2010 Georgia Code
TITLE 48 - REVENUE AND TAXATION
CHAPTER 5 - AD VALOREM TAXATION OF PROPERTY
ARTICLE 5 - UNIFORM PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION AND EQUALIZATION
PART 2 - COUNTY BOARDS OF TAX ASSESSORS
§ 48-5-311 - (For effective date, see note.) Creation of county boards of equalization; duties; review of assessments; appeals

O.C.G.A. 48-5-311 (2010)
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Protesting a Property Tax Assessment in Georgia

48-5-311. (For effective date, see note.) Creation of county boards of equalization; duties; review of assessments; appeals


(a) Establishment.

(1) (For effective date, see note.) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, there is established in each county of the state a county board of equalization to consist of three members and three alternate members appointed in the manner and for the term set forth in this Code section. In those counties having more than 10,000 parcels of real property, the county governing authority, by appropriate resolution adopted on or before November 1 of each year, may elect to have selected one additional county board of equalization for each 10,000 parcels of real property in the county or for any part of a number of parcels in the county exceeding 10,000 parcels.

(2) Notwithstanding any part of this subsection to the contrary, at any time the governing authority of a county makes a request to the grand jury of the county for additional alternate members of boards of equalization, the grand jury shall appoint the number of alternate members so requested to each board of equalization, such number not to exceed a maximum of 21 alternate members for each of the boards. The alternate members of the boards shall be duly qualified and authorized to serve on any of the boards of equalization of the county. The grand jury of any such county may designate a chairperson and two vice chairpersons of each such board of equalization. The chairperson and vice chairpersons shall be vested with full administrative authority in calling and conducting the business of the board. Any combination of members or alternate members of any such board of equalization of the county shall be competent to exercise the power and authority of the board. Any person designated as an alternate member of any such board of equalization of the county shall be competent to serve in such capacity as provided in this Code section upon appointment and taking of oath.

(3) Notwithstanding any provision of this subsection to the contrary, in any county of this state having a population of 400,000 or more according to the United States decennial census of 1990 or any future such census, the governing authority of the county, by appropriate resolution adopted on or before November 1 of each year, may elect to have selected one additional county board of equalization for each 10,000 parcels of real property in the county or for any part of a number of parcels in the county exceeding 10,000 parcels. In addition to the foregoing, any two members of a county board of equalization of the county may decide an appeal from an assessment, notwithstanding any other provisions of this Code section. The decision shall be in writing and signed by at least two members of the board of equalization; and, except for the number of members necessary to decide an appeal, the decision shall conform to the requirements of this Code section.

(4) (For effective date, see note.) The governing authorities of two or more counties may by intergovernmental agreement establish regional boards of equalization for such counties which shall operate in the same manner and be subject to all of the requirements of this Code section specified for county boards of equalization. The intergovernmental agreement shall specify the manner in which the members of the regional board shall be appointed by the grand jury of each of the counties and shall specify which clerk of the superior court shall have oversight over and supervision of such regional board. All hearings and appeals before a regional board shall be conducted in the county in which the property which is the subject of the hearing or appeal is located.

(b) Qualifications.

(1) Each person who is, in the judgment of the appointing grand jury, qualified and competent to serve as a grand juror, who is the owner of real property, and who is at least a high school graduate shall be qualified, competent, and compellable to serve as a member or alternate member of the county board of equalization. No member of the governing authority of a county, municipality, or consolidated government; member of a county or independent board of education; member of the county board of tax assessors; employee of the county board of tax assessors; or county tax appraiser shall be competent to serve as a member or alternate member of the county board of equalization.
(2) (For effective date, see note.) (A) Within the first year after a member's initial appointment to the board of equalization on or after January 1, 1981, each member shall satisfactorily complete not less than 40 hours of instruction in appraisal and equalization processes and procedures, as prepared and required by the commissioner pursuant to Code Section 48-5-13. The failure of any member to fulfill the requirements of this subparagraph shall render that member ineligible to serve on the board; and the vacancy created thereby shall be filled in the same manner as other vacancies on the board are filled.

(B) No person shall be eligible to hear an appeal as a member of a board of equalization on or after January 1, 2011, unless prior to hearing such appeal, that person shall satisfactorily complete the 40 hours of instruction in appraisal and equalization processes and procedures required under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph. Any person appointed to such board shall be required to complete annually a continuing education requirement of at least eight hours of instruction in appraisal and equalization procedures, as prepared and required by the commissioner pursuant to Code Section 48-5-13. The failure of any member to fulfill the requirements of this subparagraph shall render that member ineligible to serve on the board; and the vacancy created thereby shall be filled in the same manner as other vacancies on the board are filled.

(c) Appointment.

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, each member and alternate member of the county board of equalization shall be appointed for a term of three calendar years next succeeding the date of such member or such alternate member's selection. Each term shall begin on January 1.

