Thursday, December 31, 2015

City Hall closed New Year's Day

Decatur City Hall including the tax office will be closed on Friday, January 1.  Since the post office and banks will also be closed, please expect any payments that you have recently sent in to take some additional time to clear and be posted to your account.  We will reopen on January 4.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lawyer taxes due tomorrow

Occupation taxes from lawyers practicing in Decatur, Georgia, are due by tomorrow, December 31, for tax year 2015.  The bill is $425 payable to City of Decatur from each lawyer.  The $425 charge is not per law firm, it is per individual attorney.  The tax is not a regulatory fee; the tax is strictly for revenue purposes and does not constitute regulation of the practice of law.  Revenues from the tax are used to provide quality services to the public.

Monday, December 28, 2015

State: tax rates in new cities can’t be capped

Georgia General Assembly legislative counsel Jeff Lanier says that property tax millage rates cannot be capped when new cities such as Brookhaven and Tucker are created. City officials retain the authority to increase tax rates even if a cap was written into the legislation or charter that created them. This news comes from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Cities have the power to raise property taxes and expand services, even when their charters attempt to impose limitations, according to legal opinions prepared for Georgia senators.
The opinions, cited in this week’s final report of a Senate task force on cityhood, said the Georgia Constitution gives city councils control over local taxes and service levels. Referendums seeking voter approval aren’t required before city councils take action, the opinions say.
Cities can use their “home rule” authority to remove millage rate caps, according to a legal opinion by Deputy Legislative Counsel Jeff Lanier. Millage caps were included in the legislation that created the cities of Brookhaven, Tucker and others... 

This legal opinion may put cold water on cityhood efforts because supporters can no longer guarantee a maximum tax rate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday schedule for Decatur City Hall

City Hall, including the tax office, will be closed on December 24 and 25.  Please note that if you haven't paid your second installment property tax bill for 2015, you have a grace period up until January 7.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tax payments due today in Decatur

December 21 is the deadline for property tax payments in Decatur, Georgia. For real property taxes including land and buildings, payment is due for the second installment of 2015. Payment is also due for personal property taxes including business inventory for 2015. If you haven't paid yet, make your check payable to the City of Decatur, enclose your remittance coupon, and mail it to:

City of Decatur Lockbox
PO Box 945650
Atlanta, GA 30394-5650

We accept postmarks, so if you have your envelope postmarked today we'll know that you mailed it in time.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Geechee taxpayers sue state and county

Property owners on Sapelo Island are suing McIntosh County and the State of Georgia for discrimination and neglect. The lawsuit is based largely on the allegation that the property owners are paying county property taxes based on soaring assessments without receiving services in exchange. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Dec. 9: 
Fifty-seven Sapelo Island property owners and residents on Wednesday filed a lawsuit that contends discrimination and neglect by state and local authorities are contributing to the dissolution of one of the last remaining Gullah-Geechee communities in the nation.
The Gullah-Geechee residents are the descendants of slaves whose families have lived on Sapelo Island for more than two centuries. They have seen their numbers dwindle steadily over the years as the island — about 70 miles south of Savannah — has been converted into a vacation destination with luxury homes and resorts. 
All the while, Gullah-Geechee residents pay high property taxes but receive no basic services in return, the federal lawsuit said. Also, the only state-run ferry does not have disability access and has a schedule that makes it practically impossible for someone to live on the island and have a job on the mainland, the suit said. It was filed against a number of defendants, including the state of Georgia and McIntosh County. The governor’s office declined comment. McIntosh County manager Brett Cook did not return a phone call seeking comment. 
Reed Colfax, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the county must provide services if it is collecting taxes from members of the Gullah-Geechee community. “There is no school, no ambulance, no trash pickup,” he said. “There are no services whatsoever.” Moreover, he added, the county’s high taxes led to some properties on the island being sold at tax auction and others who could not afford the taxes to sell their land…

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Personal property taxes due in 5 days

Businesses with inventory in Decatur owe their personal property taxes to the City no later than Dec. 21. Bills are based on property such as merchandise, office or work equipment, furniture, fixtures, or boats. This is not a tax on buildings or land. This is also separate from occupation tax bills which are paid in order to renew a business license.

Taxable values are based on what you or your tax preparer reported, or if you failed to file your own value, DeKalb assigned a value to you earlier this year. The deadline to appeal has passed. If you’ve closed my business or sold the property, the taxes must be paid and cannot be pro-rated. These taxes are owed to both DeKalb County and to the City of Decatur separately. 

