Ad Valorem Tax

Ad valorem tax, more commonly known as property tax, is a large source of revenue for local governments in Georgia. The basis for ad valorem taxation is the fair market value of the property, which is established as of January 1 of each year. The tax is levied on the assessed value of the property which, by law, is established at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law (O.C.G.A. 48-5-7). Fair market value means "the amount knowledgeable a 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. 48-5-311) The amount of tax is determined by the tax rate (mill rate) levied by various entities (one mill is equal to $1.00 for each $1,000 of assessed value, or .001).

Several distinct entities are involved in the ad valorem tax process:

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). In addition, the State levies ad valorem tax each year in an amount which cannot exceed one-fourth of one mill (.00025).

The Columbia County, GA Tax Assessor is responsible for the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county. They notify taxpayers when changes are made to the value of property, receive and review all appeals filed, and insure that the appeal process proceeds properly. In addition, they approve all Homestead Exemptions claimed by the Taxpayers of Columbia County.

The Columbia County, GA Board of Equalization, appointed by the Grand Jury, is the body charged by law with hearing and adjudicating administrative appeals to property values and assessments made by the Board of Tax Assessors.

The Columbia County, GA Commission establishes the annual budget for county government operations and levies the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.

The Columbia County, GA Board of Education, an elected body, establishes the annual budget for school purposes and adopts the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.

The Columbia County, GA Tax Commissioner, an elected office established by the Constitution, is the official responsible for performing all functions related to billing, collecting, accounting for and disbursing ad valorem taxes collected in this county. The Tax Commissioner also serves as an agent of the State Revenue Commissioner for the registration of motor vehicles. The Tax Commissioner does not set values or the millage rates.

Tax Bills

Property tax bills are normally mailed out by September 15th of each year. Taxes are to be paid by November 15th of the same year.

Tax Returns

In accordance with Georgia law, all property held and subject to taxation on January 1 of the tax year, shall be returned by the owner to the Tax Assessor’s Office between January 1 and April 1 of that tax year. Any taxpayer who fails to return his property for taxation shall be deemed to have returned for taxations the same property at the same final valuation as and same real property exemptions as for the preceding year.A property owner who is dissatisfied with the assessed value of their property may also file a return stating their opinion of the true Fair Market Value of the property as of January 1 of the tax year. This will establish appeal right if the value is changed again by the Tax Assessor’s Office.

Assessment Appeals

The Columbia County, GA Board of Assessors’ appraisal staff determines your property values based on recent sales and market conditions. These values are based on the condition of the property as of January 1st of the tax year. The Board of Tax Assessors is required to issue a notice of assessment for taxable real and personal property which states the value of said property. These notices are generally mailed in the Spring of each year.

If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the value placed on the property, the taxpayer has the right to appeal this value within 45 days of the date of the notice. The appeal may be based on taxability, value, uniformity, and/or the denial of an exemption. The written appeal must initially be filed with the Board of Tax Assessors and must state their chosen method of appeal.

Additional information on assessment appeals may be obtained from the Tax Assessors’ Office.

The address to submit appeals:
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Board of Tax Assessors,
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp PO Box 498,
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Evans, GA 30809

For further information regarding property taxation in Georgia, please visit the State of Georgia Local Government Services Division website.

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).

The homestead of each residence of the State of Georgia actually occupied as a residence and homestead on January 1 of the tax year may be exempted from certain ad valorem taxation providing the exemption is returned and claimed in the manner prescribed by law and approved by the County Board of Assessors. All exemptions must be filed with the Tax Commissioner's Office between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Applications are accepted from January 1 through April 1 each year for the current tax year. Failure to make application within the prescribed time frame constitutes a waiver of the exemption for that tax year. Georgia law does not provide for an extension time for filing. All exemptions, once approved, are automatically renewed each year until eligibility changes unless exceptions are noted.

