Monday, February 22, 2010

Two tax offices?

Property owners in Decatur owe property taxes to two entities: to DeKalb County and to the City of Decatur. Your city property tax payments fund the operations of city government (including police, fire, public works, and other services) and the City of Decatur school system.

Dealing with both the county and the city on property tax issues can be confusing for new residents. Homebuyers sometimes report to us that they only knew about the county’s tax bill or that they only knew about the city’s tax bill. Some are quite surprised to get two bills! (Or actually three tax statements since the City bills in two installments.) Real estate agents and closing attorneys who let their clients know about this dual-billing up front can help prevent disputes later on about who set aside how much for taxes at closing.

Separate tax authorities also means that homestead exemptions are filed separately. As I’ve noted before, new owners that reside in their homes (not for investment or commercial property) need to file for homestead exemption once with both the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner and with the City of Decatur Revenue Division.

We do not have separate appraisal departments. DeKalb County determines all the fair market value for properties in the county, including properties within the city limits of Decatur. We receive those values from DeKalb County in an annual property tax digest. We have no discretion to change values established by the county. By our ordinances, the City applies an assessment of 50 percent to the fair market values established by the County (while Georgia counties use a 40 percent assessment for their own billing). Appeals can only be filed with DeKalb County.

If DeKalb County reassesses your property, they will forward the new values to our office. You will be re-billed or your new value will be reflected on your second installment city bill depending on when we receive the updated value from the County. Either way your overall tax liability for the year will be based off of the new assessed value.

To summarize:

Frequently asked owner questionsDecatur or Dekalb?
Who determines my property value?DeKalb County
Where do I file for homestead exemption?City of Decatur and DeKalb County separately
Who handles property appeals/reassessments?DeKalb County
Who bills for property taxes?City of Decatur and DeKalb County separately

When in doubt, give us a call and we'll be happy to steer you in the right direction!

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