Gather a list of all the addresses and properties you own in Georgia. I make this suggestion especially to real estate investors who own several properties. Real estate investors potentially have a mix of properties including: single-family homes, plexes (duplex, triplex, quadraplex), multi-family units, commercial property, or land.
The purpose of gathering this information is that you are working towards find a unique identifier assigned by the county tax assessors office for each property. This unique identifier ensures there is no confusion of which property or parcel you are referring to. While legal street addresses are commonly used to identify individual pieces of real estate, it is sometimes insufficient or not applicable such as the case in many land parcels.
For each property you own, go online and find the Georgia county tax assessors office website that is responsible for assessing that property. Bookmark that county tax assessors office website address. You will visit this website several times during tax appeal season. The larger, more populous Georgia counties will have a tremendous amount of online tools, information, and resources for taxpayers. In smaller, more rural Georgia counties, you should at least find basic contact information and basic instructions to communicate with your tax assessors office or file your tax appeal.
Because there are 159 counties in Georgia, GTAI (this website) does not currently provide links to all 159 county tax assessors office websites. However, GTAI currently provides direct links to county tax assessor office websites in the North Atlanta and Columbus, GA area.
Today, many Georgia tax assessor websites provide a public search function for citizens to look up their own property.
For each property you own, do a search in the tax assessor property database. Generally, searching by property street address is sufficient to locate your property record. Other times, you may have to input your name of the owner of record to find your property record. But in some cases such as with raw land, a property street address may be insufficient.
You should be able to find every property you own online in the tax assessor database. If not, you need to find out why you cannot find it. It could be based on incorrect search parameters. Sometimes, the tax assessors office records the property in a different manner than you might expect. For example, I have seen where the legal postal street address is entirely different from the legal street address listed by the tax assessors office! I was initially skeptical but the owner proved to me through other documents that they were one and the same property. This is a highly unusual and bizarre but it happens!
The point I am trying to make is that you need to be prepared and be familiar with your own property record in the property database and not what someone tells you.
Having the ability to view every one of your properties will make your life easier in managing and following the tax assessments, tax appeal process, and paying your property taxes. It also shows the tax assessors office when you communicate with them that you are more knowledgeable than the average citizen. On a side note, in the more populous Georgia counties such as those in the Greater Atlanta area, you can even retrieve a copy of your tax assessment even if you did not receive it in the mail. It is a great convenience indeed.
Smaller tax assessor offices in rural counties may only provide limited online capabilities compared to their more populous counterparts. If they provide search capabilities, the information you can find and retrieve may only provide basic property information.
However, in that basic property information, there should be sufficient data fields and descriptors that will allow you to identify your property. You are look for a unique identifier (often the Parcel ID) so that you can accurately refer and reference the property in future communications. Again, most people use street addresses to refer to specific properties but it is not always precise enough. That is why you need to have the property unique identifier as a fallback reference.
In the rare case, you cannot find your property record or locate a unique identifier, you should call, email, or make a personal visit to the tax assessors office.
For each property record of every property you own, make sure your contact information and mailing address is correct. For most homeowners, the mailing address is the same as the property address. That is to be expected. For most real estate investors, the mailing address and street address should NOT be the same. Real estate investors generally want their tax assessments for investment properties mailed to their own office, PO Box, or home address, not the investment property where tenants or other occupants reside.
There are many situations I have seen where tax assessments end up being lost, misdelivered, or returned to the tax assessors office.
- Many real estate investors acquire investment property over a period of time. Sometimes, they lose track of the tax assessments of the earlier properties they acquired. The mailing address they used early on is not the same as the more recent properties.
- Real estate investors themselves move their primary residence, PO Box, or office address over time. Mail doesn’t always get forwarded and the tax assessors office is often not informed of such moves or address changes.
- During the history of property ownership, tax assessments are occasionally directed to an attorney, personal representative, or some corporate entity’s offices for handling. However, when these representatives move, the mailing address of those property records are often not updated.
- I have also unfortunately seen, that through no ill will of anyone, clerical mistakes occur: an incorrect address change is made to the wrong property record or an old or bad address is accidentally used.
The point I am trying to make is that missing, undelivered, or lost tax assessments is unfortunately relatively common. The tax assessors office is generally unforgiving in these matters. It is generally considered a taxpayer’s responsibility to look for and seek out their tax assessment notices if they intend to appeal their property taxes in a property, timely manner.
You do not want to miss getting your tax assessment form because of outdated or incorrectly recorded information. It occasionally happens for very inexplicable reasons. Contact or visit your county’s tax assessor office to check and make those corrections.
If you qualify, make sure you file for homestead exemption by April 1. If you are very close to the April 1 deadline, you should hand-deliver your homestead exemption form to the post office or the tax assessors office.
Homestead exemptions can “fall off” even if you have not physically moved. Generally, homestead exemptions “fall off” if there are any ownership changes in deed records. If you have made (or suspect of) any deed changes made the previous calendar year, you will want to make sure you have not lost inadvertently lost your homestead exemption. I have seen this happen and it is an expensive mistake. If you need to file for homestead exemption again because it was “lost,” you absolutely must get the homestead exemption into the tax assessors office by April 1 or you will be ineligible for it that tax year.
If you hand-deliver to the post office, do not just drop it into the mail receiving box unless the post office is closed and there are no postal clerks available. Stand in line and hand the envelope containing your homestead exemption form directly to the postal clerk and ask the postal clerk to post-mark the envelope in front of you before they drop the envelope for processing. If you ask the postal clerk very nicely, most of them will also allow you to use your phone take a quick photo of the post-marked envelope. I sometimes tell the postal clerk that the envelope is a tax matter and it is very important that the envelope is post-marked on time. Most postal clerks understand the urgency and stress of timely delivery of tax-related matters because of annual IRS tax deadlines. Although filing homestead exemption forms is not an IRS tax deadline, home-exemption forms most definitely have a fixed delivery deadline of April 1.
Hand-delivering your homestead exemption form is generally less convenient for most citizens in larger Georgia cities but it is certainly the safest, surest way that the tax assessors office receives your homestead exemption form.
If you choose this option, request from the clerk that they time-stamp the hand-delivered homestead exemption form in front of you and get a photocopy of it. A cautionary note: every tax assessor office operates differently and the clerks you interact with will have different attitudes and demeanor. Some are better than others, some are nicer than others.
If you cannot get a time-stamp from the clerk, you might have to get creative. You might have to take a selfie photo of yourself in the office holding a legible copy of the homestead exemption form over your chest. And if they are able to to time-stamp your homestead exemption form but want to charge you an obnoxious photocopy fee, ask to take a picture of the now time-stamped copy.
I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking homestead exemption forms are routinely lost or mishandled. They aren’t. First-Class Mail generally gets post-marked and delivered to the tax assessors office. The tax assessors office routinely receives the mail as they should, time-stamp it, and process it as they should without any follow-up from you.
But having been in business for a long time and seen a lot of weird things that shouldn’t happen but occasionally happens, I do incorporate creative CYA safeguards for myself and my business associates.
The point is to taking some small precautionary measures that your homestead exemption form doesn’t just accidentally fall through the cracks somewhere can ensure a greater peace of mind.
After the new calendar year is underway, you can expect that tax assessors will pay a visit to your home or investment property. They may take exterior photos. If you are at home, they may knock on your door and ask to look inside. This is typically routine and part of their jobs.