ATLANTA — The odds of getting a local government to reduce a property tax bill depend in part on where Georgia residents live,
according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Tens of thousands of residents across metro Atlanta annually protest the price estimates that local governments give their homes.
The more a piece of property is worth, the more the owners must pay in property taxes.
The newspaper’s analysis of more than 120,000 residential property appeals in 11 metro counties in 2010 and 2011 showed that people in Clayton, Fayette and Gwinnett counties had the best odds of winning a property tax appeal.
Douglas, Rockdale and Cobb county residents faced the longest odds of success.
Critics accused appraisers, those who assess home values, of trying to keep prices high to boost government budgets.
Local governments rely heavily on property tax collections to fund government services.
“They just don’t want to budge (on property values),” tax consultant Philip Johns said. “They’re holding tight on that dollar.”
Appraisers said the process is fair and that differences in appeal rates are attributable to local real estate dynamics and other factors.
“I believe the idea that you can’t fight city hall is wrong,” Cobb County Chief Appraiser Phil Hogsed said. “If you have a serious problem with your home value, the system works.”
Fulton County resident Harold Cunliffe got the government to reduce his property tax bill by $3,500 after filing a lawsuit. By contrast, Yvonne Elliott saved $400 on her property tax bill without even appearing before a Gwinnett County appeals board.
The newspaper found that more than 80 percent of Clayton County property owners who filed appeals won at least a 10 percent reduction, a benchmark that tax professionals generally consider a successful appeal. Roughly 75 percent of people who appealed in Fayette and Gwinnett residents met the same mark.
By contrast, only 40 percent of owners in Douglas County won a 10 percent reduction.
In Cherokee County, tax officials gave a median reduction in value of nearly 36 percent. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Cobb County officials had a median reduction of 17 percent.