Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Grace period expiring for tax payments


Property tax payments in Decatur were due on December 20, 2016. A grace period was granted during which no penalties or interest were charged. That grace period will expire this Friday, January 6. Interest will be added to unpaid amounts after that date.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What January 1 means for local taxes


January 1 is a significant date for property taxes and business licenses. Here are a few things that homeowners and business owners should keep in mind for the new year.

Property owners 

Assessments. Property assessments for 2017 conducted by DeKalb County will be based on the status of the property as of January 1. For example, new developments and improvements made prior to January 1 will be factored into 2017 assessments by DeKalb, but improvements made after January 1 would not. If something about your property has changed since last year, such as a demolition, you should file a return with the DeKalb County assessors office between now and April 1 to ensure that the assessors have current information.

Homestead exemptions. Qualifying for age-based homestead exemptions for your property taxes depends on the age of the homeowner as of January 1. If you turned 62, 65, 70, or 80 prior to January 1, you may have become eligible for one or more homestead exemptions offered by Decatur. Homestead exemptions can be applied for with the city between now and March 15, 2017, to ensure that any new exemptions on your account appear on your 1st installment tax bill which will be mailed out by April 1. Call 404-370-4100 for details.  You should also check with DeKalb to determine whether you have become eligible for any additional exemptions with their office.

Billing. Property owners should note what tax officials mean by “the first-of-the-year owner,” or the “January 1 owner.” DeKalb County records the owner as of January 1 and the current owner if ownership changes later in the year. Many times, we are questioned about why a bill or a delinquent notice was sent to the January 1 owner rather than the current owner. Generally speaking, Decatur attempts to notify the current owner of bills that are owed. But there can be delays in reflecting current ownership information, and the January 1 owner may be considered to be responsible for the taxes that year depending on the terms at closing, or at least is responsible for notifying the current owner of any bills that the January 1 owner received for the property. 

Business owners

Although business license payments for 2017 can be made until January 31, please note that 2016 business license certificates in Decatur have expired. Call the Decatur business license office at 678-553-6743 for renewal options.

If your business has more than 10 employees as of January 1, you will need to let the Decatur business license office know your E-Verify number if you haven't already done so. State law says that the E-Verify requirement is based on the number of employees a business had as of January 1.

If you owned a business that closed in 2016 or moved out of Decatur or DeKalb, you should notify the DeKalb County assessors office at 404-371-0841 to ensure that you do not receive a business inventory tax assessment notice and tax bills from DeKalb and Decatur in 2017. If your business is open for the beginning of 2017 you will receive an assessment and tax bill for 2017 even if your business closes or moves later this year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Tax office closed Monday


City Hall including the Revenue Division will be closed on Monday, January 2 in observance of the new year.  City departments will reopen on Tuesday, January 3.  For information or payments over the holiday weekend, tax and business license accounts can be accessed online at www.decaturgatax.com.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lawyer taxes due Friday


Occupation taxes for attorneys in Decatur are due on or before Friday, December 30.  Each lawyer is responsible for paying $425 annually.  The tax can be paid online by visiting www.decaturgatax.com, clicking on “Occupation Tax” on the upper left, selecting 2016 as the year, and entering your name as it appears on your bill.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

State announces delay in tax refunds next year


Refunds for Georgia income tax returns in 2017 could take up to three months to be issued.  The Department of Revenue steps they take to verify taxpayer identity take longer and could delay the refunds.  From the AJC:
Georgia warns 2017 state tax refunds could be delayed
Kristina Torres | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday, Dec. 2, 2016
Georgia tax officials said Friday that some 2017 refunds may be delayed due to fraud prevention efforts, a warning that comes after complaints this year that it took longer than usual to process income tax returns. 
Starting next year, all first-time Georgia income tax filers or taxpayers who have not filed here for at least five years will only be able to receive refunds in the form of a paper check and not by electronic transfer.
The state won’t begin processing individual returns until Feb. 1, with officials saying it could take more than 90 days to issue a refund if one is due...
The agency is encouraging taxpayers to register online with the department’s tax center website to monitor the status of their returns. Registered users can also get fraud alerts to notify them when a return has been filed with their Social Security number.
To sign up, go to gtc.dor.ga.gov.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tax office to close Friday and Monday


City Hall, including the property tax office, will be closed from December 23 through December 26 for Christmas.  We will re-open Tuesday, December 27 at 8:00 a.m.  Tax and business license information is available anytime at www.decaturgatax.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Grace period offered for tax payments


