Property Tax Basics

Straight forward example of the Appeal Process in Summary
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Property Taxes and the Millage Setting Process

How the Property Tax System Works

Property tax on real estate in the United States is usually levied by local government, at the municipal or county level. Revenue generated by property taxation always equals the tax levy, unlike income or sales taxes, which can result in shortfalls producing budget deficits.

Property assessment is comprised of two components: the improvement (or building) value, and the land (or site) value. Value is determined by a tax assessor who is tasked with the job of apportioning the tax levy. County tax assessors are elected officials in Georgia. The Assessor's office may have a staff of several or even scores of appraisers whose jobs requires them to provide property valuations to the Assessor. The Assessor's office will also have a small army of clerks, data workers, IT experts and others who lend support in their areas of expertise.

Tax assessors maintain inventory information about improvements to real estate. They also create and maintain tax maps with the aid of surveyors. On these maps, individual properties are shown and given unique parcel identifiers called Assessor's Parcel Numbers (APNs), Parcel IDs (PIDs), or some similar term. Tax maps are important tools in ensuring that no properties are missed during assessment, and that no properties are taxed more than once during the tax roll.

Property taxes are ad valorem (of value) taxes based on fair market property values of individual estates. After determining a fair market value, county tax assessors apply an established assessment rate to calculate the tax due. Fair market value can have tremendous variation over time on a given property due to rising or falling market conditions.

Some jurisdictions have both ad valorem and non-ad valorem property taxes (better known as special assessments). The latter come in the form of a fixed charge (regardless of the value of the underlying property) for items such as street lighting and storm sewer control.

Georgia, and indeed all states in the US, are currently undergoing the most significant falling market in 30 years. Tax Appeal Consultants helps owners take advantage of these significant drops in property values by appealing the assessment on the property. Property taxes have tremendous financial impact on property owners. Many legal mechanisms are in place to ensure that all properties are assessed fairly and at current market values. Disputed assessments are open to informal hearings, assessment office stipulation agreements, formal hearings, and ultimately, legal recourse through the courts.

While we all understand the need for property taxes to fund our schools, roads, and fire and police departments, we believe you should only pay your fair share.

Understanding Georgia Property Record Cards
Prepared by Fulton County Tax Assessor's Office

A residential property record card, commonly referred to as a “PRC,” contains over 100 fields of information. Many of the fields are for informational purposes only, such as the site address, while others drive value. This pamphlet is intended to assist a taxpayer in understanding the PRC and its contents. Each field is represented by a field number in parentheses, such as (010). Next to each field number is a short description and a number. The number generally represents some type of descriptive data. For example, field (515), titled BASEMENT, has a number next to the description that tells the appraisal system what type of basement the parcel has, or whether the parcel has a basement at all. In the case of basements, a code of 1 means no basement and is followed by the description none. The number 2 means that the parcel has a crawl space and no basement while the number 3 represents a part basement, and number 4 represents a full basement.

The following is a list of the primary field numbers and descriptions:

This field lists the identification number for the parcel. It is the reference number used by the assessor’s office to identify the parcel. It typically describes part of the legal description by district, land lot, and square.

(050) TAX CODE
This field describes the classification of a parcel. R stands for residential. The R will be followed by a number such as 1 (e.g. R1). This field is for descriptive purposes by the Georgia Department of Revenue for tax digest review and parcel stratification only but does not drive value. R1 = Residential property with an improvement, such as a house R3 = Vacant residential lot, typically less than 5 acres R4 = Residential lot greater than 5 acres but less than 25 acres R5 = Residential lot greater than 25 acres

(070) ZONING
This field lists the current zoning of the property.

This field lists the situs address of the parcel. It does not list any alternate mailing address for tax notices or bills. Vacant lots do not carry a street number, only a 0 and the name of the street.

(101) NBHD
This field lists the Neighborhood number of the property. The assessor’s office groups similar properties together for comparison purposes, allowing a similar group of properties to be appraised in a similar manner. This allows the assessors to analyze real estate sales in local and regional market segments. This produces more accurate, reliable, and uniform appraisals in a given market area.

(102) LAND USE
This field is similar to field (050), TAX CODE, in that it is a descriptive field and does not drive value. For example, a code of 101 would describe a property with an improvement (e.g. house, shed, barn), while a code of 100 would describe a vacant residential lot
100 – Vacant lot, residential
101 – Residential parcel with an improvement
102 – Duplex103 – Triplex
106 – Condo
107 – Townhouse
110 – Loft
199 – Incomplete improvement as of January 1st

(103) LVG UNIT
Describes the number of living units on parcel, For example a duplex would have a code of 002, representing two living units on the parcel.

(104) CLASS
This field is for descriptive purposes only. It is used by the Georgia Department of Revenue for tax digest review and parcel stratification only but does not drive value. For example, R means residential while C means commercial.

This field lists the sales activity of the parcel. This field lists the month, year, and sale amount of the parcel. This field is limited to three sales and is for informational purposes.

(311) or (321) LAND VALUE
These fields list the land size of the parcel, either in square footage or by acres. The far right column lists the total land value for the parcel and is rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. This number is added to an improvement value on the second or back page of the PRC, resulting in a total appraised value for the parcel.

(400) TOPO
This field is for descriptive purposes only and does not drive value. It generally describes the topography of the property from the street and will have a descriptor after the code such as LEVEL for code 1.

(410) UTIL
Describes the type of utilities available to the property. The following is a listing of the most common types of codes found on the PRC. This field affects the land valuation by placing additional value on land with access to public sewer, water, and gas.
1. Public water and sewer
2. Public water
3. Public sewer
4. Well
5. Septic
7. Gas
8. All utilities are underground

(420) ST/RD
Describes whether a street is paved, gravel, or dirt. This field affects the land value by placing additional value on the land for paved roads versus semi-improved or dirt roads.

An informational field, this field describes the type of parking, quantity, and the proximity of parking to the parcel. Descriptions list whether a parcel has off street or on street parking, near or far from the property, and whether there is adequate parking available. This field does not affect the valuation.

These fields list the dates that the assessor’s appraisal staff performed some type of work function. It could be the result of reappraisal work, permitted activity, land dimension change, or some type of review activity. Entries do not necessarily reflect an on site inspection of the subject property.

(481-483) NOTES
These fields list any appraiser notes for the parcel. It may include items such as a lot number, subdivision name, or any other notes relevant to the parcel.

This field indicates whether the parcel has a house on it (D for dwelling), is vacant (V), or has other (O) types of miscellaneous building or yard improvements. Other (O) is also used for incomplete construction.

(505) STORY HEIGHT and (521)
These fields describe whether the main body of the house is two story, 1.5 stories, attic part finished, attic full finished, attic wall height, attic unfinished, or no attic at all. These descriptions allow the appraisal system to calculate the second floor area. For example, attic wall height attributes 55% of the ground floor living area to the second story. The following list demonstrates the code, name, and percent of the first floor that resides on the second floor. Field 505 and 521 are interrelated. First, the appraiser determines whether the house is a one story, a 1 ½ story, or a 2.0 story. Then the appraiser will use field 521 to determine the amount of area attributable to any attic space, if any.
1. No attic (521)
2. The house has an attic but it is unfinished (521)
3. Attic Part Finished-2nd floor is approximately 20% of the first floor area (521)
4. Attic Full Finish-2nd floor is approximately 40% of the ground floor area (521)
5. Attic Wall Height-2nd floor is approximately 55% of the ground floor area (521)
1.0 Story - The house is one story (505)
1.5 Story - 2nd floor is approximately 75% of the ground floor area (505)
2.0 Story - 2nd floor area of the main body of the house is equivalent to the first floor area


(506) EXT. WALL
Describes the exterior wall composition, such as brick, frame, stucco, stone, etc. Adjustments are made to the base pricing of a house based on the exterior wall type. For example, brick prices out higher than frame, which prices out higher than stucco.

(507) STYLE
Describes the type of architecture of the improvement, such as colonial, conventional, duplex, bi-level, ranch, etc.

Lists the year built, remodel year if any, and the effective age of the property. Typically, the older a home is, the higher the depreciation amount related to the improvement. However, when a property is renovated, the effective age of the improvements is reduced. By using effective age, the appraisers can value two identical properties differently, appraising a renovated property higher than an identical nonrenovated property. This captures differences in value from a renovated home versus a non-renovated home.

