SPECIALIZED AND PREFERENTIAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAMS
Various homestead exemptions have been enacted to reduce the burden of ad valorem taxation for Georgia homeowners. The exemptions apply to property owned and occupied by the tax payer and claimed as his or her legal residence on January 1 of the current tax year.
APPLICATIONS FOR HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
An applicant seeking a homestead exemption shall file a written application with the County Tax Commissioner at any time during the calendar year subsequent to the property becoming the primary residence of the applicant up to and including April 1, for which the exemption is sought. Homestead applications received after that date will be applied to the NEXT year's tax bill.
Once granted, the homestead exemption is automatically renewed each year and the taxpayer does not have to apply again unless there is a change of ownership or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different exemption.
The Local County Exemptions supercede the state exemption amount when the local exemption is greater than the state exemption.
Spalding County has such an exemption:
Individuals over 62 or 100% disabled, regardless of age, with a gross household income of $12,500 or less, who own and occupy their home as of January 1 of each year, may qualify for full exemption from city and school taxes on their house and up to 3 acres of land. Proof of income required each year (includes gross income from all family members who live in the home).
New for 2011 Individuals over 62 or 100% disabled, regardless of age, with a gross household income of $20,000 or less, who own and occupy their home as of January 1 of each year, may quality for full exemption from COUNTY TAXES on their house and up to 3 acres of land. Proof of income required each year (includes gross income from all family members who live in the home).
Homeowners 65-69 years of age, regardless of income, are eligible for an exemption of $10,000 in value from the school portion of the taxes.
Homeowners 70-74 years of age, regardless of income, are eligible for an exemption of $20,000 in value from the school portion of the taxes.
Homeowners 75 years of age and above, regardless of income, are eligible for an exemption of $30,000, in value from the school portion of the taxes.
It is the responsibility of the homeowner to re-apply when the homeowner becomes eligible for a different age-based school exemption.
Homeowners 65 years of age or older with a GROSS income of husband and wife (exclusive of maximum allowable social security and retirement benefits) of $40,000, may exempt up to $10,000 in value from COUNTY taxes. Proof of income required in the first year of application.
Surviving Spouse Homestead Provision: An un-remarried surviving spouse may continue to receive the homestead exemption at the base value established for the deceased spouse, upon application and qualification. This exemption only applies to those counties that passed a local base year floating exemption.
The Standard Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners who otherwise qualify by ownership and residency requirements and it an amount equal to $2,000 which is deducted form the 40% assessed value of homestead property. The exemption applies to the maintenance and operation portion of the mill rate levy of the county and the county school system and the State mill rate levy. It does not apply to the portion of the mill rate levied to retire bonded indebtedness.
The Standard Elderly School Tax Homestead Exemption is an increased homestead exemption for homeowners 62 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. A portion of Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption applies to school tax including taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness. The amount of the exemption is up to $10,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property.
Homestead Exemption for Senior Citizens is in an amount equal to the actual levy for state ad valorem tax purposes on the residence and no more than 10 contiguous acres of land for qualified applicants age 65 and older.
The Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption is available to certain disabled veterans or to the un-remarried spouse or minor children in an amount up to $50,000 deducted form the 40% assessed value of the homestead property. This exemption applies to all ad valorem tax levies; however, it is restricted to certain types of very serious disabilities and proof of disability, either from the Veterans Administration or from a private physician in certain circumstances.
The Surviving Spouse of a Member of Armed Forces killed in Action Exemption is available to the un-remarried surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in or who died as a result of any war or armed conflict engaged in by the United States. The surviving spouse must furnish appropriate documentation from the Department of Defense that spousal benefits are received as a result of the death of the armed forces member.
Peace Officer or Firefighter Homestead Exemption is available for the surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. The surviving spouse is exempt from the full value of the homestead with respect to all ad valorem.
The Floating or Varying Homestead Exemption is an exemption which is available to homeowners 62 and older with gross household income of $30,000 or less. The exemption applies to state and county ad valorem taxes but it does not apply to school tax. The exemption is called a floating exemption because the amount of the exemption increases as the value of the homestead property is increased.
In addition to the various homestead exemptions that are authorized, the law provides a Property Tax Deferral Program which is a method for qualified property owners 62 and older with gross household income of $15,000 or less to defer but not exempt the payment of ad valorem taxes on a part or all of the homestead property. Generally, the tax would be deferred until the property ownership changes or until such time that the deferred taxes plus interest reach a level equal to 85% of the property's fair market value.
Approval or Denial of Homestead: With respect to all of the homestead exemptions, the board of tax assessors makes the determination as to eligibility; however, if the application is denied the taxpayer must be notified and an appeal procedure then is available for the taxpayer.
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SPECIALIZED AND PREFERENTIAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAMS
Two general types of specialized of preferential assessment programs are available for certain owners of certain types of property. One of these programs authorizes assessment at 30% instead of 40% of the fair market value for certain agricultural properties being used for bona fide agricultural purposes.
