Challenges To Property Taxes in Metro Atlanta (Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett) Soar To Record Levels

Property Taxes

In a typical year, the five of the larger metro-Atlanta counties (Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Clayton) see about 9,000 challenges to property taxes.   With the deadline to file in Gwinnett and DeKalb having just passed on March 2, more than 22,000 property owners have filed challenges.  The deadline for Clayton, Fulton and Cobb is April 1 and officials expect the already 10,000 petitions to soar as the deadline approaches.

This year Gwinnett has 14,376, with the most from Gwinnett homeowners filing 12,451 requests for lower tax appraisals. The returns seek an average reduction of 25 percent. Gwinnett’s gotten another 1,925 from business owners who are seeking an average assessment cut of 32 percent. Those numbers put 5 percent of Gwinnett’s residential parcels and 14 percent of its commercial ones in dispute and promise substantial reductions in the amount of taxes the county will collect.

Georgia law gives property owners, depending on where they reside, until either March 1 or April 1 to file a return. The document allows property owners to contest the value placed on their property the preceding year by stating what they believe their property value was as of Jan. 1. Over the past decade, values have climbed year over year. So returns were rarely an issue for assessors.

However, this year the avalanche in returns gives a glimpse into what home and business owners feel values have fallen during the real estate crisis. Returns also give a warning to local government officials how much less they might collect this fall.

“This just puts more pressure on what’s already going to be a tough year,” said Jim Glass, Atlanta’s chief financial officer. DeKalb’s return period ended with Gwinnett’s. The county got 8,125, more than four times the normal number. They are beginning to look at how to count foreclosures and bank-owned sales, which are normally not counted against tax values. And, since state law requires uniformity – like properties having like values – tax assessors who lower values for some homes or business have to resolve whether they will lower values for a much broader area.

“What we are trying to do is revalue the entire neighborhood,” said Steve Pruitt, chief appraiser for Gwinnett.

Whatever values are set, in turn, will be used by local governments to set taxes. And lower tax appraisals could force many governments to consider raising rates during a recession just to avoid losing money.

How the process works

Georgia law gives homeowners the chance to contest their taxable value in most counties up until April 1 by filing a property tax return. The return allows a property owner to suggest a value as of Jan. 1. Assessors can accept or reject the value. If they reject, the assessors would notify the owner of the county’s value. That notice could be appealed by homeowners and would follow the normal course.

Many counties have instructions and forms for filing returns on their respective Web sites. Others can be found by calling the property owner’s local assessing office:

FULTON: Phone: 404-612-6440 phone

DEKALB: Phone: 404-371-0841

GWINNETT: Phone: 770.822.7200

CLAYTON: Office: 770-477-3285 Fax 770-477-4566

COBB: Phone: 770-528-3100


Georgia House Passes Bill To Freeze Property Tax Increases For Two Years

Property Tax Information

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