Homeowners have until June 13 to challenge their property value assessment. If you live in your own home, you should file for homestead exemption, which is a $10,000 discount on the taxable portion of your property. Ask your elected officials about proposed budgets and millage rates.
UPDATE 5/17: Although the floating exemption was passed by the General Assembly, Deputy Tax Commissioner Lisa Wood says, “Clayton County does not offer this exemption.”
This year’s property tax estimate notices are landing in Clayton County mailboxes, and many homeowners are upset about the increased dollar amounts they’re seeing.
Although the actual tax rate has not changed, home values have gone up—and the bottom line is that many homeowners will have to pay more money to the county.
But homeowners can take several steps to cut their taxes.
How the county values your home
Clayton County figures your property tax based on 40% of its assessed value. In other words, if your house has a fair market value of $100,000, you will only be taxed on the first $40,000.
Chief Appraiser Emitte George, Jr. explains that county tax appraisers look at the values of all the houses in your subdivision, or the immediate surrounding area if you live outside of a subdivision, as well as the number of rooms your home has and any other major improvements. They also drive around neighborhoods and check aerial photos for any improvements to the property. They then use that information to figure out your home’s value for tax purposes. That’s why the assessed value is different from the price you might see on Zillow or the asking price when you sell your house.
How county officials set your property tax millage rate
The Board of Commissioners and the Clayton County Board of Education pass a millage rate each year. A mil or mill is $1 on every $1,000 of your property’s taxable value.
In this estimate, the homeowner will be taxed on $37,780 of the home’s value:
While the millage rate may stay the same, your property’s fair market value might be higher or lower than last year. If your elected officials choose not to decrease the millage rate, you will pay the same percentage but you would pay more in actual dollars out of pocket if your property value has gone up.
How the millage rate affects county budgets
The Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education make budget planning decisions for the coming fiscal year based on an estimate of how much property tax the county will collect. (The fiscal year starts June 1.) Property taxes are used to pay for public amenities like schools, roads, and government services.
Citizens can tell their elected officials how they want their tax dollars spent by commenting on proposed budgets during public hearings, as well as by writing their elected officials. Upcoming public hearings on proposed budgets include:
- Board of Commissioners
- Tuesday, May 17, 5:30 p.m., BOC Boardroom, 112 Smith Street, Jonesboro
- Board of Education
Citizens have the right (and the responsibility) to communicate with their elected officials about how their tax dollars are spent. Call or write your school board member or county commissioner with your questions about proposed budgets and setting the millage rate.
Consider appealing your home value
You can challenge your property value estimate by filing an appeal by June 13. Once you file, you will go before the Board of Equalization. You also can appeal to a certified hearing officer or to an arbitrator. If you disagree with the decision, you can take your appeal the Clayton County Superior Court. Contact the Tax Assessor’s office for more information.
Cut your tax bill
Many are unaware that they can ease the pain by filing for one or more tax exemptions, says Terry Baskin. Filing for a property tax exemption is a one-time process, he told The Clayton Crescent. Although the April 1 deadline has passed for this year’s property tax exemptions, you can file now to soften the blow next year.
File for your homestead exemption
Every homeowner who lives in their home is eligible for a homestead exemption. If you live in your own home, you should file for homestead exemption, which is a discount on your property taxes. You can get up to $10,000 off, depending on your home’s value.
Absentee landlords and investors are not eligible for homestead exemption—only homeowners who actually live in the home they own can get it.
In the earlier example, the homeowner applied for the $10,000 homestead exemption. So instead of having to pay taxes on $37,760, the homeowner will only be taxed on $27,760. That means they will pay $964.55 instead of $1,242.52—a savings of $277.97:
- your parcel ID number
- the date you bought your home
- vehicle license plate number(s), if any
- images to upload of these required documents:
- Georgia driver’s license or state ID
- current voter registration card showing your current home address
- current vehicle registration(s) in applicant’s name
- a letter verifying that any other properties you or your spouse own do not already get a homestead exemption (no exceptions)
If you don’t vote and own no vehicles, the county may accept your current federal and state income tax returns (with all attachments) on review. Other documents the county may accept on review include:
- a bank statement with your correct address
- a paycheck or pay stub from your employer showing your correct address
- a W-2 from the previous year showing the correct year
- a health insurance statement
- a Social Security statement for the current year
- a Medicare or Medicaid statement
Getting paper documents into electronic format
To make electronic copies of paper documents, you can take photos with a cell phone, then upload those images to the online application where it says “Drop files here or select files).”