The second type of preferential program is the Conservation Use program which provides that certain agricultural property, timber and land property, environmentally sensitive property, or residential transitional property is to be valued and assessed for ad valorem tax purposes at its current use value rather than its fair market value. For more information on Conservation Use we have included the following Information.
WHAT IS CONSERVATION USE?
Conservation Use was approved by an overwhelming majority of Georgia voters in an effort to encourage agricultural landowners to keep their land in production in exchange for favorable tax treatment. This favorable tax treatment is designed to protect these property owners from being pressured by the property tax burden to convert their land from agricultural use to residential or commercial use, hence the name ''conservation use'' assessment. In return for the favorable tax treatment the property owner must keep the land undeveloped in a qualifying use for a period of ten years on incur stiff penalties.
Applications for current use assessment must be filed with the county board of tax assessors on or before the last day for filing ad valorem tax returns in the county (April 1). A $12.00 recording fee must accompany all applications.
- Owner must be an individual or family farm corporation, estate, trust or non-profit organization.
- Owner agrees to maintain the property in a qualifying use of ''good faith'' production of agricultural products or timber for 10 years.
- Owner cannot have over 2,000 acres statewide in the Conservation Use Program.
- The Tax Assessors Office may request additional information regarding the use of the property if the office feels it is necessary to determine if the property qualifies for the exemption. Information that may be requested is Schedule F (Profit or Loss from Farm Income), Form 4562 Depreciation, or Crop Production Records the owner maintains. (mandatory on tracts less than 10 acres)
CONSERVATION USE VALUES
- Conservation values are set by the State of Georgia and cannot be appealed by the taxpayer, however the Board of Tax Assessors must still maintain the fair market value on the property which may still be appealed by the taxpayer.
- The Conservation values established by the state are made up of a combination of the capitalized income that could be produced from the land and market value. The ratio is 65% income and 35% fair market value.
- The maximum amount that conservation values may be increased is 3% per year or a maximum of 34.39% over the 10-year Covenant.
- The amount of savings on your tax bill cannot be determined at this time. The valuation for conservation use is available on your property upon request. You then can compare the fair market value to the conservation use value.
- Agricultural buildings may be included in the covenant. Although, the current values will not change on the buildings, these buildings would be subject only to the 3% per year maximum increase.
BREACH ON CONTRACT
- If the owner breaks the Covenant a penalty of twice the taxes saved by the taxpayer will be imposed and interest at the rate of 1% per month will be assessed if not immediately reported.
- If the Covenant is broken as a result of death or eminent domain (condemnation) no penalty will be assessed.
- If the Covenant is broken as a result of medically demonstrable illness or foreclosure, the penalty will be the amount of taxes saved for the current year only.
- Leases or contracts for billboard signs, cellular towers, or any type of non-qualifying use will breach the Covenant and all penalties will apply. Hunting leases are allowed.
- If the property is sold, and if the purchaser continues using the property as it was originally covenanted then no penalty would be assessed. Purchaser must sign covenant agreeing to no change in use. However, the taxpayer should be aware that if the use changes during the 10-year period all penalties would apply.
- If the owner desires to omit a portion of a tract from the Covenant they must present to the Assessors' satisfaction a clearly defined description of the portion under the Covenant and a clearly defined description of the portion not under the Covenant.
- The property owner may give up to 5.0 acres to a relative within the 4th degree of civil reckoning provided that relative builds a house on the property received within one year and resides in the house for the remainder of the 10-year period.
- Property is allowed to lie fallow or idle for up to 2 years within any 5-year period.
- Property owners over age 65 who renew their Covenant may elect after 3 years into the second 10-year Covenant to terminate the Covenant by filing in writing a declaration with the Tax Assessors' office.
Each of these specialized or preferential programs requires the property owner to covenant with the board of tax assessors to maintain the property in its qualified use for at least 10 years in order to qualify for the preference. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for either of these programs. Substantial penalties result if the covenant is broken.
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The governing authority of any county or municipality may, subject to the approval of the electors of such political subdivision, except from ad valorem taxation, including all such taxes levied for educational purposes and for State purposes, all or any of the following types of tangible property. Application for this exemption must be made each year by April 1 in order to receive the maximum exemption on qualifying Inventory.
- Inventory of goods in the process of manufacture or production, which shall include all partly finished goods and raw materials, held for direct use or consumption in the ordinary course of the taxpayer's manufacturing or production business in the State of Georgia.
- Inventory of finished goods manufactured or produced within the State of Georgia in the ordinary course of the taxpayer's manufacturing or production business when held by the original manufacturer or producer of such finished goods. The exemption provided for herein shall be for a period not exceeding twelve (12) months from the date such property is produced or manufactured.
- Inventory of finished goods which, on the first day of January, are stored in a warehouse, dock or wharf, whether public or private, and which are destined for shipment to a final destination outside the State of Georgia and inventory of finished goods which are shipped into the State of Georgia from outside the State and stored for transshipment to a final destination outside this State. The exemption provided for herein shall be for a period not exceeding twelve (12) months from the date such property is stored in this State.
For further details on Freeport exemption, read O.C.G.A. 48-5-48.2 in its entirety or contact the Tax Assessors office.
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