Thursday, October 16, 2014

Business personal tax bills online for 2014

The 2014 bills for Decatur’s business personal taxes are now online. Your business can search, view and print your bill at Credit card payments are accepted online with a 2.2 percent plus 30-cent third-party processing fee. You can pay by check or cash if you prefer. You will receive your paper bill next week.

These bills are generally based on the value of your business inventory such as merchandise, office or work equipment, and furniture. Over 400 local businesses are subject to this tax for 2014.  This is not a tax on buildings or land. Assessments are based on the value you reported to DeKalb County. If you didn’t report a value, DeKalb County determined the value for you. The deadline to file a return with DeKalb County stating your value was April 1, 2014. You can check with DeKalb for assessment policies going forward.

Taxes are owed to DeKalb County and to the City of Decatur separately. The taxes must be paid for the full year regardless of any change in the residency of the taxpayer or disposition of the property that occurred after Jan. 1, 2014. The taxes cannot be pro-rated or waived even if your business has closed. Decatur's payment deadline is normally December 20, but since that falls on a Saturday this year we will accept payments until December 22, 2014.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

6 percent of Decatur businesses renewed online

From October 2013 through June 2014, 6 percent of businesses renewed their Decatur license by paying their occupation tax online. Of the 1,485 businesses that paid occupation taxes during that time period, 87 of them used our website at

That is already a higher rate of web payments than we receive for property taxes (which is about 2 percent of payments made), even though there is more awareness of our property tax website since it has been available for four years. This fiscal year we anticipate a higher percentage of online business license renewals because of 1) increased marketing and awareness of the website, 2) the affidavit upload field on the website is no longer a required field, and 3) we are having some upgrades made to the website.

Attorneys will receive their annual occupation tax bill at the end of this month, and businesses will receive their license renewal bills later in November.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tax office open on Columbus Day

While the post office, state agencies, and most banks will be closed, City Hall will be open for business as usual on Monday, October 13. City Schools of Decatur and DeKalb County offices will be open as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Joint study committee hearing on property taxes scheduled

The impact of property tax digests on local education funding in Georgia will be the subject of a public hearing at the State Capitol on October 23. State Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) and Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) will co-chair the meeting and receive testimony from Ellen Mills at the state Department of Revenue along with officials from the Department of Audits and the Department of Education. The meeting will take place from 10:00 a.m. until noon in room 450 of the Capitol.

This will be the first of at least three public meetings of a joint study committee of five state senators and five state representatives. The committee was created with the passage of Senate Resolution 875 earlier this year and will be dissolved after their work is done before December 31. The committee will produce a report for review by the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly, and could form the basis of new legislative proposals.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Information for newer homeowners

If you are new in town, there are a few things that may helpful for you to know about home ownership in Decatur.

First, if your home is your principal residence, you are eligible to apply for a homestead exemption which reduces the amount you pay in property taxes. You must apply separately with Decatur and DeKalb. Applying for a homestead exemption with one office doesn’t grant you both exemptions. Please apply for the City homestead exemption at by March 15, 2015, in order to receive an exemption for 2015. If the home seller had homestead exemption, that remains valid for 2014 even though you’re a new owner.

Second, please be aware that we receive all official ownership and address records from DeKalb County. It is your responsibility to follow up to ensure that DeKalb has the correct record, which you can double-check at If you recently purchased your home, you must also notify Decatur of the change to ensure your tax bills are sent to the right party.

Third, Decatur sends bills for property taxes on April 1, due June 1, and October 20, due December 20. Please check the status of your city property taxes at, even if you were told that the taxes “were taken care of at closing.” Note that taxes may be due both to DeKalb and Decatur and we have different billing schedules.

For further information you may contact the DeKalb County assessors at 404-371-0841, the DeKalb tax commissioner at 404-298-4000, and the City Revenue Division at 404-370-4100.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Changes in filing requirements make online renewal easier for most businesses

For the past few years, businesses have been required to submit two immigration-related affidavits annually when they renewed their business license per state law. As I wrote about this summer, those requirements have been relaxed.  Now only certain businesses will be required to refile these affidavits under specific circumstances as follows:

In other words, businesses owned by U.S. citizens with 10 or fewer employees who have already filed their paperwork in past years are exempt from re-filing.  This is great news for businesses that want to renew their license online ( in Decatur because it means they will be able to do it without having to upload affidavits. The upload box on our renewal website is now an optional field. All we will need is the business's telephone number, quantity of employees, and your online payment. There are no convenience fees, surcharges, or markups.

New businesses still need to file both affidavits with their license application.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 features at

If you haven't had the chance before, check out the different things you can do through our website at
  1. View six years of tax history for any property in Decatur
  2. Make a tax payment online with any major credit card 
  3. View or print a tax receipt or a tax bill for your records 
  4. Submit a change of mailing address 
  5. View three years of business license records for any local business 
  6. Renew or re-print a business license 
  7. View commercial sanitation accounts and make sanitation payments 
  8. Search, view, and pay personal property (business inventory) taxes 
  9. Apply for a basic homestead exemption
  10. Give your feedback about the website through a survey 
 Additional features are coming soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How fees on tax bills work in Decatur

Apart from taxes themselves, the only fees that appear on Decatur's tax bills are for residential sanitation and stormwater (runoff/drainage). The fee amounts are adopted by the City Commission annually.

