Legislation

Sine Die - 2019 Georgia Legislative Wrap-Up

Georgia’s legislative session wrapped up on April 2, 2019. Only a few property tax bills made it through the 2019 session. Below is a summary of the significant property tax measures that are heading for Governor Kemp’s desk:

  • HB 183: This bill provides that a taxpayer’s failure to file a real property return does not affect a taxpayer’s right to appeal the assessment value of that property.

  • HB 405: The Freeport exemption exempts qualified goods held in inventory during the process of manufacturing. This bill expands the Freeport exemption to goods held by affiliates of the manufacturer/taxpayer and to inventory in the process of remanufacture (including the repair or modification of goods produced by the taxpayer)

  • HB 507: This bill changes language as it relates to the tax assessors application of the income approach to valuation by replacing ‘the income approach “shall be utilized” with “shall be considered.”

  • SB 216: This bill permits taxpayers to prepay annual property taxes when there is an agreement and resolution by the local governing authority and tax commissioner allowing prepayment.

Sine Die - The Close of Georgia's 2018 Legislative Session

The 2018 Legislative session came to a close on March 29, 2018. A number of property tax bills passed and now await Governor Deal's signature (and in some cases, a referendum vote in November). Here's a few highlights (with links to the bills in blue):

  • New Homestead Exemptions: Residents of Fulton County and several Fulton cities may benefit from new Homestead exemptions in 2019. Each new exemption must be approved by Governor Deal and voters in November 2018:
    • 3% cap on increases for Fulton County school taxes (SB 317) and a new $50,000 homestead exemption for seniors over 65 from Fulton County taxes (HB 1064)
    • City of Atlanta residents will benefit from an increase of the existing Homestead exemption for Atlanta school taxes from $30,000 to $50,000 (SB 485) and a new 2.6% cap on increases of City of Atlanta municipal taxes (HB 820)
    • 3% cap on increases for city taxes in Roswell (HB 707), Johns Creek (HB 708), Milton (HB 710), Mountain Park (HB 711), and Alpharetta (HB 712
    • Unfortunately, the proposed $100,000 exemption from City of Atlanta school taxes for seniors did not pass (SB 486)

 

  • Spalding County Homestead Exemption. Spalding County residents over age 65 will be able to apply for a new exemption from school taxes if HB 1028 is signed by the Governor and approved by voters this fall. 

 

  • Changes to Property Tax Appeals: HB 374 imposes stricter 180 day deadlines on tax assessors when reviewing property owners' appeals. The value threshold for appealing to a hearing officer is reduced from $750,000 to $500,000 for non-homestead properties. The bill also lengthens the amount of time that property owners can appeal to superior court from 10 days to 20 days.

 

  • CUVA changes. Property owners seeking a conservation use valuation assessment (CUVA) covenant will face less barriers - no survey requirements, relaxed restrictions on non-profit entity types that can own CUVA property, and a new option for early termination for some family owned farming entities. In addition, property owners who challenge alleged CUVA breaches in superior court and prevail will be able to recover attorney's fees and expenses of litigation from the tax assessors. (SB 458)

 

  • New Timberland Registry: HB 85 creates a new registry for timberland properties with the Department of Revenue. Property owners must make a return to the DOR by April 1 each year. The bill also reduces the FLPA covenant (the time during which timberland owners can benefit from lower property taxes) from 15 years to 10 years. This bill requires a voter referendum in November 2018.

In addition to the changes made by the bills above, the House will convene a study committee over the summer on reforming property taxation. I will continue to monitor the progress of the bills that require a voter referendum in November and will report on the outcome here and in my newsletter (click here to receive a copy).  

Atlanta Public Schools property tax relief bills filed

Georgia Senator Jen Jordan (6th District) has filed two local property tax relief bills (links to the bills appear in blue below):

SB 485 increases the Homestead exemption for City of Atlanta residents as to Atlanta Public Schools (APS) taxes from $30,000 to $50,000. This increased exemption would exempt $125,000 of the value of your home from taxation by APS for City of Atlanta residents. The increased exemption would apply only to Homestead property and only to the portion of the property tax bill associated with APS.

SB 486 creates a new Homestead exemption for City of Atlanta residents, providing a $100,000 exemption for seniors over age 65. This new exemption does not have an income requirement. It would exempt $240,000 of the value of seniors' homes from taxation by APS. 

Like many of the other property tax relief bills filed this session, SB 485 and SB 486 need to pass both chambers, receive Governor Deal's signature, and be passed by a voter referendum in November 2018. If approved, these new exemptions would go into effective January 1, 2019. 

Legislative Update - Property tax cap bills and others survive Crossover Day

February 28 was the 28th day of the Georgia legislative session, known as Crossover Day. A number of property tax bills survived Crossover Day by passing either the House or Senate. Links to the current versions of each bill appear in blue in the summaries below:

Caps on Municipal Taxes. Several bills would implement an annual cap on increases of municipal taxes for homestead property, including taxes in the cities of Roswell, Milton, Alpharetta, Mountain Park, Johns Creek, and Atlanta. Another bill would implement a cap on Fulton County school taxes for homestead property. If the bills pass successfully through the legislature and are signed by the Governor, each would require a voter referendum in November. 

DOR Takes Over Timber Valuation. HB 85 moves the process of timber valuation and appeals from a function performed by each county to the statewide Department of Revenue. The change requires the passage of a Constitutional amendment

Taxpayer Friendly Changes in the Appeal Process. HB 374 contains a number of changes that benefit taxpayers, including imposing stricter deadlines on tax assessors during the appeal process, lowering the threshold for hearing officers appeals, and giving taxpayers longer to appeal to superior court.

In addition, the legislature is considering bills that expand the Freeport exemption on manufactured goods and allow non-profits to own property in CUVA.

I will continue to monitor the progress of property tax legislation and how it will benefit property owners. 

Fulton school tax exemption bill passes Senate

The Georgia Senate voted on and passed Senate Bill 317 on January 18, 2018. The bill, sponsored in part by Senator John Albers of Georgia's 56th District (encompassing parts of northern Fulton and Cherokee Counties), would provide a new partial property tax exemption for Fulton County property owners. The Bill would allow all Fulton residents to exempt the increase of their Fulton County school property taxes that exceeds the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3%, whichever is less, annually over the 2016 amount. The bill essentially caps the amount of annual increase to school taxes for Fulton residents. You can read the entire bill HERE.

School taxes tend to be a large chunk of the average property tax bills - 60% of the bill in some cases goes to the school district. This proposed school tax exemption is different than the popular school tax exemption in Cobb County: the Cobb exemption is a 100% exemption of the county school tax for residents over age 62. The proposed Fulton exemption would be available to all residential property owners (regardless of age) but would only cap the amount at which the school tax increases over the property's current taxes by the lesser of CPI or 3%. So, Fulton property owners will continue to pay school taxes but would be protected from significant increases that occur due to increases in their property's value or the County millage rate. 

SB 317 goes next to the House and then, if passed, will require voter approval in November 2018.