissioner establishes the annual budget for county government operations and levies 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 adopts the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.
- The County Tax Commissioner, an elected office established by the Constitution, is the official responsible for performing all functions related to billing, collecting, accounting for and disbursing ad valorem taxes collected in this county. The Tax Commissioner also serves as an agent of the State Revenue Commissioner for the registration of motor vehicles. The Tax Commissioner does not set value or the millage rates.
Duties And Responsibilities Of Franklin County Tax Offices
The Tax Commissioner takes the appraised value and the exemption status provided by the Board of Tax Assessors, along with the millage rates set by the Board of Commissioners and other Governing Authorities, to calculate taxes for each property, and mails bills to owners at the addresses provided by the Board of Tax Assessors.
Generally, Franklin County real estate and business personal property taxes are due by November 15. If taxes are not collected on the property, it may be levied upon and ultimately sold. Property tax collected by the local government is used to pay for the support of services provided by the Franklin County Board of Education, Franklin County, the Industrial Building Authority and the State of Georgia.
In Georgia property is assessed at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law. (O.C.G.A. §48-5-7) Property is assessed at the county level. The State Revenue Commissioner is responsible for examining the tax digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties. (O.C.G.A. §48-5-340)
The tax bills received by property owners will include both the fair market value and the assessed value of the property. 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. §48-5-2)
Property owners that do not agree with the appraised value on their tax bill can file an appeal with the Board of Assessors. (O.C.G.A. §48-5-311) If no agreement is reached, the appeal is automatically forwarded to the Board of Equalization.
Standing timber is not taxed until sold or harvested, at which time it is taxed based upon 100 percent of its fair market value. This value is then multiplied by the appropriate mill rate to determine the tax amount due.
Equipment, machinery, and fixtures are assessed at 40 percent of fair market value. The tax assessor may value the equipment, machinery, and fixtures of an operating business to reflect the fair market value of the business as a whole. When no ready market exists for the sale of equipment, machinery, and fixtures, a fair market value may be determined by resorting to any reasonable, relevant, and useful information available. This information may include, but is not limited to, the original cost of the property, depreciation or obsolescence, and any increase in value by reason of inflation.
Property tax returns (PT-50r) for real estate must be filed with the Franklin County Tax Assessor’s Office between January 1 and April 1 of each year where property has changed or been acquired. The taxpayer may elect not to file a property tax return if they have no changes that would affect the value of their property from the previous year. Failure to file a required return will subject the taxpayer to a 10% penalty on the value of the property not returned plus interest and possibly penalties from the date the tax would have been due.
Personal property tax returns (PT-50p) are to be filled annually with the Board of Assessors without regard to change in value or use. This deadline is April 1.
Vehicle owners must renew their registration and pay the ad valorem tax every year during the 30-day period, which ends on their birthday. If the vehicle is owned by more than one person, then the birthday of the person’s name that appears first on the title is used to determine the registration period. Newly acquired vehicles must be registered within 30 days from the date of purchase.The Franklin County tag office is located in the Court House Annex 1221 Hull Ave. Hours are from 8:00 – 4:30, Monday – Friday. Phone (706) 384-3455. For more detailed information regarding motor vehicle registration, please visit our DOR web page.
Owners of mobile homes that are located in Franklin County on January 1 must return the mobile home for taxation to the Tax Commissioner on or before May 1 of each year at the same time they apply for the location permit. Failure to file the required return will result in a 10% tax penalty.
It should be noted that there are two opportunities for a mobile/modular homeowner to appeal their valuation, one is during the return period and the other is within 45 days of when the bill is mailed.
If a taxpayer discovers they have paid taxes that they believe were illegal or erroneous, they may request a refund within 3 years of the date of payment. The claim for refund should be filed in writing with the board of commissioners within three years after the date of payment. Refunds for erroneous paid taxes must be based on “errors of fault” and not on disagreements of value.
Exemptions can typically be defined as a portion of the assessed value that will be free of taxation.
The deadline for filing an application for a homestead exemption in Franklin County is March 1. Application for homestead exemption is made with the Tax Assessor’s office. Failure to apply by the deadline will result in loss of the exemption for that year. Beginning July 1, 2005 application for homestead exemption may be submitted any time during the year but must be received before March 1 of the taxable year to qualify for the exemption that year. If received after March 1, the tax assessor will activate the exemption the following year.