(2) The grand jury in each county at any term of court preceding November 1 of 1991 shall select three persons who are otherwise qualified to serve as members of the county board of equalization and shall also select three persons who are otherwise qualified to serve as alternate members of the county board of equalization. The three individuals selected as alternates shall be designated as alternate one, alternate two, and alternate three, with the most recent appointee being alternate number three, the next most recent appointee being alternate number two, and the most senior appointee being alternate number one. One member and one alternate shall be appointed for terms of one year, one member and one alternate shall be appointed for two years, and one member and one alternate shall be appointed for three years. Each year thereafter, the grand jury of each county shall select one member and one alternate for three-year terms.

(3) If a vacancy occurs on the county board of equalization, the individual designated as alternate one shall then serve as a member of the board of equalization for the unexpired term. If a vacancy occurs among the alternate members, the grand jury then in session or the next grand jury shall select an individual who is otherwise qualified to serve as an alternate member of the county board of equalization for the unexpired term. The individual so selected shall become alternate member three, and the other two alternates shall be redesignated appropriately.

(4) Within five days after the names of the members and alternate members of the county board or boards of equalization have been selected, the clerk of the superior court shall issue and deliver to the sheriff or deputy sheriff a precept containing the names of the persons so selected. Within ten days of receiving the precept, the sheriff or deputy sheriff shall cause the persons whose names are written on the precept to be served personally or by leaving the summons at their place of residence. The summons shall direct the persons named on the summons to appear before the clerk of the superior court on a date specified in the summons, which date shall not be later than December 15.

(5) (For effective date, see note.) Each member and alternate member of the county board of equalization, on the date prescribed for appearance before the clerk of the superior court and before entering on the discharge of such member and alternate member's duties, shall take and execute in writing before the clerk of the superior court the following oath:
"I, , agree to serve as a member of the board of equalization of the County of and will decide any issue put before me without favor or affection to any party and without prejudice for or against any party. I will follow and apply the laws of this state. I also agree not to discuss any case or any issue with any person other than members of the board of equalization except at any appeal hearing. I shall faithfully and impartially discharge my duties in accordance with the Constitution and laws of this state, to the best of my skill and knowledge. So help me God.



Signature of member or alternate member"

In addition to the oath of office prescribed in this paragraph, the chief judge of the superior court or his or her designee shall charge each member and alternate member of the county board of equalization with the law and duties relating to such office.

(d) Duties and powers.

(1) The county board of equalization shall hear and determine appeals from assessments and denials of homestead exemptions as provided in subsection (e) of this Code section.

(2) (For effective date, see note.) If in the course of determining an appeal the county board of equalization finds reason to believe that the property involved in an appeal or the class of property in which is included the property involved in an appeal is not uniformly assessed with other property included in the digest, the board shall request the respective parties to the appeal to present relevant information with respect to that question. If the board determines that uniformity is not present, the board may order the county board of tax assessors to take such action as is necessary to obtain uniformity, except that, when a question of county-wide uniformity is considered by the board, the board may recommend a partial or total county-wide revaluation only upon a determination by a majority of all the members of the board that the clear and convincing weight of the evidence requires such action. The board of equalization may act pursuant to this paragraph whether or not the appellant has raised the issue of uniformity.

(3) (For effective date, see note.) The board shall establish procedures which comply strictly with the regulations promulgated by the commissioner pursuant to subparagraph (e)(5)(B) of this Code section for the conducting of appeals before the board. The procedures shall be entered into the minutes of the board and a copy of the procedures shall be made available to any individual upon request.
(4) (For effective date, see note.) (A) The clerk of the superior court shall have oversight over and supervision of all boards of equalization of the county and hearing officers. This oversight and supervision shall include, but not be limited to, requiring appointment of members of county boards of equalization by the grand jury; giving the notice of the appointment of members and alternates of the county board of equalization by the county grand jury as required by Code Section 15-12-81; collecting the names of possible appointees; collecting information from possible appointees as to their qualifications; presenting the names of the possible appointees to the county grand jury; processing the appointments as required by paragraph (4) of subsection (c) of this Code section, including administering the oath of office to the newly appointed members and alternates of the county board of equalization as required by paragraph (5) of such subsection; instructing the newly appointed members and alternates as to the training they must receive and the operations of the county board of equalization; presenting to the grand jury of the county the names of possible appointees to fill vacancies as provided in paragraph (3) of such subsection; maintaining a roster of board members and alternates, maintaining a record showing that the board members and alternates completed training, keeping attendance records of board members and alternates for the purpose of payment for service, and keeping a record of the appointment dates of board members and alternates and their terms in office; and informing the county board of equalization that it must establish by regulation procedures for conducting appeals before the board as required by paragraph (3) of subsection (d) of this Code section. Oversight and supervision shall also include the scheduling of board hearings, hearings before hearing officers, and giving notice of the date, time, and place of hearings to the taxpayers and the county board of tax assessors and giving notice of the decisions of the county board of equalization or hearing officer to the taxpayer and county board of tax assessors as required by division (e)(6)(D)(i) of this Code section.

