If you own real estate in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Hall or Newton counties, you have only until March 1 to file a property tax return with your county tax assessor’s office asking that your property value be lowered for 2010.
Most other Georgia counties allow until April 1. After that, your county assumes you agree that your property is worth what they currently say it’s worth, and your tax bill will be calculated based on that valuation.
The only problem with that assumption is that tens of thousands of owners have seen their property values decline in recent months, but their local governments have failed to reflect that decrease. As a result, you can easily end up paying more property tax than you rightfully owe.
The process of asking your county tax assessor to review your valuation begins with the filing of form PT-50R, the Georgia “Taxpayer’s Return of Real Property.,” which requires you to find out what the county currently thinks your property is worth, then state what you think the correct value should be. My advice: guess low.
The form is available for download on my money99.com Web site. Obtain your parcel information and previous year’s value by calling your tax assessor’s office. Then, in Section C, you will need to estimate the value of your property as of Jan. 1.
The county is not required to ask you if you wish to lower your estimate of value unless they are proposing an increase. And most counties are content to let the current values stay as they are.
That’s fine if your property value has held up over the past two years, but if it hasn’t it’s time to file a return.
Estimating value can be tricky and requires detailed information about recent sales in your area. Real estate professionals have access to this information but may charge a fee. A formal appraisal is likely to cost substantially more. You can also get more information by going to myproperty.ajc.com to see data on homes that were reappraised in 2009 and return value.
Typically, one in three requests to lower the value results in some relief.
John Adams is an author, broadcaster and investor. He answers real estate questions on radio station WGKA (920am) every Saturday at noon. For more real estate information or to make a comment, visit www.money99.com.
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