Overview

Property is taxable in the county where it is located unless otherwise provided by law. (O.C.G.A. & sect; 48-5-11)

Generally, Cook County real estate and business personal property taxes are due by December 15th. If taxes are not collected on the property, it may be levied upon and ultimately sold. Property tax collected by the local government is used to pay for the support of services provided by the Cook County Board of Education, Cook County and the State of Georgia.

Assessed Values

In Georgia property is assessed at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-7) Property is assessed at the county level. The State Revenue Commissioner is responsible for examining the tax digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-340)

Property owners that do not agree with the appraised value on their assessment notice can file an appeal with the Board of Assessors. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311) If no agreement is reached, the appeal is automatically forwarded to the Board of Equalization.

The tax bills received by property owners will include both the fair market value and the assessed value of the property. Fair market value means "the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm's length, bona fide sale." (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-2)

Timber

Standing timber is not taxed until sold or harvested, at which time it is taxed based upon 100 percent of its fair market value. This value is then multiplied by the appropriate mill rate to determine the tax amount due.

Equipment, Machinery, and Fixtures

Equipment, machinery, and fixtures are assessed at 40 percent of fair market value. The Board of Assessors may value the equipment, machinery, and fixtures of a going business to reflect the fair market value of the business as a whole. When no ready market exists for the sale of equipment, machinery, and fixtures, a fair market value may be determined by resorting to any reasonable, relevant, and useful information available. This information may include, but is not limited to, the original cost of the property, depreciation or obsolescence, and any increase in value by reason of inflation.

Property Tax Returns

Property tax returns for real estate must be filed with the Cook County Board of Assessors at the Courthouse between January 1 and April 1 of each year where property has changed or been acquired. The taxpayer may elect not to file a property tax return if they have no changes that would affect the value of their property from the previous year. Failure to file a required return will subject the taxpayer to a 10% penalty on the value of the property not returned plus interest and possibly penalties from the date the tax would have been due.

Personal property tax returns (PT-50p) are to be filled annually with the Board of Assessors without regard to change in value or use.

This deadline is April 1.

Mobile/Modular Home Location Permits

Owners of mobile homes that are located in Cook County on January 1 must return the mobile home for taxation to the Tax Commissioner on or before April 1 of each year at the same time they apply for the location permit. Failure to file the required return will result in a 10% tax penalty.

It should be noted that the opportunity for a mobile/modular home owner to appeal the value of their mobile home, if it is not homesteaded, will be within 45 days of the mailing of the mobile home tax bill. Mobile home bills are mailed shortly after the 1st of the year and are due by April 1st of each year.

Ad Valorem Tax Refunds

If a taxpayer discovers they have paid taxes that they believe were illegal or erroneous, they may request a refund within 3 years of the date of payment. The claim for refund should be filed in writing with the board of commissioners within three years after the date of payment. Applications for refunds are available from the Board of Assessors or the Tax Commissioner. Refunds for erroneous paid taxes must be based on "errors of fault" and not on disagreements of value.

EXEMPTIONS

Exemptions can typically be defined as a portion of the assessed value that will be free of taxation.

Homestead Exemptions

Homestead exemptions have been enacted to reduce the burden of ad valorem taxation for Georgia homeowners. The exemptions apply to homestead property owned by the taxpayer and occupied as his or her legal residence. Homestead exemptions are deducted from the assessed value of the qualifying property (40% of the fair market value.)

To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. In Cook County the application is filed with the Tax Assessor's office. With respect to all of the Homestead Exemptions, the Board of Assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility.

Georgia law allows for the year-round filing of homestead applications but the application must be received by April 1st of the year for which the exemption is first claimed by the taxpayer. Homestead applications received after April 1st will be enacted the following year.

Once granted, the homestead exemption is automatically renewed each year and the taxpayer does not have re-apply unless there is a change of residence, ownership, or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.

Under authority of the state constitution several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. These are known as state exemptions. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts, also know as local exemptions. Cook county has such an exemption. The local county exemptions supersede the state exemptions when the local exemption amount is greater than the state amount. Please contact your Tax Assessor for more information regarding homestead exemption.