You also can scan in documents from a printer or by using a copy machine to scan the documents to a USB “thumb” or “jump” drive. Files cannot be larger than 64MB.
Your bank may have online statements that you can download to your computer, then upload to your homestead exemption application.
Beware of identity fraud
Be cautious of asking strangers for help with scanning in your forms, since it involves your personal and financial information.
When in doubt, consult your personal banker, attorney, or trusted family member, or bring your paperwork to the Tax Assessor’s office in person.
Double homestead exemption if you’re 65+
If you’re 65 (as of January 1 of the filing year) and had taxable income of $10,000 the previous year, you can get a double homestead exemption of up to $14,000, depending on the value of your home. This discount applies to tax bonds for Clayton County and for the school system.
School bond exemption if you’re 62+
If you are 62 as of January 1 of the filing year, and you and your spouse made less than $10,000 total the year before, you can get a $10,000 exemption from school bonds. Bring proof of income to the tax office.
Total school exemption if you’re 100% disabled or 65+
If you are over 65, or if you are 100% disabled with a total gross household income under $30,000, you can get a total school tax exemption on your home and up to five acres. If you’re 100% disabled, you’ll need to have original letters from two licensed Georgia doctors, on their letterhead, stating your 100% disability. You’ll also need to being your tax return and other proof of income to the office. If you’re 65 or older, you’ll need to show proof of age. If you own more than five acres, the rest of your acreage will be billed separately but you’ll still have to pay taxes on that part of your property.
Pay $0 state taxes on home and 10 acres if you’re 65+
If you are 65 or older as of January 1, state law gives you a 100% exemption on state taxes for the house you live in and up to 10 acres.
Disabled veterans exempt up to $100,896 for 2021
Veterans who served during wartime can apply for up to $100,896 off their 2021 property tax bill, with the added comfort of knowing that, when they die, this exemption will be passed on to their surviving unremarried spouse or minor children. What’s more, if the vet dies or is too incapacitated to apply, the unremarried spouse or minor children can file and the exemption “may be granted as if the disabled veteran have made personal application.”
Vets can qualify one of five ways:
- Show a letter from the Veterans Administration (VA) stating the vet was honorably discharged, is 100% totally and permanently disabled, and either gets or is entitled to get benefit for a 100% service-connected disability.
- Show a letter from the VA stating the vet was disabled:
- “due to loss or loss of use of both extremities such as to preclude locomotion, without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or wheelchair” OR
- “blindness in both eyes having only light perception, together with the loss or loss of use of one lower extremity” OR
- “loss or loss of use of one lower extremity together with residuals of organic disease or injury which so affect the functions of balance and propulsion as to preclude locomotion without resort to a wheelchair”
- Any wartime vet who has not been adjudicated by the VA, but who suffers from one of the above-listed issues must present their DD-214 discharge and letters from a Georgia doctor and any other doctor verifying the above disability.
- Any American wartime vet disabled due to the loss or loss of use of one upper and one lower extremity “which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude locomotion with the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair” can present two doctor’s letters (one has to be from a Georgia doctor) verifying the disability.
- Any veteran eligible for Section 801 federal housing assistance as of January 1, 1985, can show a letter from the VA to that effect.
Unremarried surviving spouse of KIA up to $100,896 for 2021
If your spouse was a U.S. citizen and Georgia resident killed in action while serving in the U.S. armed forces during any war or armed conflict, and you have not remarried, you are entitled to the veterans exemption.
Unremarried spouse of police, firefighter killed in line of duty
If your spouse was a law enforcement officer or a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty, you may be exempt from all ad valorem property taxes. Call (770) 477-3311 for details.
Beware of scammers
It is illegal under Georgia law for any person, firm or corporation to offer to file homestead exemptions for a fee.
Contact the Tax Commissioner’s office directly for help with any questions you might have about applying for one or more exemptions. Call (770) 477-3311 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for help. The office is on the second floor of Annex 3, behind the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro, at 121 S. McDonough Street.
Delinquent property tax
You may be eligible for federal financial assistance if you are behind on your property taxes or other housing expenses due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to apply for help. Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for details on how to qualify.
Check county property values online (yours and your neighbors’) at https://bit.ly/38quiJo