Saturday, March 15, 2014

Special hours at City Hall--Saturday, March 15

The City of Decatur Revenue Division and the City Manager’s Office will be open today (Saturday), March 15, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., to serve community members who are unable to stop by during the regular workweek. If you want to apply for a homestead exemption, pay a bill, handle a business license matter, or have other needs that could be met by these offices during this time, come to City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St., or call 404-370-4100.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Property tax proposals to watch before the General Assembly adjourns

Dozens of property tax, sales tax, and motor vehicle tax proposals were introduced in the Georgia General Assembly during this legislative session. Only a few have survived as we near the last final days of the legislative session. These property tax and delinquent collections bills have been passed by at least one chamber of the General Assembly already, and will become law if approved by the other chamber over the next week and signed by the governor afterward. Several of the measures are intended to provide more fairness to taxpayers, but there’s not an overall theme to the legislation. Unlike tax proposals during the last couple legislative sessions, most of these bills are pretty narrow in scope. A brief description of each bill follows along with my own thoughts on how these may affect Decatur.

HB 69—Allows for the collection of homeowner, condominium owner, or other property owner association dues in the redemption price after a tax sale.
What this means is that if Decatur (or any other city or county) sells a property during a tax sale, the original owner still has a year to pay to redeem the property from the tax sale purchaser, but would now also be required to pay off any dues paid toward the property between the tax sale and the redemption date as part of the total redemption amount.

HB 412—Authorizes tax officials to provide electronic billing for property tax bills and delinquent notices and adds certain e-billing standards.
Some county tax commissioners in Georgia, such as Walker County, are already providing taxpayers the ability to “go paperless.” This bill puts certain standards in place for tax e-billing, including putting the words “STATUTORY ELECTRONIC SERVICE” in the subject line of emails. As Decatur considers launching e-billing during FY14-15, we would need to adhere to this standard if approved.

HB 819—Requires tax officials to carry out further due diligence steps to contact a delinquent taxpayer prior to transferring a tax execution (lien).
Before a tax execution could be transferred, the tax official must conduct a due diligence search using phone directories or Internet databases to identify the property owner’s most current contact information. The City of Decatur does not sell or transfer liens like Fulton County does, so this bill would have little impact here. Nevertheless, more thorough due diligence searches are in the interests of everybody, because it ultimately helps reduce the number of severely delinquent accounts.

HB 954—Adds some criteria to the calculation of fair market value by tax assessors such as whether the property is rent controlled or otherwise eligible for income tax credits.
This could have some affect on DeKalb’s assessments of certain multi-family housing units.

SB 293—Creates a misdemeanor charge and $1,000 fine against anybody at the board of tax assessors who fails to provide certain information requested by taxpayers regarding their assessment. The bill also expands the definition of distressed properties that could further reduce assessed property values in their vicinity.
This is the first bill I’m aware of that would impose individual fines and penalties on tax assessors. The intent is probably to assist taxpayers during the appeal process. Decatur does not assess property values but this legislation would affect the DeKalb assessors and local taxpayers seeking information from them.

SR 783—Provides for a referendum to amend the state constitution to stop the state from levying any property taxes.
The state portion of your property tax bill has undergone a gradual, legislative decrease since 2010 and will no longer be levied at all by 2016. This resolution would make the phase-out moot by prohibiting state property taxes in the constitution. This would not affect your city tax bill either way, because the state always collected its portion with the county billing. You would see a slight decrease (a few dollars) in your county bill either way since the state portion has already been phased out.

HB 390 pertains to sales taxes in DeKalb County for transportation projects.

HB 69, 412, 819, and 954 passed unanimously or near unanimously in the House, while SB 293, SR 783, and HB 390 each have opposition.