Documents Required with Homestead Exemption Application
Depending upon which application is completed, one or more of the following items shall be required:

  • Valid Georgia Driver's License with current residence address
  • Proof of Motor Vehicle registration in Columbia County (registration card)
  • Proof of age (Driver's License, State ID, and/or Birth Certificate)
  • Recorded Warranty Deed
  • Income Statements from the previous year (Copy of GA & Federal tax returns)
  • Physician Affidavits - Affidavit for Medical Disability Exemption
  • Retirement or disability records
  • Trust documents (If property is in a Trust)

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 residence, ownership, or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.

  • Regular Homestead Exemption
    (S1) $2,000 from Assessed Value. The homestead of each resident of this state actually occupied by the owner as a residence on January 1 of qualifying year shall be exempted from all ad valorem taxation for state, county and school purposes not to include taxes to retire county and school bond indebtness nor taxes levied by municipalities. The exemption remains as long as the residence is actually occupied by the owner as primary residence. The exemption shall not exceed $2,000. This exemption automatically renews as long as no change occurs to the deed or ownership. SEE DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS
  • Age Exemption
    • Age 62
      (L3) - $40,000 From Assessed Value for County and School. Homeowner must be 62 years of age by January 1st in year of application, and net income of both spouses cannot exceed $15,000. To qualify for this exemption, provide proof of income (Georgia & Federal Tax Returns), date of birth, and social security number. SEE ADDITIONAL DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS
    • Local School - Age 70 - No Income Limit
      (L6) - Local Senior Citizen School Tax Exemption. Homeowners who are 70 years of age, or older, on or before January 1 of the year in which application for exemption is made, can apply for the homestead exemption from Columbia County School ad valorem taxes, including taxes to pay interest on and to retire school bonded indebtedness. This exemption applies to 100% on the home and not more than three contiguous acres immediately surrounding the residence. This exemption automatically renews each year as long as no deed changes occur. Proof of date of birth is required (HB 1735). SEE ADDITIONAL DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS

  • Disabled Exemption
    • Disabled Veterans
      (S5) - $101,754 From Assessed Value. A letter from the Veterans Administration stating that the veteran has a 100% Service Connected Disability and is totally and permanently disabled is required to qualify for this exemption (GA Code 48-5-48). To continue receiving this benefit, a letter from the Veterans Administration updating the disability information is required every 3 years. SEE DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS
    • Total & Permanent Disability
      (L5) - $40,000 From Assessed Value. An affidavit from two physicians describing the disability is required at the time of application. Net income of both spouses cannot exceed $15,000. Proof of income (Georgia & Federal Tax Returns), date of birth, and social security number are also required. SEE DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS

  • Surviving Spouse of Firefighter or Peace Officer
    (SG) - 100% From Assessed Value. To qualify for this exemption, the firefighter or peace officer must have died in the line of duty. The surviving spouse must provide documents verifying eligibility, including evidence of spousal benefits, death certificate and certified marriage license. SEE ADDITIONAL DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS
  • Surviving Spouse of Military Member
    (SS) - $81,080 From Assessed Value. To qualify for this exemption, the member of the Armed Forces must have died while in an area of war or conflict, or died while en route to or from that duty assignment. The surviving spouse must provide documents from the Secretary of Defense evidencing surviving spousal benefits, death certificate, and certified marriage license. SEE ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS REQUIRED

Mobile Homes

Registration of Mobile Homes:
There are two categories of mobile homes, personal and real. A personal property mobile home is a mobile home that is taxed alone without the property. A real property mobile home is taxed with the land, and may qualify for a homestead exemption. The following are items needed when registering either type of mobile home.