Although property tax payments in Decatur for the second installment of 2016 were due yesterday, there is a grace period until Friday, January 6, 2017.  No penalties or interest will be added to accounts that are paid within the grace period. Please mail payments to:

City of Decatur Lockbox
P.O. Box 945650
Atlanta, GA 30394-5650

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lowndes County to begin appointing assessors


In most of Georgia, property tax assessors are appointed to their positions. In Lowndes County, this has been an elected position. That will change now that voters have approved the appointment of assessors going forward. The stated reason for the change is that elected assessors don't always have the training and expertise to carry out their duties. From the Dalton Citizen:

Assessor referendum passes

By John Stephen
VALDOSTA, Ga. — The Lowndes County special ballot asking if tax assessors should be appointed narrowly passed 50.27 to 49.73 percent, according to the county’s board of elections.
Results show 18,293 people voted for tax assessors to be appointed by county commissioners, and 18,095 people voted for tax assessors to continue being elected by the public — a difference of only 198 votes.
While all votes from local precincts were counted after Election Day on Nov. 8, up to 2,000 provisional, absentee and military ballots still needed to be counted. Until those remaining votes were tallied at the elections office on Tuesday, Nov. 15, the race was too close to call.
Currently, Lowndes County tax assessors are elected by the public. In every other county in Georgia, tax assessors are appointed by the county commissioners.
The ballot asked if the state should repeal the constitutional amendment that mandates Lowndes County tax assessors be elected. Now that the repeal has passed, tax assessors will be appointed by the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners starting in 2021.
The county commissioners pioneered the ballot question after discussing the change for several years. Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Slaughter said while the current tax assessors have good intentions, he questioned whether they have the managerial skills necessary to oversee the large tax assessor’s office...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Tax payments due Tuesday


Property tax payments in Decatur for the second installment of 2016 are due on or before Tuesday, December 20. The City accepts payments without charging interest as long as the payment envelope is postmarked by the due date. Please mail payments to:

City of Decatur Lockbox
P.O. Box 945650
Atlanta, GA 30394-5650

Friday, December 16, 2016

Columbus voters keep property taxes frozen


One of the bigger property tax-related proposals on the ballot in Georgia this year was a repeal of the property assessment freeze in Columbus. Opponents of the freeze, including the Muscogee County school board and Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, said that the freeze suppresses economic activity by discouraging home improvements and property sales. However, in the end, people weren't sold by the argument and chose to keep the freeze. Sixty percent of residents voted against a "thaw."

This is the third time that a repeal of the Columbus freeze has been defeated. It goes to show that a permanent freeze is difficult to tweak even if there are valid reasons to alter it. It also probably helps explain why DeKalb County's property tax freezes sunset every few years instead of being permanent. From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:
...If the referendum had passed, it would have kept the freeze in place for all who are currently under it, but would have put any homestead property bought after Jan. 1, 2017, under a more traditional fair market value system, where property is regularly reassessed. Those properties under the freeze would have remained so until they changed hands, whether by sale or probate. They would have then go into the fair market value system. Eventually, all frozen property would have changed hands and no property would have remained under the freeze.

The property tax assessment freeze was voted into effect in 1982. It freezes the assessed value of a homestead property at the value at the time of the sale and keeps it there until the property changes hands. It is then reassessed at the current value and again frozen at that value.

It has been challenged before, both at the polls and in the courts, and the challenges failed both times.

Voters initially approved the freeze by a 73-27 percent margin in 1982. A 1991 attempt to repeal the freeze by referendum failed by an 81-19 percent margin.

In the early 2000s, a group challenged the freeze’s constitutionality and won a favorable ruling at the Superior Court level. But the state and then federal supreme courts ruled it constitutional...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

If paying by e-check, please remit today or tomorrow


If you are planning to pay your second installment Decatur property tax bill with an electronic check on our website at www.decaturgatax.com, I encourage you to make your payment no later than Wednesday, December 14. Like paper checks, e-checks can take three to five business days to clear the bank. It's not an immediate debit. Our formal payment deadline this installment is December 20, 2016.

Our website allows for e-check payments with no convenience fee charged, and credit card payments with convenience fees. We also continue to accept payments by mail or in-person up through the payment due date. If you have any issues with the website or the e-check option, please call the Revenue office at 404-370-4100 or 678-553-6743.