By Brad Wallace
Georgia House Bill 202 (“H.B. 202”) was signed into law on May 6, 2015. The specific language regarding assessment freezes was updated to clarify OCGA § 48-5-299(c), which previously stated:
Real property, the value of which was established by an appeal in any year, that has not been returned by the taxpayer at a different value during the next two successive years, may not be changed by the board of tax assessors during such two years for the sole purpose of changing the valuation established or decision rendered in an appeal to the board of equalization or superior court. In such cases, before changing such value or decision, the board of assessors shall first conduct an investigation into factors currently affecting the fair market value. The investigation necessary shall include, but not be limited to, a visual on-site inspection of the property to ascertain if there have been any additions, deletions, or improvements to such property or the occurrence of other factors that might affect the current fair market value. If a review to determine if there are any errors in the description and characterization of such property in the files and records of the board of tax assessors discloses any errors, such errors shall not be the sole sufficient basis for increasing the valuation during the two-year period.
The updated language in H.B. 202 states:
When the value of real property is reduced or is unchanged from the value on the initial annual notice of assessment and such valuation is established as the result of either an appeal decision rendered pursuant to Code Section 48-5-311 or stipulated by agreement of the parties to such an appeal that this subsection shall apply in any year, the valuation so established by appeal decision or agreement may not be increased by the board of tax assessors during the next two successive years, 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) If the taxpayer files an appeal pursuant to Code Section 48-5-311 during the next two successive years, 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 parties 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.
These changes are effective January 1, 2016.
Many assessors in Georgia do not presently acknowledge the assessment freeze by performing annual reappraisals or, in other instances, will attempt to deny taxpayers an appeal opportunity in the presence of a prior year appeal decision. The changes in H.B. 202 will increase the burden of proof on the assessor when raising real property values in the two years following an appeal decision. For taxpayers, it will be very important to be aware that filing an appeal may compromise a favorable valuation established by an appeal decision. Click here for a link to H.B. 202.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION CONTACT: