The State of Georgia has 159 different counties each with their own local governments, elected officials, managers, employees, and staff. It also means that each county has “their own way ” of doing things. That means each county’s tax assessor office operates in their own unique way. No two tax assessor offices operate exactly the same. Even neighboring counties with their local governments and tax assessor offices are very different in how to operate.
As such, if you have the privilege and opportunity to deal with multiple tax assessor offices, you should learn very quickly to treat each tax assessors office as it owns separate entity despite the fact that, in theory, they follow the same Georgia law and procedures for tax assessments and tax appeals.
For example, in Muscogee County where I operated for many years as a landlord, the 8th floor of the Government Center in Downtown Columbus is where landlords and property managers go to file evictions against non-paying tenants. There are two court offices: the magistrate court and municipal court. Despite the fact that both court offices are on the same floor (but in different offices) in the same government building with the same judge overseeing both courts operating under the same Georgia Landlord-Tenant laws, the actual practice and execution of tenant evictions is dramatically different. I pay different filing fees, fill out different forms, follow different procedures, wait different times for court dates, and even in the scheduling of the physical eviction itself! It is mind-blowing to the uninitiated but it is a fact.
In a similar vein, I have found big differences in how different tax assessor offices operate, communicate, behave, and interact with its citizens and taxpayers. For example, two years ago, I was asked by a business associate to file a tax appeal on a property in a rural Georgia county. Because of my prior experiences at that time, I automatically assumed that when I called into a tax assessors office, a receptionist or a clerk would answer the phone. In this situation with the rural property, a woman answered the phone when I dialed the tax assessors office. I asked to speak to the tax assessor overseeing the particular property I was appealing.
She told me I was speaking to her. I was stunned. I told her I have never called into a tax assessors office where any assessor themselves ever picked up the phone. I was used to my calls being re-routed in other county offices. I asked where her phone answering person was. She told me they had none. There was only the two of them: the chief appraiser and assistant appraiser. They personally answered and responded to all phone calls and emails.
In that moment, I realized that every tax assessor offices are staffed and managed differently. It turned out, I enjoyed the direct connection to the county appraisers without having to go through a clerk, receptionist, and general bureaucracy common in larger counties.
If you reside in a rural county, you might enjoy the direct connection and communication with the county appraiser regarding your tax appeal. However, you could find it frustrating and confounding dealing with the layers of staff and tax assessors of Metro Atlanta counties.
In my case, I was more accustomed to dealing with a couple layers of staff and a smaller bureaucracy in a mid-size city as Columbus, GA. It was a minor adjustment for me to call in, communicate, and negotiate with the tax assessors office in a metro Atlanta county.
The point I am trying to make is that don’t assume how you interact, communicate, and negotiate with one tax assessors office will be the same as another county’s tax assessor office. They operate differently in their own style. The overall tax appeal process is similar but when the time comes when you have to communicate and negotiate your tax appeal, you have to be prepared to make adjustments to your interactions and approach.
Hence, with 159 Georgia counties each with their own tax assessor offices, it is impossible to provide specific guidelines for each and every county. You have to learn the peculiarities and characteristics of who and how your tax assessor office operates.
If you are serious about your tax appeal, I highly recommend making at least one visit to your tax appeal office to get a feel of the office vibe, how many people are in the office, who does what, what is located where, etc. Get the names of a couple of the front line clerks you meet. Ask to meet an appraiser and ask a few questions. Knowing a couple people in the tax assessor office and them seeing you in a positive, respectful, and considerate light can go a long way later on in the tax appeal process.