For 2014, the residential sanitation charge was $237.  The sanitation fluctuates a little each year but has generally been around $230 for the last several years.  Residential sanitation service is a "per household" charge.  For example, a duplex owner would be billed $474 rather than $237; a quadraplex would be billed $948, etc.

The standard stormwater charge for a single family dwelling is $75 annually.  The stormwater has been consistent for many years.  The stormwater assessment for non-single family dwellings, including commercial properties, is based on the amount of impervious surface at the property.  Properties without structures still have stormwater charges because of pavement, driveways, parking decks, or other impervious surfaces onsite.

Local businesses have a stormwater charge but no residential sanitation charges (although any business can sign up for commercial sanitation and recycling with the city). Tax-exempt entities such as government entities, schools, and churches have to pay a stormwater bill.

The City doesn't add fees to tax bills for street lamps, sidewalks, speed bumps, or sewer services.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Georgia expands its mortgage assistance program


The State of Georgia has expanded its mortgage assistance to certain homeowners on the basis of unemployment or other hardship through a program called "HomeSafe Georgia." The program began in 2011, but eligibility requirements were broadened earlier this year.  This information comes from the Department of Community Affairs which administers the program:
  • Homeowners who became unemployed or underemployed in the last 36 months may qualify for assistance with their mortgage payment. NEW: Mortgage payment assistance is available for up to 24 months total, up from 18 months previously.
  • NEW: Homeowners who can make their mortgage payments now, but have become delinquent, may qualify for reinstatement. The delinquency must be related to a military, medical, or death hardship that began in the most recent 36 months. A one-time payment of up to 12 mortgage payments is available for qualifying homeowners.
  • NEW: Homeowners with a permanent reduction of income may qualify for up to $30,000 to reduce their mortgage payment to an affordable level. Income reduction due to the death of a spouse, permanent disability, or retirement due to unemployment may qualify homeowners for loan term modifications made by participating lenders. The lender must be participating in the HomeSafe Georgia program.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Property taxes including basic homestead exemptions in Decatur and DeKalb

To recap last week's post, a total year's property tax bill in Decatur in 2014 would be about 8 percent lower than for an equally valued property in DeKalb County if the property owner had no homestead exemptions (for example, commercial properties, rental properties, investment properties, second homes, etc).  When Decatur and DeKalb's bills within the City are added together, they would be about 14 percent higher than what the property would have been taxed in unincorporated DeKalb:

The differences are larger if the property owner resides on the property and has a basic homestead exemption with both the City and County.  The HOST credit on County bills is tricky to compute, but here are my estimates for 2014 factoring in owner occupancy:

Please note that these comparisons don't include fees for sanitation and stormwater drainage.  Tax scenarios for senior residents with additional homestead exemptions would vary significantly based on age, income, and in some cases the nature of the income (ie, retirement income versus non-retirement income), and jurisdiction.  There are additional differences across jurisdictions that could affect property insurance and flood insurance rates.

As always, this blog is not intended to give legal, political, financial, or tax advice, but to give information and answer questions generally about Decatur property tax issues. Please contact my office to discuss the specifics of your account; for tax advice please contact an independent tax professional.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comparing property taxes in Decatur and unincorporated DeKalb

Following up on yesterday’s post about tax rate changes from 2013 to 2014, I wanted to broaden the comparison to add unincorporated DeKalb’s tax rates for 2014.

Property tax rates are currently lower in Decatur than in unincorporated DeKalb County. A property without homestead exemptions located in Decatur would have a tax bill 7.5 percent lower than a property with the identical value in DeKalb County (even when factoring in Decatur’s higher assessment ratio of 50 percent compared to the county’s ratio of 40 percent) in 2014. However, Decatur residents also pay property tax bills to DeKalb, which are based on a lower rate than what unincorporated residents pay. Once the city and county tax bills are added together, a Decatur property owner's total property tax liability for 2014 would be 13.8 percent higher than in unincorporated DeKalb for a property with the same value.

Here’s an illustration of estimated taxes based on millage rates by jurisdiction for 2014 depending on property values for a property without homestead exemptions:

Some confusion about true size of the difference between City and County tax bills comes in partly because some City residents assume that their County tax bill is what they would pay if they were located outside the City in unincorporated DeKalb. But it isn’t. For example (again assuming no homestead exemptions for simplicity’s sake), if a Decatur property owner was de-annexed, their City bill would go away the following year, but their County property tax bill would increase by about 80 percent the following year assuming steady millage rates and property values. Similarly, if an unincorporated property owner were annexed into Decatur, they would begin paying City property taxes the next year but their County tax bill would drop by about 80 percent the next year. But again, individual circumstances will always vary on the basis of values, appeal status, exemptions, and fees. And all the millage rates can change every year which would change the math.