Tax Assessors Roll Back Decision on Elderly Tax Exemption Changes

Board of Assessors, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Tax Assessors voted to roll back their recent decision on House Bill 1383, which was given the green light during their meeting held on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

This bill ultimately determines what structures on a property are exempt for those 65 years of age or older in regards to the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes.

The board did as they informed the public they would do and got advice from Attorney Joe Scheuer of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia regarding the interpretation of the law.

In a three-page document to the board, Scheuer stated that “I believe this question involves a determination that must be made on a case by case basis locally”, but went on to say that “Homestead includes the following qualifications: The actual permanent place of residence, where the building is occupied primarily as a dwelling. In other words, with respect to the home, the exemption is limited to that structure so that attached structures are included; garage, deck, etc. Other structures, such as detached garages, gazebos, etc. are not included. Detached structures, to my knowledge, have never been included as part of the building which is occupied as the primary dwelling, or at least they were not supposed to have been included.”

However, because what this attorney says differs from what the state legislative liaison has said on the matter, County Attorney David Clark believes the board needs an opinion from the attorney general.

Ultimately, due to the two conflicting readings and two entirely different opinions as to how the tax code should be implemented, the board voted in favor of rolling back the decision to uphold the new changes, continuing with the way things were in 2018 until the board receives further clarification.

The issue with this decision, as the board pointed out, is that structures of business such as chicken houses, barns, etc. will be exempt of the school system taxes as they were in 2018.

But because of the deadlines involved, the board decided it would still be easier just to go with the 2018 interpretation without modification.

No further public mailings are required on behalf of the board because of this decision.

The board will be re-examining the definitions of the bill in the near future and hopes to have a definitive interpretation by 2020, so be sure to stay tuned for future updates!

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Newly-adopted bill ignores certain structures from elderly tax exemptions

Board of Assessors, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – House Bill 1383 was the topic of much debate during the Board of Tax Assessor’s meeting on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

Up until adoption of this bill, those who were 65 years of age or older were exempt from paying the Gilmer County school district ad valorem taxes on their property.

This is still in place. However, this no longer exempts structures that are not considered to be the primary dwelling place of the property owner.

As Chief Appraised Theresa Gooch explained, the interpretation of this bill “Does not include any buildings not attached to the primary residence. It still exempts 100% on the primary home, all of the land and any structures that are attached by a common roof line.”

In short, structures not attached to your home by the roof line are no longer tax exempt.

This would include structures such as wood sheds, barns, out houses, green houses, etc. Whereas in the past, all structures on the entire property were exempt.

According to County Attorney David Clark, “the state is the entity that has guided the board to the specific definition as to what constitutes a homestead.”

The board explained “No one here was associated with the implementation of this bill in ’08. But it was implemented simply by applying the exemption to anyone over 65 who applied for appeals and asked for a homestead. Chicken houses, business’, etc. things that clearly didn’t belong in a homestead were caught up in it. The chicken houses and business’ were cleaned up shortly after that ’08 thing. I don’t even recall what brought this to our attention. But the law says under the definition of the state statute that the dwelling is the exempt item. The land and the residence.”

When asked why it took so long for the board to bring this up, they responded that they honestly weren’t sure, and that it just didn’t come to their attention prior.

Many citizens present were very against this change, however.

Many are concerned that the board simply wants nothing more than to tax them more, with one citizen stating “My neighbor has the same roof line. He has a horse barn. Now we’re not taxing it because it shares the same roof line? What’s next? I move my daughter in the basement, now I’m not occupying it, she is, so you’re going to tax my basement for that? That’s where we could go if we continue to let you erode our rights here. This isn’t right. Let’s stay where we’re at. Manage the money we already give you, and not try to take more away from us. It’s difficult enough as it is living on a fixed income.”

The board voted in favor of this bill under the grounds that they have no choice at this point in time due to digest and submission process timelines.

However, citizens have until Monday, July 1, 2019 to file an appeal with the board, which will likely go to the Board of Equalization and potentially the superior court.

The board also states that they will re-address this issue and give full clarification from the proper state authorities by Tuesday, January 1, 2020.

Stay tuned for developments on this bill as they become known!

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