Fulton County Tax Appeal Project
In 2018, Fulton County taxpayers faced unprecedented increases in their property tax assessments as Fulton County conducted a county-wide reassessment for the first time since 2012. Rather than getting smaller, more incremental changes in those intervening years, Fulton taxpayers were going to be suddenly hit with the full force of property value increases that had happened during the recovery after the real estate market burst. We developed a project to try to help soften that blow. The project focused on trying to protect existing low- and fixed-income homeowners from dramatic property tax increases. The Fulton Property Tax Appeals Project was conceived to be enacted in two stages. First, we wanted to make sure that homeowners were getting all the exemptions they were entitled to get in order to offset some of the increase. Second, we wanted to educate and assist homeowners about appealing the assessments so that the values would not be higher than appropriate.
We leapt into action, training volunteers, screening current and prior clients for need, and conducting community education to get the reach of the program as wide as possible. In the first stage, homeowners were encouraged to apply for exemptions if it appeared they did not have any or could qualify for additional exemptions. Homestead exemptions are ways for people who live in their own homes to reduce the value that is being taxed and the reductions are even higher for certain groups such as seniors, people with disabilities, etc. There were follow-up calls to make sure applications were filed and to deal with any problems encountered.
The second stage had to be put into action in a very short timeframe because we would not know who would need to appeal their values until the assessment notices came out and the notices triggered a 45-day window for filing appeals. Again, current and prior clients were reviewed to see if the notices showed dramatic increases and, if so, they were sent informational packets then called to offer advice and legal information about the appeals process. Follow-up calls were utilized to make sure no problems were encountered and appeals were filed before the deadline. At this point, the second stage became a waiting game as we needed to monitor for responses to the appeals and develop materials and resources (including trained volunteers) to help prepare homeowners for hearings before the Boards of Equalization and, potentially, appeals to Superior Court. We are still working with the clients in this second stage from 2018 even as we again make a push to implement the first stage for another round of homestead exemption applications for 2019.
It is our hope that these efforts will result in more manageable increases in our clients’ property taxes so that they can afford to keep their homes. Legacy homeowners, who are more likely to be low- or fixed-income homeowners, are at risk of being priced out of their homes even after they have paid off their mortgages. The rising values of homes around them result in rising property taxes so that many will face the unfortunate situation of either selling or suffering a property tax foreclosure if something is not done to help reduce the property taxes. The Fulton Tax Appeals Project uses the existing laws to try to help our clients keep their property taxes as low as possible.
Learn how you can help with the Tax Appeal Project here: Tax Appeal Project