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Posted: February 26, 2010 4:34 p.m.

Monday is deadline for property tax return

If value decreased send form to tax assessor's office

Property owners who believe their property has lost value from last year have until Monday to file a property tax return, telling the county just how much less their property is worth in 2010.

The return form can be picked up at the Newton County Tax Assessor’s office, in the county administration building, or downloaded from the Georgia Department of Revenue at Web site by visiting etax.dor.ga.gov/ptd/adm/forms/index.aspx and clicking on “Real and Personal Property Forms” link.

County Tax Assessor Tommy Knight said that the best way to fill out a return form is to come to the tax assessor’s office Monday and work with an assessor; he said the process shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Residents can also fill out the form themselves and drop it off at the tax assessor’s office or mail it to 1113 Usher Street, Suite 102, Covington. The letter has to be postmarked by March 1.

Even residents who don’t file a tax return are likely to find their property has been reappraised anyway, Knight said.

“We’ve made a lot of changes already … we have a lot of people who come in wanting to file a return, and we’ve already lowered the value. After hearing that they often leave the office without filing a form,” Knight said. “Many counties don’t lower unless a person specifically files, but we’ve already lowered many properties.”

Knight said by the time the county finishes appraising all of the county’s properties, he expects about 90 percent of properties will have seen a decrease to their values.

“Much like last year, the majority of property owners will receive an assessment notice, and they’re all going down. The only properties going up are the ones where owners have built a new house or building or made improvements. As far as the general economy and inflation, like everybody else in the state, there is no appreciation of values. We realize that and we have taken every foreclosure into consideration.

“When dealing with excessive foreclosures, what is the real value? It’s very hard to determine. One guy pays one price for a home and another guy pays a very different price for a very similar home; it’s very prevalent throughout most areas of the county. We’re trying to find that middle of the road, that median value: the fair market value. In a lot of cases that means we’re lowering values.”

For those residents filing a return asking for their property value to be lowered, Knight said it’s important for them to provide specific details about why their value should be lowered.

“A lot of people say their value should be lower because of overall economy, and then they give an (arbitrary) percentage. We say be specific about why you believe your value went down. We’re very aware that economy has taken an effect, and we’ve already considered that,” Knight said.

As in previous years, Knight said the range of declining values differs greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. He said some areas are experience 25 to 30 percent of their homes in foreclosure, while others may only have 2 to 3 percent of their homes foreclosed; that has a big effect. It’s important for residents to compare their value to the values of the homes immediately surrounding them.

After the tax assessor’s office has reviewed every county parcel and looked at all tax returns, it will send out assessment notices to owners informing them of changes in their value. This is usually done in mid-April.

If owners disagree with their assessed value, they can appeal the decision, but only if their value changed, or if they filed a tax return. If their value did not change and they didn’t file a tax return, they have to accept the appraised value given by the county.

The appeal process will be contained in the assessment letter sent out by the county. Appeals have to be sent out within 30 days of receiving an assessment. For more information visit etax.dor.ga.gov/ptd/adm/forms/index.aspx.

Last year, Knight said his office sent out more than 40,000 assessment notices and received a total of 825 appeals. Knight said appeal number is lower than most other counties.

The state legislature is considering several bills which could dramatically change how property value is determined, and that would affect current values and timelines, Knight said. For more information call the Newton County Tax Assessor’s office at 770-784-2030, visit their Web site at qpublic.net/ga/newton/index.html or visit the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Web site at etax.dor.ga.gov.

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