Department of Revenue questions Spalding County tax appeals process

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Georgia Department of Revenue Commissioner Lynette Riley has contacted Spalding County officials to express concern that local property owners may not be receiving their due process rights with regard to the appeal of property taxes.

In a letter addressed to William Norris, whose service as the chairman of the Spalding County Board of Tax Assessors ended Dec. 31, Riley said the required process is defined by state law.

“It has come to my attention that taxpayers with property in Spalding County are not being afforded their appeal rights pursuant to OCGA 48-5-311,” Riley wrote. “Specifically, these taxpayers claim that Spalding County has not processed or otherwise responded to their appeals in a timely manner as mandated by OCGA 48-5-311(e)(3).”

She went on to explain that under this code section, it is mandated that the Board of Assessors “shall review the appeal and notify the taxpayer of any corrections or changes within 180 days after receipt of the taxpayer’s notice of appeal.”

Riley acknowledged that the Board of Assessors is legally entitled to “certain extensions of the 180 day period,” but made clear that if the Board does not respond to the taxpayer within the requisite time, “the most recent property tax valuation asserted by the taxpayer on the property tax return or on the taxpayer’s notice of appeal shall prevail.”
In strong terms, Riley made clear her concerns on the issue.

“It is my understanding that the Spalding County has not responded to taxpayers’ appeals within the time allowed by statute, nor has the Board forwarded the appeals to the Spalding County Board of Equalization,” Riley wrote, later continuing, “I am very concerned that taxpayers are not being afforded their appeal rights.”

The Commissioner then expressed concerns that the property tax appeals could negatively impact the Spalding County tax digest.

“Moreover, the proper recording of appeals and a correct accounting of the number and value of parcels under appeal is an important and integral part of digest approval,” she said.

Riley cited OCGA 48-5-345(a)(1), which requires that digests submitted to Riley’s office be “accompanied by all documents, statistics, and certifications required by the commissioner, including the number, overall value and percentage of total real property parcels of appeals in each county to the board of equalization, arbitration, hearing officer and superior court.”

She then cited OCGA 48-5-304(b) in reference to her responsibility regarding tax digest approval.

“The commissioner shall not approve any digest or portion thereof for any class or strata of property where evidence exists that the county has substantially failed to comply with the provisions of this title or the rules and regulations of the commissioner for valuation of such class or strata or property,” she wrote.

Riley concluded by outlining her expectation of local officials.

“I respectfully ask that you respond to the taxpayer complaints noted in this letter by providing information to my office to determine if such complaints are valid,” Riley said. “If these complaints are in fact valid, I respectfully ask that Spalding County conform to the requirements of OCGA 48-5-311 and afford taxpayers their due process rights under that statute.”

 

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