Friday, April 10, 2015

Tax valuation and appeals bill passes state legislature

House Bill 202, which affects property value appeal procedures, passed the Georgia General Assembly on the final day of its session this year.  The House will transmit the bill to the governor's desk next week for his approval or veto before May 12.  HB 202 underwent significant amendments before final passage after a conference committee worked out differences between the House and Senate.  An earlier version of the bill had nine sections; the final version has 28 sections including motor vehicle, motor home, and income tax provisions that were not included in prior versions.  The portions relevant to property taxes are summarized below courtesy of the Georgia Municipal Association:
Section 5 -permits taxpayer to opt-in for electronic notice and billing of taxes at the discretion of the tax commissioner;

Section 6 -further specifies obstruction language regarding levying officers; 
Section 7 -requires levying (counties and cities) and recommending (e.g., school boards) authorities to post a on their website, if available, a report that has been required in the past; report must appear in newspaper of general circulation for one week (as opposed to two); 
Section 8 -permits taxpayers to opt-in for electronic notices and billing of ad valorem taxes; 
Section 9 -extends time for completing digest to September 1 (from August 1); -outlines requirements for penalties for incomplete or improper tax digests; -tax commissioners forfeit portions of commission depending on how long it take for proper submission; 
Section 10 -outlines joint boards of assessors between counties and the process of an intergovernmental agreement for such purposes; 
Section 11 -specifies the use of the Standard on Ratio Studies published by the International Association of Assessing Officers as tax digest in being prepared; 
Section 12 -establishes 10% penalty on assessment of unreturned personal property; -outlines a two year assessment freeze and exceptions; 
Section 13 -changes completion date for revision and assessment of returns from July 1 to July 15, except in counties where taxes collected in installments, where date remains June 1; 
Section 14 -clarifies that hearing officer method of appeal available for non-homestead property with value in excess of $750k (reduced from 1M) and for wireless property with aggregate FMV in excess of $750k (new provision for wireless property); -clarifies that methodology information may be obtained from board of assessors by way of a document request; adds enforcement mechanism for failure to comply with document requests, including assessment of attorneys’ fees;
Section 15 -defines appeal administrator for board of equalization as clerk of superior court, with distinct budget unit for such duties; -establishes 12 month document retention period; -sets standards for board of equalization members; -outlines process for appeals; -board of equalization must decide each case at end of hearing prior to proceeding to next appeal, written decision hand delivered to parties; 
Section 16 -outlines nonbinding arbitration process (replacing binding arbitration process) and process of appeals to superior court, including settlement conference; -establishes uniform superior court filing fee of $25.00; -lowers threshold for mandatory attorneys’ fees on commercial property from 80% to 85% (now the same for all real property) 
Section 17-RESERVED 
Section 18 -specifies that each digest shall be accompanied by all documents, statistics, and certifications relating to parcels under appeal; -removes penalty for deviation from assessment ratio appearing in subparagraph (b) for digests after 1/1/2016...

HB 202 does not directly affect Decatur's procedures for property tax billing, although affects certain assessment calculations and appeals options which can affect property owners county and city bills.

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