(B) The county governing authority shall provide any resources to the clerk of superior court that are required to be provided by paragraph (7) of subsection (e) of this Code section.

(C) The county governing authority shall provide to the clerk of superior court facilities and secretarial and clerical help for appeals pursuant to subsection (e.1) of this Code section.

(D) The clerk of superior court shall maintain any county records from the hearings before the board of equalization and before hearing officers until the deadline to file any appeal to the superior court expires. If an appeal is not filed to the superior court, the clerk of superior court is authorized to properly destroy any records from the hearings before the county board of equalization or hearing officers. If an appeal to the superior court is filed, the clerk of superior court shall file such records in the civil action that is considered open by the clerk of superior court for such appeal and such records shall become part of the record on appeal in accordance with paragraph (2) of subsection (g) of this Code section.

(e) (For effective date, see note.) Appeal.

(1) (A) Any taxpayer or property owner as of the last date for filing an appeal may elect to file an appeal from an assessment by the county board of tax assessors to either:

(i) The county board of equalization as to matters of taxability, uniformity of assessment, and value, and, for residents, as to denials of homestead exemptions pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection;

(ii) An arbitrator as to matters of value pursuant to subsection (f) of this Code section; or

(iii) A hearing officer as to matters of value and uniformity for a parcel of nonhomestead real property with a fair market value in excess of $1 million pursuant to subsection (e.1) of this Code section.

The commissioner shall establish by rule and regulation a uniform appeal form that the taxpayer may use.

(B) In addition to the grounds enumerated in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, any taxpayer having property that is located within a municipality, the boundaries of which municipality extend into more than one county, may also appeal from an assessment on such property by the county board of tax assessors to the county board of equalization or to a hearing officer as to matters of uniformity of assessment of such property with other properties located within such municipality, and any uniformity adjustments to the assessment that may result from such appeal shall only apply for municipal ad valorem tax purposes.

(C) Appeals to the county board of equalization shall be conducted in the manner provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection. Appeals to a hearing officer shall be conducted in the manner specified in subsection (e.1) of this Code section. Appeals to an arbitrator shall be conducted in the manner specified in subsection (f) of this Code section. Such appeal proceedings shall be conducted between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. on a business day. Following the notification of the taxpayer of the date and time of such taxpayer's scheduled hearing, the taxpayer shall be authorized to exercise a one-time option of changing the date and time of the taxpayer's scheduled hearing to a day and time acceptable to the taxpayer. The clerk of the superior court shall grant additional extensions to the taxpayer or the county board of tax assessors for good cause shown.

(D) The commissioner, by regulation, shall adopt uniform procedures and standards which shall be followed by county boards of equalization, hearing officers, and arbitrators in determining appeals. Such rules shall be updated and revised periodically and reviewed no less frequently than every five years.

(2) (A) An appeal shall be effected by e-mailing, if the county board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, or by mailing to or filing with the county board of tax assessors a notice of appeal within 45 days from the date of mailing the notice pursuant to Code Section 48-5-306. A written objection to an assessment of real property received by a county board of tax assessors stating the location of the real property and the identification number, if any, contained in the tax notice shall be deemed a notice of appeal by the taxpayer under the grounds listed in paragraph (1) of this subsection. A written objection to an assessment of personal property received by a county board of tax assessors giving the account number, if any, contained in the tax notice and stating that the objection is to an assessment of personal property shall be deemed a notice of appeal by the taxpayer under the grounds listed in paragraph (1) of this subsection. The county board of tax assessors shall review the valuation or denial in question and, if any changes or corrections are made in the valuation or decision in question, the board shall send a notice of the changes or corrections to the taxpayer pursuant to Code Section 48-5-306. Such notice shall also explain the taxpayer's right to appeal to the county board of equalization as provided in subparagraph (C) of this paragraph if the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the changes or corrections made by the county board of tax assessors.

(B) If no changes or corrections are made in the valuation or decision, the county board of tax assessors shall send written notice thereof to the taxpayer and to the county board of equalization which notice shall also constitute the taxpayer's appeal to the county board of equalization without the necessity of the taxpayer's filing any additional notice of appeal to the county board of tax assessors or to the county board of equalization. The county board of tax assessors shall also send or deliver all necessary papers to the county board of equalization. If, however, the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors execute a signed agreement as to valuation, the appeal shall terminate as of the date of such signed agreement.

(C) If changes or corrections are made by the county board of tax assessors, the board shall notify the taxpayer in writing of such changes. If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with such changes or corrections, the taxpayer shall, within 30 days of the date of mailing of the change notice, institute an appeal to the county board of tax assessors by e-mailing, if the county board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, or by mailing to or filing with the county board of tax assessors a written notice of appeal. The county board of tax assessors shall send or deliver the notice of appeal and all necessary papers to the county board of equalization.

(D) The written notice to the taxpayer required by this paragraph shall contain a statement of the grounds for rejection of any position the taxpayer has asserted with regard to the valuation of the property. No addition to or amendment of such grounds as to such position shall be permitted before the county board of equalization.

(3) In any year in which no county-wide revaluation is implemented, the county board of tax assessors shall make its determination and notify the taxpayer within 180 days after receipt of the taxpayer's notice of appeal. If the county board of tax assessors fails to respond to the taxpayer within such 180 day period during such year, the appeal shall be automatically referred to the county board of equalization.

(4) The determination by the county board of tax assessors of questions of factual characteristics of the property under appeal, as opposed to questions of value, shall be prima-facie correct in any appeal to the county board of equalization. However, the board of tax assessors shall have the burden of proving its opinions of value and the validity of its proposed assessment by a preponderance of evidence.

(5) The county board of equalization shall determine all questions presented to it on the basis of the best information available to the board.

(6) (A) Within 15 days of the receipt of the notice of appeal, the county board of equalization shall set a date for a hearing on the questions presented and shall so notify the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors in writing. A taxpayer may appear before the board concerning any appeal in person, by his or her authorized agent or representative, or both. The taxpayer shall specify in writing to the board the name of any such agent or representative prior to any appearance by the agent or representative before the board.

(B) Within 30 days of the date of notification to the taxpayer of the hearing required in this paragraph but not earlier than 20 days from the date of such notification to the taxpayer, the county board of equalization shall hold such hearing to determine the questions presented.

(C) If more than one contiguous property of a taxpayer is under appeal, the board of equalization shall, upon request of the taxpayer, consolidate all such appeals in one hearing and render separate decisions as to each parcel or item of property. Any appeal from such a consolidated board of equalization hearing to the superior court as provided in this subsection shall constitute a single civil action, and, unless the taxpayer specifically so indicates in his or her notice of appeal, shall apply to all such parcels or items of property.

(D) (i) The board of equalization shall render its decision at the conclusion of the hearing under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph. The decision of the county board of equalization shall be in writing, shall be signed by each member of the board, shall specifically decide each question presented by the appeal, shall specify the reason or reasons for each such decision as to the specific issues of taxability, uniformity of assessment, value, or denial of homestead exemptions depending upon the specific issue or issues raised by the taxpayer in the course of such taxpayer's appeal, shall state that with respect to the appeal no member of the board is disqualified from acting by virtue of subsection (j) of this Code section, and shall certify the date on which notice of the decision is given to the parties. Notice of the decision shall be given to each party by sending a copy of the decision by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to the appellant and by filing the original copy of the decision with the county board of tax assessors. Each of the three members of the county board of equalization must be present and must participate in the deliberations on any appeal. A majority vote shall be required in any matter. All three members of the board must sign the decision indicating their vote.

(ii) Except as otherwise provided in subparagraph (g)(4)(B) of this Code section, the county board of tax assessors shall use the valuation of the county board of equalization in compiling the tax digest for the county for the year in question and shall indicate such valuation as the previous year's value on the property tax notice of assessment of such taxpayer for the immediately following year rather than substituting the valuation which was changed by the county board of equalization.

(iii) (I) If the county's tax bills are issued before the county board of equalization has rendered its decision on property which is on appeal, the county board of tax assessors shall specify to the county tax commissioner the higher of the taxpayer's return valuation or 85 percent of the current year's valuation as set by the county board of tax assessors. This amount shall be the basis for a temporary tax bill to be issued. Such tax bill shall be accompanied by a notice to the taxpayer that the bill is a temporary tax bill pending the outcome of the appeal process. Such notice shall also indicate that upon resolution of the appeal, there may be additional taxes due or a refund issued.

(II) If the final determination of the value on appeal is less than the valuation thus used, the taxpayer shall receive a deduction in such taxpayer's taxes for the year in question. Such deduction shall be refunded to the taxpayer and shall include interest on the amount of such deduction at the same rate as specified in Code Section 48-2-35 which shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the date the final installment of the tax was due or was paid, whichever is later. In no event shall the amount of such interest exceed $150.00.

(III) If the final determination of value on appeal is greater than the valuation thus used, the taxpayer shall be liable for the increase in taxes for the year in question due to the increased valuation fixed on appeal with interest at the rate as specified in Code Section 48-2-35. Such interest shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the date the final installment of the tax was due to the date the additional taxes are remitted, but in no event shall the amount of such interest exceed $150.00.

(7) The clerk of the superior court shall furnish the county board of equalization necessary facilities and secretarial and clerical help. The clerk of the superior court shall see that the records and information of the county board of tax assessors are transmitted to the county board of equalization. The county board of equalization must consider in the performance of its duties the information furnished by the county board of tax assessors and the taxpayer.

(8) The taxpayer or his or her agent or representative may submit in support of his or her appeal the most current report of the sales ratio study for the county conducted pursuant to Code Section 48-5-274. The board must consider the study upon any such request.

(9) If at any time during the appeal process to the county board of equalization and after certification by the county board of tax assessors to the county board of equalization, the county board of tax assessors and the taxpayer mutually agree in writing on the fair market value, then the county board of tax assessors, or the county board of equalization, as the case may be, shall enter the agreed amount in all appropriate records as the fair market value of the property under appeal, and the appeal shall be concluded. The provisions in subsection (c) of Code Section 48-5-299 shall apply to the valuation unless otherwise waived by both parties.
(e.1) (For effective date, see note.) (1) For any dispute involving the value or uniformity of a parcel of nonhomestead real property with a fair market value in excess of $1 million, at the option of the taxpayer an appeal may be submitted to a hearing officer in accordance with this subsection.

(2) Individuals desiring to serve as hearing officers and who are either state certified general real property appraisers or state certified residential real property appraisers as classified by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board shall complete and submit an application, a list of counties the hearing officer is willing to serve, disqualification questionnaire, and resume and be approved by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board to serve as a hearing officer. Such board shall annually publish a list of qualified and approved hearing officers for Georgia.

(3) The clerk of the superior court shall furnish any hearing officer so selected the necessary facilities.

(4) An appeal shall be effected by e-mailing, if the county board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, or by filing with the county board of tax assessors a notice of appeal to a hearing officer within 45 days from the date of mailing the notice of assessment pursuant to Code Section 48-5-306. A written objection to an assessment of real property received by a county board of tax assessors stating the taxpayer's election to appeal to a hearing officer and showing the location of the real property contained in the assessment notice shall be deemed a notice of appeal by the taxpayer.

(5) The county board of tax assessors may for no more than 90 days review the taxpayer's written appeal, and if changes or corrections are made by the county board of tax assessors, the board shall notify the taxpayer in writing of such changes. If within 30 days of the mailing of such notice the taxpayer notifies the county board of tax assessors in writing that such changes or corrections are not acceptable, the county board of tax assessors shall, within 30 days of the date of mailing of such taxpayer's notification, send or deliver the notice of appeal and all necessary papers to the clerk of the superior court.

(6) The clerk of superior court shall randomly select from such list a hearing officer who shall have experience or expertise in hearing or appraising the type of property that is the subject of appeal to hear the appeal, unless the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors mutually agree upon a hearing officer from such list.

(7) The hearing officer shall swear in all witnesses, perform the powers, duties, and authority of a county or regional board of equalization, and determine the fair market value of the real property based upon the testimony and evidence presented during the hearing. Any issues other than fair market value and uniformity raised in the appeal shall be preserved for appeal to the superior court. The board of tax assessors shall have the burden of proving its opinion of value and the validity of its proposed assessment by a preponderance of evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer shall notify both parties of the decision verbally and shall send the taxpayer the decision in writing.

(8) The taxpayer or the board of tax assessors may appeal the decision of the hearing officer to the superior court as provided in subsection (g) of this Code section.

(9) If, at any time during the appeal under this subsection, the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors execute a signed written agreement on the fair market value and any other issues raised, the appeal shall terminate as of the date of such signed agreement and the fair market value as set forth in such agreement shall become final and subsection (c) of Code Section 48-5-299 shall apply. The provisions contained in this paragraph may be waived at any time by written consent of the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors.

(10) Each hearing officer shall be compensated by the county for time expended in considering appeals. The compensation shall be paid at a rate of not less than $25.00 per hour as determined by the county governing authority. Compensation pursuant to this paragraph shall be paid from the county treasury upon certification by the hearing officer of the hours expended in hearing of appeals. The attendance at any training required by the commissioner shall be part of the qualifications of the hearing officer, and any nominal cost of such training shall be paid by the hearing officer. If the clerk of the superior court, after diligent search, cannot find a qualified hearing officer who is willing to serve, the clerk of the superior court shall notify the county board of tax assessors in writing. The county board of tax assessors shall then certify the appeal to the county or regional board of equalization.

(11) The commissioner shall promulgate rules and regulations for the proper administration of this subsection, including but not limited to a uniform appeal form; qualifications; training, including an eight-hour course on Georgia property law, Georgia evidence law, preponderance of evidence, burden of proof, credibility of the witnesses, and weight of evidence; disqualification questionnaire; selection; removal; and any other matters necessary to the proper administration of this subsection. The commissioner shall seek input from all interested parties prior to such promulgation.

(f) Arbitration.

(1) As used in this subsection, the term "certified appraisal" means an appraisal or appraisal report given, signed, and certified as such by a real property appraiser as classified by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board.

(2) At the option of the taxpayer an appeal shall be submitted to arbitration in accordance with this subsection.

(3) (A) Following an election by the taxpayer to use the arbitration provisions of this subsection, an arbitration appeal shall be effected by the taxpayer by e-mailing, if the county board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, or by filing a written notice of arbitration appeal with the county board of tax assessors. The notice of arbitration appeal shall specifically state the grounds for arbitration. The notice shall be filed within 45 days from the date of mailing the notice pursuant to Code Section 48-5-306. Within ten days of receipt of a taxpayer's notice of arbitration appeal, the board of tax assessors shall send to the taxpayer an acknowledgment of receipt of the appeal; a notice that the taxpayer must, within 45 days of the filing of the notice, provide to the board of assessors for consideration a copy of a certified appraisal; and a confirmation of the amount of the filing fees, if any, required under Code Section 15-6-77 and notice that within 45 days the taxpayer shall pay to the clerk of the superior court the fees. Failure of the taxpayer to provide such certified appraisal and filing fees within such 45 days shall terminate the appeal unless the taxpayer within such 45 day period elects to have the appeal forwarded to the board of equalization. Prior to appointment of the arbitrator and within 45 days of filing the notice of appeal, the taxpayer shall provide a copy of the certified appraisal as specified in this paragraph to the board of assessors for consideration. Within 45 days of receiving the taxpayer's certified appraisal, the board of assessors shall either accept the taxpayer's appraisal, in which case that value shall become final or the county board of tax assessors shall reject the taxpayer's appraisal, in which case the county board of tax assessors shall certify within 45 days the appeal to the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the property is located along with any other papers specified by the person seeking arbitration under this subsection, including, but not limited to, the staff information from the file used by the county board of tax assessors. In the event that the county board of tax assessors neither accepts nor rejects the value set out in the certified appraisal within such 45 day period, then the certified appraisal shall become the final value. In any case where a taxpayer properly filed for the 2009 tax year a notice of binding arbitration appeal and provided the required certified appraisal in accordance with this paragraph and the board of assessors neither accepted nor rejected the value set out in such certified appraisal within the 30 day period formerly specified under this subparagraph, then for purposes of the 2009 tax year, the value set forth in the taxpayer's certified appraisal shall be deemed the final value. All papers and information certified to the clerk shall become a part of the record on arbitration. At the time of certification of the appeal, the county board of tax assessors shall serve the taxpayer and the taxpayer's attorney of record, if any, or employee with a copy of the certification along with any other papers specified by the person seeking arbitration along with the civil action file number assigned to the appeal. Within 15 days of filing the certification to the clerk of the superior court, the chief judge of the superior court of the circuit in which the property is located shall issue an order authorizing the arbitration.

(B) The arbitration shall be conducted pursuant to the following procedure:

(i) If the parties agree, the matter shall be submitted to a single arbitrator chosen by the parties. If the parties cannot agree on the single arbitrator, the arbitrator shall be chosen by the chief judge of the superior court of the circuit in which the property is located;

(ii) In order to be qualified to serve as an arbitrator, a person shall be classified as a state certified general real property appraiser or state certified residential real property appraiser pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board and shall have experience or expertise in appraising the type of property that is the subject of the arbitration;

(iii) The arbitrator, within 30 days after his or her appointment, shall set a time and place to hear evidence and testimony from both parties. The arbitrator shall provide written notice to the parties personally or by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery not less than ten days before the hearing. The arbitrator may adjourn or postpone the hearing. The chief judge of the superior court of the circuit in which the property is located may direct the arbitrator to proceed promptly with the hearing and the determination of the appeal upon application of any party;

(iv) At the hearing, the parties shall be entitled to be heard, to present documents, testimony, and other matters, and to cross-examine witnesses. The arbitrator may hear and determine the controversy upon the documents, testimony, and other matters produced notwithstanding the failure of a party duly notified to appear;

(v) The arbitrator shall maintain a record of all pleadings, documents, testimony, and other matters introduced at the hearing. The arbitrator or any party to the proceeding may have the proceedings transcribed by a court reporter;

(vi) The provisions of this paragraph may be waived at any time by written consent of the taxpayer and the board of tax assessors;

(vii) At the conclusion of the hearing, the arbitrator shall render a decision regarding the value of the property subject to arbitration;

(viii) In order to determine the value, the arbitrator shall consider a single value for the property submitted by the board of assessors and a single value submitted by the taxpayer. The taxpayer shall be responsible for the cost of any appraisal by the taxpayer's appraiser;

(ix) Upon consideration of the single value submitted by the board of assessors and the single value submitted by the taxpayer, and evidence supporting the values submitted by the board of assessors and the taxpayer, the arbitrator shall determine which value is the value for the property under appeal;

(x) If the taxpayer's value is determined by the arbitrator to be the value, the county shall be responsible for the clerk of the superior court's fees, if any, and the fees and costs of such arbitrator. If the board of tax assessors' value is determined by the arbitrator to be the value, the taxpayer shall be responsible for the clerk of the superior court's fees, if any, and the fees and costs of such arbitrator; and

(xi) The board of tax assessors shall have the burden of proving its opinion of value and the validity of its proposed assessment by a preponderance of evidence.

(4) The provisions in subsection (c) of Code Section 48-5-299 shall apply to the valuation established or rendered by any county board of equalization, arbitrator, hearing officer, or superior court.

(5) If the county's tax bills are issued before an arbitrator has rendered its decision on property which is on appeal, the county board of tax assessors shall specify to the county tax commissioner the higher of the taxpayer's return valuation or 85 percent of the current year's valuation as set by the county board of tax assessors. This amount shall be the basis for a temporary tax bill to be issued. Such tax bill shall be accompanied by a notice to the taxpayer that the bill is a temporary tax bill pending the outcome of the appeal process. Such notice shall also indicate that upon resolution of the appeal, there may be additional taxes due or a refund issued.

(g) (For effective date, see note.) Appeals to the superior court.

(1) The taxpayer or the county board of tax assessors may appeal decisions of the county board of equalization or hearing officer, as applicable, to the superior court of the county in which the property lies. By mutual written agreement, the taxpayer and the county board of tax assessors may waive an appeal to the county board of equalization and initiate an appeal under this subsection. A county board of tax assessors shall not appeal a decision of the county board of equalization or hearing officer, as applicable, changing an assessment by 20 percent or less unless the board of tax assessors gives the county governing authority a written notice of its intention to appeal, and, within ten days of receipt of the notice, the county governing authority by majority vote does not prohibit the appeal. In the case of a joint city-county board of tax assessors, such notice shall be given to the city and county governing authorities, either of which may prohibit the appeal by majority vote within the allowed period of time.

(2) An appeal by the taxpayer as provided in paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be effected by e-mailing, if the county board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, or by mailing to or filing with the county board of tax assessors a written notice of appeal. An appeal by the county board of tax assessors shall be effected by giving notice to the taxpayer. The notice to the taxpayer shall be dated and shall contain the name and the last known address of the taxpayer. The notice of appeal shall specifically state the grounds for appeal. The notice shall be mailed or filed within 30 days from the date on which the decision of the county board of equalization or hearing officer is mailed pursuant to subparagraph (e)(6)(D) or paragraph (6) of subsection (e.1) of this Code section. The county board of tax assessors shall certify to the clerk of the superior court the notice of appeal and any other papers specified by the person appealing including, but not limited to, the staff information from the file used by the county board of tax assessors, the county board of equalization, or the hearing officer. All papers and information certified to the clerk shall become a part of the record on appeal to the superior court. At the time of certification of the appeal, the county board of tax assessors shall serve the taxpayer and his or her attorney of record, if any, with a copy of the notice of appeal and with the civil action file number assigned to the appeal. Such service shall be effected in accordance with subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-5. No discovery, motions, or other pleadings may be filed by the county board of tax assessors in the appeal until such service has been made.

(3) The appeal shall constitute a de novo action. The board of tax assessors shall have the burden of proving its opinions of value and the validity of its proposed assessment by a preponderance of evidence. Upon a failure of the board of tax assessors to meet such burden of proof, the court may, upon motion or sua sponte, authorize the finding that the value asserted by the taxpayer is unreasonable and authorize the determination of the final value of the property.

(4) (A) The appeal shall be placed on the court's next available jury or bench trial calendar, at the taxpayer's election, following the filing of the appeal unless continued by the court upon a showing of good cause. If only questions of law are presented in the appeal, the appeal shall be heard as soon as practicable before the court sitting without a jury. Each hearing before the court sitting without a jury shall be held within 30 days following the date on which the appeal is filed with the clerk of the superior court. The time of any hearing shall be set in consultation with the taxpayer and at a time acceptable to the taxpayer between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. on a business day.

(B) (i) The county board of tax assessors shall use the valuation of the county board of equalization or the hearing officer, as applicable, in compiling the tax digest for the county. If the final determination of value on appeal is less than the valuation set by the county board of equalization or hearing officer, as applicable, the taxpayer shall receive a deduction in such taxpayer's taxes for the year in question. Such deduction shall be refunded to the taxpayer and shall include interest on the amount of such deduction at the same rate as specified in Code Section 48-2-35 which shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the date the final installment of the tax was due or was paid, whichever is later. In no event shall the amount of such interest exceed $150.00.

(ii) If the final determination of value on appeal is 80 percent or less of the valuation set by the county board of equalization or hearing officer as to commercial property, or 85 percent or less of the valuation set by the county board of tax assessors as to other property, the taxpayer, in addition to the interest provided for by this paragraph, shall recover costs of litigation and reasonable attorney's fees incurred in the action.

(iii) If the final determination of value on appeal is greater than the valuation set by the county board of equalization or hearing officer, as applicable, the taxpayer shall be liable for the increase in taxes for the year in question due to the increased valuation fixed on appeal with interest at the same rate as specified in Code Section 48-2-35. Such interest shall accrue from November 15 of the taxable year in question or the date the final installment of tax was due to the date the additional taxes are remitted, but in no event shall the amount of such interest exceed $150.00.

