When I began filing my own property tax appeals over a decade ago, I never knew one of the benefits of filing property tax appeals in Georgia is that property owners are able to get a 3-year property tax freeze. How this is allowed is buried in the Georgia statutes. Specifically, OCGA § 48-5-299(c).
§ 48-5-299(c). Changing real property values established by appeal in prior year or stipulated by agreement
(c) When the value of real property is reduced or is unchanged from the value on the initial annual notice of assessment or a corrected annual notice of assessment issued by the board of tax assessors and such valuation has been established as the result of an appeal decision rendered by the board of equalization, hearing officer, arbitrator, or superior court pursuant to Code Section 48-5-311 or stipulated by written agreement signed by the board of tax assessors and taxpayer or taxpayer’s authorized representative, the new valuation so established by appeal decision or agreement may not be increased by the board of tax assessors during the next two successive years, unless otherwise agreed in writing by both parties, subject to the following exceptions:
(1) This subsection shall not apply to a valuation established by an appeal decision if the taxpayer or his or her authorized representative failed to attend the appeal hearing or provide the board of equalization, hearing officer, or arbitrator with some written evidence supporting the taxpayer’s opinion of value;
(2) This subsection shall not apply to a valuation established by an appeal decision or agreement if the taxpayer files a return at a different valuation during the next two successive years;
(3) Unless otherwise agreed in writing by both parties, if the taxpayer files an appeal pursuant to Code Section 48-5-311 during the next two successive years, the board of tax assessors, the board of equalization, hearing officer, or arbitrator may increase or decrease the value of the real property based on the evidence presented by the taxpayer during the appeal process; and
(4) The board of tax assessors may increase or decrease the value of the real property if, after a visual on-site inspection of the property, it is found that there have been substantial additions, deletions, or improvements to such property or that there are errors in the board of tax assessors’ records as to the description or characterization of the property, or the board of tax assessors finds an occurrence of other material factors that substantially affect the current fair market value of such property.
You should know that the 3-year property tax freeze is not absolute due to Paragraph (4). However, for most property owners, this is not a big issue for a couple of reasons. One, unless you plan on substantially changing, improving, or updating your property, there is little concern for your tax freeze to be undone. Two, especially in the larger counties in Metro Atlanta area, it is very difficult for the tax assessor staff to personally visit and verify every parcel that ever got a tax freeze due to the sheer numbers of appeals that occur every year. Once you get your tax freeze, you are generally good for 3-tax years.
I want to make it absolutely clear that just filing a property tax appeal is not enough to get your 3-year property tax freeze. You have to “go all the way”. For most average people, “going all the way” is either having the tax assessor “settle” the appeal with you. They will generally not settle with you until AFTER you write and file your Continuation of Appeal. That is just a fancy way of saying, send a written note to the tax assessors office that you intend to move forward in your appeal and that you want a BOE (Board of Equalization) hearing.
When you “force” your appeal to the BOE, an appointment will be set by the county superior county. However, many county offices, due to sheer volumes of appeals, will be open to a “settlement” so that they don’t have to go through the hassle and preparation of attending and presenting at the BOE hearing. You have to remember that most tax assessor offices also benefit by settling with a property owner. It closes the tax appeal out where BOTH sides come to amicable terms and everyone saves time by moving on.
HOWEVER, there is at least one county in Georgia that I know that refuses to “settle” with property owners. They make every property owner go through the BOE hearing process if you want your 3-year property tax freeze. Essentially, they are pushing off something they can do for property owners but for a variety of reasons, this county elects not to do it at this time. Hopefully, they will change due to public pressure.
In those cases, you (or someone you appoint via advanced written notification) need to attend the BOE hearing. It is well worth the time to just show up, bring your paperwork and photos, and sit through the formalities of a short BOE hearing. To get the 3-year property tax freeze in this situation, someone needs to show up! It doesn’t have to be you. It can be a family member, friend, or someone you hire. But someone needs to show up and ask for the 3-year property freeze in person. Make mention of the 299c and the room will understand why you are there and it might speed up the hearing altogether.