Overview

The Tax Commissioner is responsible for the billing and collection of ad valorem taxes. These taxes include real property, personal property, motor vehicle tax, mobile home tax, heavy equipment tax and timber 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 fair market value. 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 County Tax Commissioner, an office established by the Constitution and elected in all counties except one (Dougherty). The County Tax Commissioner is responsible for coordinating the submission of the County Digest to the State Revenue Commissioner; responsible for billing and collection of ad valorem taxes; serving as agent of the State Revenue Commissioner for the registration of motor vehicles; and the performing of all functions related to accounting for and disbursement of ad valorem taxes collected in this county.

  • The County Board of Tax Assessors, appointed for fixed terms by the county governing authority in all counties except one, is responsible for determining taxability and also for the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county.The Board of Tax Assessors notifies 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 exemptions claimed by the taxpayer.

  • The County Board of Equalization, appointed by the Grand Jury, is the body charged by law with hearing and adjudicating administrative appeals to property assessments made by the Board of Tax Assessors. (Note: An arbitration method of appeal is available to the taxpayer in lieu of an appeal to the Board of Equalization at the option of the taxpayer at the time the appeal is filed.

  • The Board of County Commissioners, or County Governing Authority (or the sole Commissioner in some counties), an elected body, establishes the annual budget for county government operations and then they levy the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.

  • The County Board of Education, an elected body, establishes the annual budget for school purposes and then they recommend their mill rate, which, with very few exceptions, must be levied for the school board by the county commissioners.

  • The State Revenue Commissioner exercises general oversight of the entire ad valorem tax process. In addition, the Revenue Commissioner approves the County Digest and grants permission to the County Tax Commissioner to bill and collect said taxes.

Tax Returns

Taxpayers are required to file at least an initial tax return for taxable property (both real and personal property) owned on January 1 of the tax year. In Sumter County, the time for filing returns in January 1 through April 1. These returns are filed with the Tax Assessor and forms are available at the office. The tax return is a listing of the property owned by the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s declaration of the value of their property.

Once the initial tax return is filed, the law provides for an automatic renewal of that return each succeeding year at the value finally determined for the preceding year and the taxpayer is required to file a new return only as additional property is acquired, improvements are made to existing property, or other changes occur. A new return, filed during the return period, may also be made by the taxpayer to declare a different value from the existing value where the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the current value placed on the property by the Board of Tax Assessors.This serves the purpose of establishing the taxpayer’s appeal rights if the declared value is changed by the Board of Tax Assessors.

Homestead Exemption

Several types of 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. (Some exceptions to this rule apply and your Tax Assessor can explain them to you.)

To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. In Sumter County the application is filed with the Board of Tax Assessors. Georgia law allows for the year-round filing of homestead applications but the application must be received by April 1 of the year for which the exemption is first claimed by the taxpayer. Homestead applications received after that date will be applied to the next tax year.

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.

With respect to all exemptions, the Board of Tax Assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility. If the application is denied, the taxpayer must be notified and an appeal procedure then is available for the taxpayer.

For information related to all available exemptions, click here for the Sumter County Property Tax brochure or contact the Tax Assessor’s Office at (229) 928-4514.

Assessment Appeals

The Board of Tax Assessors is required to issue a notice of assessment for taxable tangible real and personal property. Upon receipt of this notice, the property owner desiring to appeal the assessment may do so within 45 days. The appeal may be based on taxability, value, uniformity, and/or the denial of an exemption. The written appeal is filed initially with the Board of Tax Assessors. The State of Georgia provides a uniform appeal form for use by property owners. In that initial written dispute, the property owner must declare their chosen method of appeal.
The three methods of appeal include:

Appeal to the Board of Equalization
The appeal is filed by the property owner and reviewed by the Board of Tax Assessors. The Board of Tax Assessors may change the assessment and send a new notice. The property owner may appeal the assessment in the amended notice within 30 days. The appeal of the amended notice or any initial appeal which is not amended by the Board of Tax Assessors, is automatically forwarded to the Board of Equalization. A hearing is scheduled and conducted and the Board of Equalization renders its decision. If the taxpayer is still dissatisfied, an appeal to Superior Court may be made.

Appeal to a Hearing Officer
The taxpayer may appeal to a Hearing Officer, who is a State certified general real property or State certified residential real property appraiser and is approved as a Hearing Officer by the Georgia Real Estate Commission and the Georgia Real Estate Appraiser Board, when the issue of the appeal is the value or uniformity of value of non-homestead real property, but only when the value is equal to or greater than $500,000. If the taxpayer is still dissatisfied with the decision of the Hearing Officer, an appeal to Superior Court may be made.

Appeal to an Arbitrator
An appeal is filed to Arbitration with the Board of Tax Assessors within 45 of the date of the notice. The Board of Tax Assessors must notify the taxpayer of the receipt of the arbitration appeal within 10 days. The taxpayer must submit a certified appraisal of the subject property, within 45 days of the date of transmittal of the knowledge of receipt of the appeal which the Board of Tax Assessors may accept or reject. If the taxpayer’s appraisal is rejected, the Board of Tax Assessors must certify the appeal to the Sumter County Clerk of Superior Court for arbitration. The arbitration is authorized by the presiding or Chief Judge of Superior Court and a hearing is scheduled within 30 days.

For Further Information

FOR QUESTIONS RELATED TO TAX BILLING, DELINQUENT TAXES, OR PAYMENT OPTIONS: Wilkie Smith
Sumter County Tax Commissioner
Sumter County Courthouse
500 West Lamar Street
Americus, GA 31709
229·928-4530

FOR QUESTIONS RELATED TO PROPERTY VALUATION, OWNERSHIP, EXEMPTIONS AND APPEALS: Monica Horne
Chief Appraiser
Sumter County Tax Assessor’s Office
Sumter County Courthouse
500 West Lamar Street
Americus, GA 31709
229-928-4513