  • PERSONAL PROPERTY MOBILE HOMES
    Purchase Agreement, Title or Bill of Sale - Which includes a complete description and serial number of the mobile home unit(s). Permit - This document is obtained through the Planning and Zoning Office at the Government Center in Evans, or from City Hall if the mobile home is to be located within the city limits of either Grovetown or Harlem. Name of Property Owner Tax receipt for current year or shipping invoice if mobile home is newly manufactured.
  • REAL PROPERTY MOBILE HOMES
    Purchase Agreement, Title or Bill of Sale - Which includes a complete description and serial number of the mobile home unit(s). Permit - This document is obtained through the Planning and Zoning Office at the Government Center in Evans, or from City Hall if the mobile home is to be located within the city limits of either Grovetown or Harlem. Warranty Deed - A copy of the Warranty Deed and/or Plat Record. Tax receipt for current year or shipping invoice if mobile home is newly manufactured.

Personal Property

Personal Property includes boats and motors, tractors, farm equipment, and machinery. Furniture, fixtures, equipment, inventory, and supplies are also personal property for businesses. Ownership of personal property is established January 1 of each year. Appraisers from the Tax Assessor's Office place values on personal property and mail notices in May of each year. Disputed values must be appealed within 45 days. This appeal must be in writing. The Tax Commissioner's Office will mail the personal property tax bill at least 60 days prior to the due date, which is usually mid-November of each year. Ninety (90) days after a bill becomes delinquent, a lien (Fi Fa) is recorded with the Clerk of Superior Court.

  • Business Personal Property (Furniture / Fixture/ Equipment)
    Boats must be registered with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and are taxed annually based on their value. Assessment notices are mailed in May of each year. There is an appeal period of 45 days, after which a tax bill is mailed. Taxes are due November 15th. Please contact the Assessor's Office with any questions about your boat value, and contact DNR with any questions about boat registration. The Boat Registration Form can be downloaded from the DNR website, or picked up at boat dealerships. Complete, sign and mail to the address located on the form.
  • Boats and Motors
    Boats must be registered with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and are taxed annually based on their value. Assessment notices are mailed in May of each year. There is an appeal period of 45 days, after which a tax bill is mailed. Taxes are due November 15th. Please contact the Assessor's Office with any questions about your boat value, and contact DNR with any questions about boat registration.
    The Boat Registration Form can be downloaded from the DNR website, or picked up at boat dealerships. Complete, sign and mail to the address located on the form.

Heavy Duty

Heavy duty equipment purchased from a dealer by an individual or business is subject to ad valorem tax in the year of purchase. Within 30 days of the end of the month in which the purchase was made, a return must be completed and submitted to the Tax Commissioner. Tax is computed based on 40% of the purchase price, times the millage rate, times 33 1/3%, and is then prorated for the number of months remaining in the calendar year.

Timber

Beginning January 1, 1992, all timber harvests or sales must be reported on Department of Revenue form PT-283T. There are three different reports of timber tax:

  • Single Lump Sum Sale of Timber
    A lump sum sale is one where the total price paid for the timber is paid all at once, normally up front. The purchaser of the timber must remit the taxes and the PT-283T form to the Tax Commissioner within 5 business days of purchase.
  • Quarterly Summary of Timber Sold by Unit Price
    A unit price sale is one where the purchaser pays the seller for the timber as it is cut based on volumes of wood harvested. Since these transactions occur at various intervals during the term of the contract, the law does not require a PT-283T report be filed each time payments are made, rather a quarterly report of timber harvested during the quarter is all that is necessary. Purchaser of the timber must complete, sign and submit two copies to seller and one copy to Board of Assessors within 45 days after end of quarter. Seller must sign and submit one of the copies to Tax Assessors within 60 days after end of the quarter. Seller will be billed by the Tax Commissioner for taxes due.
  • Quarterly Summary of Timber Harvested by Owner
    Standing timber that is harvested by the owner of the underlying land must be reported as Owner Harvests.  Owner must complete and submit one copy to Board of Tax Assessors within 45 days after the end of the quarter. Owner will be billed by the Tax Commissioner for taxes due.

The PT-283T form can be obtained in the Columbia County Tax Commissioner's Office. The Tax Commissioner's telephone number is (706) 261-8299.