Act now to protest property tax value

For the past couple of weeks I have been advising you to consider protesting your property tax valuation. In many areas, county property tax assessments have failed to fall as home values dropped, and the only recourse you have is to file a protest. But this coming week may be your last chance for another year.

Property owners in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Hall and Newton counties have only until March 1 to request a reduction in property value for tax purposes.

Most other Georgia counties allow owners until April 1 to file a “Taxpayers Return of Real Property.” The one-page form you need is PT-50R, available for download at

Taking action now is especially important for several reasons:

● First, it appears now that many values in metro Atlanta hit bottom last fall. Only homes sold and closed before Jan. 1 may be used as comparable sales, and that is exactly what you want. Those are the sales that you want to use as proof of your home’s depressed value. A recovery in prices between now and next year may very well undermine your protest.

● Second, as county and municipal governments continue to feel the pinch of increased demand for services and decreased revenues from sales taxes, they feel justified in raising the ad valorem tax on real estate. The truth is that the overall tax digest, the total value of all taxable real property in the county, may have shrunk. If your property is overvalued, you are, in effect, subsidizing your neighbors. I expect a record number of protests this year.

● Finally, lowered valuations achieved as a result of a taxpayer protest typically remain in effect for three years after the year of change. While there is no law requiring this, it is common practice among tax assessors in Georgia. So if you can catch the bottom now, you may benefit for the next three years, even as the market recovers.

And a recovery is already under way.

Remember that it costs you nothing to file a protest, and it only takes a few minutes to do. And you are not required to present your case now. There will be plenty of time for that later. It may be months before you hear back from the assessor’s office, and you can gather your market data then. But if you fail to protest now, you lose your opportunity for this tax year.

If the county denies your protest, you then appeal the decision to the Board of Equalization. That’s a process we’ll cover in a future column.

Statistically, you have a one-in-three chance of getting a reduction.

My guess is that a far higher percentage will see success in gaining a drop in valuation this year.

John Adams is an author, broadcaster and investor. He answers real estate questions at noon Saturdays on WGKA (920 AM). For more real estate information or to make a comment, visit