At, you can search, view or re-print your City bill. Credit card payments are accepted with a 2.2 percent plus 30 cent third-party processing fee whether made in person or online. E-checks are accepted at no extra charge. You can pay by check or cash if you prefer. Taxpayers will be charged a 10 percent penalty plus 1 percent interest per month for payments made after a short grace period. Liens will be placed on accounts that remain delinquent.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Department of Revenue proposes to reorganize itself

The Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR), the state's tax collection agency, is proposing new rules that would reorganize the structure of the department. Under existing rules, DOR has nine separate divisions: Administrative; Central Audit; Electronic Data Processing; Field Services (includes Alcohol and Tobacco Tax); Income Tax; Internal Administration; Motor Vehicle; Property Tax; Sales and Use Tax (includes Motor Fuel Tax). Under the new rules, there would be 12 divisions: Alcohol & Tobacco, Audit, Commissioner’s Office, Compliance, Finance, Information Technology, Legal Affairs & Tax Policy, Local Government Services, Motor Vehicles, Office of Special Investigations, Processing, and Taxpayer Services. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted by DOR until January 7.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Decatur bills 900 businesses

Decatur has invoiced nearly 900 local businesses for business license renewal fees for 2016. This is in addition to nearly 300 lawyers who were invoiced a month earlier. These occupation taxes can be paid online at This website allows for payments by any major credit card, PayPal, or e-check with no extra fees.  If you own a business or practice a profession within Decatur's city limits and you have not received your invoice, please call 404-370-4100. Revenues from occupation taxes are used to provide quality services to the community.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Property tax payments due in 10 business days

Final payments for real and personal property taxes in Decatur for 2015 are due by December 21. Payments can be made online at by credit card with a convenience surcharge or by e-check with no extra fees.  Taxpayers should be aware that e-checks, like paper checks, generally take three to five days to clear the bank. It is not an immediate debit like online credit card transactions. Considering the clearing period, e-check payers are encouraged to pay at least five days prior to our formal payment deadline to help prevent any last-minute stress over whether your payment was received on time.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

State urges tax compliance for Airbnb rentals

Georgia lawmakers are recommending that state taxes be paid when Airbnb and similar rentals exceed 15 days.  In Decatur, this recommendation may be a moot point. Decatur’s unified development ordinance limits lodging at “bed and breakfasts” to no more than 14 consecutive nights.

That being said, homeowners who rent out rooms or accessory dwellings still have other administrative requirements to meet depending on their exact circumstances. For example, if a person in Decatur lives in a home and intends to rent out one or more of their guest rooms on a recurring basis for the purposes of making rental income, my office would require that person to obtain a home-based business license (after he or she has obtained zoning/use approval from our Planning or DEC departments), and the person may also be required to remit hotel/motel excise taxes to our city clerk.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New rules expand training for appraisal vendors

Newly proposed rules would require training of county-level appraisal vendors and contractors by the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR). Existing training requirements pertained to in-house county appraisal staff. Proposed rule 560-11-2-.28(7)(a) says:
Individuals performing services under assessment contracts to render advice or assistance to the county board of tax assessors in the assessment and equalization of taxes [sic] the establishment of property valuations, or the defense of such valuations shall adhere to state mandated appraisal laws and regulations required under Title 43 including any appraisal certification and training required under Title 43 of the Georgia Core [sic]. In addition, such individuals shall successfully complete 4 hours of approved appraisal courses annually… 
The proposed rules also include allowing PDF tax bills to be emailed to taxpayers, larger fines for mobile home owners who fail to display their tax decal, and administrative adjustments to appeal procedures. DOR is accepting comments on the proposed rules up until Dec. 21.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Georgia rated 5th tax friendliest state for seniors

Kiplinger has ranked Georgia as one of the top five states for senior taxpayers. Kiplinger reviewed the overall tax climate in the states to determine the ranking. A major factor behind the ranking was Georgia's income tax exemption for retirement income.  Here’s their summary for Georgia:
State Income Tax: 1% (on income up to $750/individual, $1,000/joint) - 6% (on income over $7,000 individual, $10,000/joint)
State Sales Tax: 4%
Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: No/No
Ever wonder why so many retirees have Georgia on their minds? The Peach State's low tax climate may have something to do with it. Social Security income is exempt from state taxes, and so is as much as $35,000 of most types of retirement income for people ages 62 to 64. For those 65 and older, the exemption is $65,000 per taxpayer, or $130,000 per couple. Retirement income includes interest, dividends, net income from rental property, capital gains, royalties, pensions, annuities and the first $4,000 of earned income, such as wages.
The statewide sales tax is 4%, but jurisdictions may add up to 4% of their own taxes. The average combined state and local sales tax rate is 6.96%, according to the Tax Foundation. Food and prescription drugs are exempt.
The median property tax on the state's median home value of $141,600 is $1,352. Full-time residents qualify for a homestead exemption, and seniors may qualify for additional deductions from property taxes. 
For the other listings, check out Kiplinger’s slide show here.