The State of Georgia offers homestead exemptions to persons that own and occupy their home as a primary residence. Franklin County offers homestead exemptions that are more beneficial to the taxpayer than the exemptions offered by the State. For information concerning local homestead exemptions contact the Tax Assessor’s Office. The homestead exemption is deducted from the assessed value (40% of the fair market value) of the home. Then the mill rate is applied to arrive at the amount of ad valorem tax due.
Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grant
The HTRG (Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grant) is the result of the homeowner’s tax relief enacted by the Governor and the General Assembly of the State of Georgia in 1999. The grant, appropriated by the General Assembly and the Governor for the last several years to counties, cities and schools, had given tax relief to homeowners in an amount up to $2000 in assessed value for all homeowners who are received a homestead exemption. For the 2009 tax year, the Governor and General Assembly did not fund the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant. Declining state revenues during the current recession means there is no money for the State to give the tax relief to homeowners. Therefore, there will not be a credit for this grant on 2009 tax bills on properties with homestead exemption. According to legislation passed in 2009 (House Bill 143), the grant will only be made available in the future if state revenues grow at least 3% plus the rate of inflation. As a result, many Georgia homeowners will see a property tax increase of $200 to $300 on their 2009 tax bills.
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.
In Franklin County, the tax commissioner is designated ex-officio sheriff and is responsible for conducting tax sales for the collection of unpaid taxes. The Tax Commissioner must issue a tax lien (commonly known as an execution or FIFA) against all delinquent taxpayers. A tax lien is released only when the delinquent taxes are satisfied in full. The Tax Commissioner will either collect the tax from the taxpayer or levy the property and auction it at a tax sale.
The Tax Commissioner occasionally auctions property at a tax sale for the collection of delinquent taxes. Tax sale proceedings are held according to the official code of Georgia sections 48-4-45 through 48-4-48. Sales are scheduled the first Tuesday of any given month in front of the courthouse. The bidding commences with the total taxes, fees, and interest on each parcel The tax deed is then sold to the highest bidder. Tax sales are advertised in legal advertisement of the Franklin County Citizen. The newspaper ad is run once a week for four weeks prior to the sale.
Right of Redemption
When real property is sold at a tax sale, whether to an individual, city, or to the county; the owner, creditor, or any person having an interest in the property may redeem the property from the holder of the tax deed.
The owner, creditor, or any other person with interest in the property, must pay the tax deed purchaser, the tax amount of the property paid at tax sale, plus any taxes paid on the property by the purchaser after the sale, plus any special assessment on the property, plus a 20% premium for the first year or fraction of a year, and a 10% premium of the amount for each additional year or fraction of a year, which has elapsed since the date of sale. A premium of 20% must also be paid when the County is the purchaser. (OCGA 48-4-42)
The owner, creditor, or any other person with interest in the property may redeem the property at anytime during the twelve (12) months following the tax sale. The purchaser of the tax deed cannot take actual possession of the property during this time. The tax deed purchaser is not authorized to receive rents or make improvements to any structure on the property or grade any lot prior to this time.
When the property has been redeemed (all monies due the purchaser paid as prescribed by law), the purchaser shall then issue a quitclaim deed to the owner of the property (as stated on the fi.fa) releasing the property from the tax deed.
This redemption of the property shall put the title conveyed by the tax sale back to the owner, subject to all liens that existed at the time of the tax sale. If the redemption was made by any creditor of the owner or by any person having any interest in the property, the amount expended by the creditor or the person interested shall constitute a first lien on the property. (OCGA 48-4-21; 48-4-41; 48-4-42; 48-4-43; 48-4-44)
Notice of Foreclosure of Right to Redeem
After twelve (12) months from the date of the tax sale, the purchaser at the tax sale may terminate or foreclose on the owner’s right to redeem the property by causing a notice(s) of the foreclosure to be served by certified mail to the owner of record and to all interest holders which appear on the public record. In addition, the notice of foreclosure is to be published in the county in which the property is located, once a week for four (4) consecutive weeks after the twelve months has elapsed.
If the redemption is not made until more than 30 days after the notice, then the sheriff’s costs for serving the notice(s) and the cost of publication of the notice(s) shall be added to the redemption price. (OCGA 48-4-42, 48-4-45 and 48-4-46)
Any questions about this foreclosure process should be referred to an attorney.