Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Decatur's tax office answers frequently asked questions

We've prepared answers to the most frequently asked questions we hear in the Revenue Division.  This information is also posted on the City's website at  Please take a look and let us know if we left something out!
How do I check property taxes? You can pull City tax records, print a bill or receipt, or make a tax payment with a 2.2% plus 30¢ third-party processing fee online at

When are taxes due?
We bill in two, unequal installments per year. Payment is due on June 1 and December 20.

How do I know if a property is inside Decatur’s city limits or is located in unincorporated DeKalb County?
There are thousands of properties with Decatur mailing addresses that are actually located outside of Decatur’s city limits in unincorporated DeKalb County. Properties in unincorporated DeKalb County do not receive services from the City of Decatur and are not subject to city taxes. About 99 percent of residences in Decatur’s city limits have a ZIP code of 30030, and about 90 percent of properties in Decatur have 3-digit street numbers. If you have a ZIP code other than 30030, or a 4-digit street number, there’s a fair chance that you’re not actually in the city. You can look at a map here, or search for the property on the DeKalb County tax commissioner’s website to confirm whether you are within city limits. If the property is in tax district 4, it’s in unincorporated DeKalb County. Tax district 92 is Decatur.

How long should it take for my tax payment to post? That will depend partly on where your payment was mailed. In general, even for in-person payments, please allow 7-10 business days before your payment is applied to your account. We honor postmarks, so don’t worry about additional interest accruing if you mailed your payment in on time.

Where is my refund? If an overpayment is made on your property, we refund the entity that made the last payment that resulted in the credit. For example, if you paid, then your mortgage company paid, we would refund the mortgage company. Issuing refunds may take three to four weeks after your original check cleared the bank before we mail out your refund check.

How do I appeal my property value? Through the DeKalb County tax assessors office. All properties in Decatur are assessed by the county. The city has no assessor, appraiser, influence, expertise, or authority over assessments. We receive values from the county and are bound by those values for tax purposes.

I appealed my taxes with DeKalb. Now what? We bill you using an 85% temporary value. Your city tax payment remains due while your appeal is being processed by DeKalb. Upon the conclusion of your appeal, you may end up owing us the remaining 15%. In other words, you could end up owing money even after winning an appeal.

Do I have homestead exemption?
Look at the exemptions column of your tax bill. You have the basic homestead exemption if a figure of $20,000 in the exemptions column on three rows of your bill. If you have all zeroes in the exemptions column, you do not have the basic homestead exemption.

If you’re not sure what age-based homestead exemptions you have, please call 404-370-4100 or visit City Hall for help. More information about homestead exemptions in Decatur can be found here.

To apply for the basic homestead exemption online, click here.

Will the second installment property tax bill be the same amount as the first installment? No.

How much will my next tax bill be? For a first installment tax bill, we will have your tax bill calculated by April 1. For a 2nd installment, we’ll know by October 20. We cannot provide any official numbers earlier than that because your taxable value or the millage rates could change.

Can I pay the full year’s taxes up front? No. We do not know how much your second installment tax bill will be each year until October 20.

Why did my tax bill go up? Individual circumstances will vary. Generally speaking, 1st installment tax bills are higher than 2nd installments because we bill for sanitation and stormwater fees during 1st installments only. Our millage rates have been fairly consistent over the last few years, so any other dramatic changes in your bill are probably due to a change in your assessed value from DeKalb County. Please check with DeKalb if you don’t understand why your assessed value has increased. To see an example of how we calculate bills, visit our general information page.

If Decatur only bills for sanitation and stormwater during the 1st installment, why are these fees showing up on my 2nd installment bill? Aren’t you double-charging me? No. The 2nd installment bill is always a re-statement of the entire bill for the year, including all taxes, fees, and payments made over the course of the year. The sanitation and stormwater charges are re-printed on your 2nd installment bill so that you know what the total year’s charges and payments have been, but you’re only being charged for these fees once per year.

Why are taxes in Decatur higher than DeKalb? The City of Decatur is known for high-quality services to its residents. DeKalb County property taxes for residents within the City of Decatur are lower than City taxes because the City provides more services to residents than the county does. Also, about 60 percent of your tax bill goes toward the city school system.

What if I never got a bill and my taxes are past due? We mail paper bills to every property owner twice a year. If we get mail returned, we research it and re-mail your bill either to the property address or alternate addresses that we find. We acknowledge that unusual circumstances may cause you not to receive a bill, but failure to receive a bill does not relieve you of your obligation to pay. Taxes are always due on June 1 and Dec. 20. If you haven’t received your paper bill, you can access it online at We also offer a grace period with each billing. If taxes remain unpaid after the grace period we add 10 percent penalty and 1 percent interest per month. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a property owner to ensure your taxes are paid.

What if I received a business personal property tax bill, but I’ve closed my business or sold the property?
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. The taxes cannot be pro-rated or waived even if your business has closed midway through the year.

Do you accept memo bills? No. We no longer accept payments with summary bills or statements that are created in-house by law firms or banks. All payments made by check must include the remittance coupon provided with the paper bill (or e-bill from to ensure timely and accurate posting of your payment. Checks must include the property ID and the tax year for which the payment is being made.

I provided a new mailing address to your office. Why isn’t it showing on your website?
Please allow a few days after you’ve notified us of changes in ownership or mailing addresses to be updated. Also, please be aware that our ownership and mailing information is overridden each time we receive updated data from DeKalb County. DeKalb County maintains the official legal records including property recording, deeds, and tax digests. If you don’t notify the county of your updated information, the county’s old information will eventually override the information you’ve given us.

Where do I mail my tax payment? City of Decatur
P.O. Box 945650
Atlanta, GA 30394-5650

What types of payment do you accept?
You can pay with a check by mail or in person, cash in person, or by credit card online.

If you are paying off a tax lien or replacing a bounced check, we accept only cash or cashier’s check.

Why am I charged a processing fee to pay by credit card? The City uses a third party payment processor for credit card payments. This fee is charged by the processor. You can pay by check or cash with no extra charge.

What is the penalty if I pay late? A 10 percent penalty and 1 percent interest monthly are applied to any unpaid balances. Additional collection fees will apply if your account remains delinquent.

Who do I contact about my tax assessment, my appeal, my water bill, my landlord, my marriage license, or the public defender’s office?
DeKalb County at 404-371-2000.

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