(h) (For effective date, see note.) Recording of interviews. In the course of any assessment, appeal, or arbitration, or any related proceeding, the taxpayer shall be entitled to make recordings of any interview with any officer or employee of the taxing authority relating to the valuation of the taxpayer's property subject to such assessment, appeal, arbitration, or related proceeding, at the taxpayer's expense and with equipment provided by the taxpayer, and no such officer or employee may refuse to participate in an interview relating to such valuation for reason of the taxpayer's choice to record such interview.

(i) Alternate members. Alternate members of the county board of equalization in the order in which selected shall serve:

(1) As members of the county board of equalization in the event there is a permanent vacancy on the board created by the death, ineligibility, removal from the county, or incapacitating illness of a member or by any other circumstances. An alternate member who fills a permanent vacancy shall be considered a member of the board for the remainder of the unexpired term;

(2) In any appeal with respect to which a member of the board is disqualified and shall be considered a member of the board; or

(3) In any appeal at a regularly scheduled or called meeting in the absence of a member and shall be considered a member of the board.

(j) (For effective date, see note.) Disqualification.

(1) No member of the county board of equalization and no hearing officer shall serve with respect to any appeal concerning which he or she would be subject to a challenge for cause if he or she were a member of a panel of jurors in a civil case involving the same subject matter.

(2) The parties to an appeal to the county board of equalization or to a hearing officer shall file in writing with the appeal, in the case of the person appealing, or, in the case of the county board of tax assessors, with the certificate transmitting the appeal, questions relating to the disqualification of members of the county board of equalization or hearing officer. Each question shall be phrased so that it can be answered by an affirmative or negative response. The members of the county board of equalization or hearing officer shall, in writing under oath within two days of their receipt of the appeal, answer the questions and any question which may be adopted pursuant to subparagraph (e)(1)(D) of this Code section. Answers of the county board of equalization or hearing officers shall be part of the decision of the board or hearing officer and shall be served on each party by first-class mail. Determination of disqualification shall be made by the judge of the superior court upon the request of any party when the request is made within two days of the response of the board or hearing officer to the questions. The time prescribed under subparagraph (e)(6)(A) of this Code section shall be tolled pending the determination by the judge of the superior court.

(k) Compensation. Each member of the county board of equalization shall be compensated by the county per diem for time expended in considering appeals. The compensation shall be paid at a rate of not less than $25.00 per day and shall be determined by the county governing authority. The attendance at required approved appraisal courses shall be part of the official duties of a member of the board, and he or she shall be paid for each day in attendance at such courses and shall be allowed reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in connection with such courses. Compensation pursuant to this subsection shall be paid from the county treasury upon certification by the member of the days expended in consideration of appeals.

(l) (For effective date, see note.) Military service. In the event of the absence of an individual from such individual's residence because of duty in the armed forces, the filing requirements set forth in paragraph (3) of subsection (f) of this Code section shall be tolled for a period of 90 days. During this period any member of the immediate family of the individual, or a friend of the individual, may notify the tax receiver or the tax commissioner of the individual's absence due to military service and submit written notice of representation for the limited purpose of the appeal. Upon receipt of this notice, the tax receiver or the tax commissioner shall initiate the appeal.

(m) (For effective date, see note.) Refunds. In the event a refund is owed to the taxpayer, such refund shall be paid to the taxpayer within 60 days of the last date upon which an appeal may be filed, or the date the final determination of value is established on appeal, whichever is later. Any refund paid after the sixtieth day shall accrue interest from the sixtieth day until paid with interest at the same rate as specified in Code Section 48-2-35.

(n) (For effective date, see note.) Service of notice. A notice of appeal to a board of tax assessors under subsection (e), (e.1), (f), or (g) of this Code section shall be deemed filed as of the date of the United States Postal Service postmark, receipt of delivery by statutory overnight delivery, or, if the board of tax assessors has adopted a written policy consenting to electronic service, by transmitting a copy to the board of tax assessors via e-mail in portable document format using all e-mail addresses provided by the board of tax assessors and showing in the subject line of the e-mail message the words "STATUTORY ELECTRONIC SERVICE" in capital letters. Service by mail, statutory overnight delivery, or electronic transmittal is complete upon such service. Proof of service may be made within 45 days of receipt of the notice of current assessment to the taxpayer by certificate of the taxpayer, the taxpayer's attorney, or the taxpayer's employee by written admission or by affidavit. Failure to make proof of service shall not affect the validity of service.

(o) (For effective date, see note.) When a taxpayer authorizes an attorney in writing to act on the taxpayer's behalf, all notices required to be provided to the taxpayer regarding hearing times, dates, certifications, or official actions shall instead be provided to such attorney.

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