Describes whether an improvement has a full basement, part basement, crawl space, or none (e.g.slab).
1. No basement (slab)
2. Crawl space
3. Part basement
4. Full basement

Describes whether an improvement has central air (4), central/forced heat (3), non-central heating and cooling (2), or no central air or heat (1). Central air will contribute more dollar value to the base improvement versus none.

(525) TOT RMS
This field informational and does NOT affect value. It estimates the total number of rooms in the house, the number of bedrooms, and whether the subject property has a family room.

Lists the number of full baths, half baths, and additional fixtures (such as sink, hot water heater, wet bar, his and her sinks in the master bath, separate tub and shower, etc.)

(545) PHYS. COND
This field is informational and does NOT affect value. Differences in physical condition between improvements for valuation purposes are addressed through the depreciation factor CDU, which is field 562.

Represents areas that are dry walled but not completely finished, such as a basement.

Describes finished basement area that has been finished at a lower standard than the main level(s) of the improvement. Recreation room area typically employs a drop ceiling versus dry wall.

(553) FBLA
Finished basement living area represents the square footage of finished area in the basement. Usually built to the quality of the first floor area and uses a dry wall ceiling versus a drop ceiling.

Wood burning fireplace. Field allows the entry of more than one opening per chimney stack.

Indicates the presence of prefabricated metal fireplaces. Usually, metal fireplaces only use gas and cannot burn wooden logs.

(556) BSMT. GAR.
Describes the number of garages on the basement level of the improvement.

A grade is assigned to each improved property by the appraiser. The grade represents the quality, type, style, or other judgment factors that the appraiser believes are encompassed in the improvement. Grades are not affected by condition or depreciation (the CDU factor determines the appropriate amount of depreciation). In a homogeneous neighborhood, grades will be relatively uniform and similar. Urban areas are more likely to have widely varying grades since size, quality, and craftsmanship traditionally vary more than they do in typical homogeneous suburban neighborhoods. The grades range from highest magnitude to lowest in the following order; E+, E, E-, X+,X, X-, A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-. E grades are typically mansion and multi-million dollar properties while D grades may include small, square, shot-gun style home.

(561) CDU
The CDU (condition, desirability, utility) factor captures and reflects depreciation of a property and other external factors that encompass an improvement. This factor is the primary driver of depreciation value. It often reflects differences between renovated and non-renovated homes in an area. A CDU factor is chosen by the appraiser and based on their knowledge, neighborhood familiarity, and appraisal experience. The following lists the possible CDU factors and their general meaning:
EX-(Excellent) indicates near perfect, substantial upkeep with minimal deferred maintenance, attractive and highly desirable
VG-(Very Good) minor deterioration visible, still attractive and desirable but slightly less than EX
GD-(Good) minor deterioration visible, slightly less attractive and desirable but useful
AV-(Average) indicates property has normal wear and tear and is average in attractiveness and desirability
FR-(Fair) indicates marked deterioration, less attractive and desirable than typical properties in the area, more than typical deferred maintenance
PR-(Poor) indicates definite deterioration and is in poor condition, with a large amount of physical depreciation from wear and tear
VP-(Very Poor) condition usually approaches unsoundness, extremely undesirable and barely usable
UN-(Unsound) dwelling is unsound and unfit for use

List other building and yard improvements such as pools, detached garages, sheds, gazebos, and other improvements that are typically detached from the main structure. Some of the more frequently used codes are as follows:
RP1-pool with a plastic liner
RP2-prefab vinyl pool
RP3-reinforced concrete pool
RP4-fiberglass pool
RP5-gunite pool
RS1-frame utility shed
TC1-asphalt tennis court
RG1-detached frame garage
RG2-detached brick garage

The dwelling computations portion of the PRC is on the 2nd page or back of the PRC. This area describes the calculations used to derive the appraised value using the cost approach to value. Based on the square footage and characteristics on page one of the PRC, value is added or subtracted. This value is then added to the total land value generated under fields 311 through 326 to form a final cost approach to value. Below the dwelling computations, a current value is listed. The diagram represents the footprint of the improvement. Garage, decks, patios, and other items are shown separately and valued differently then the heated and cooled portion of the home. The S.F.L.A in the upper left hand corner of the PRC (field 559) represents the total heated and cooled square footage of the improvement, including any finished basement. However, this total does NOT include any recreation room area (Rec.Room), only finished basement living area (FBLA). G.F.L.A. only includes the ground floor living area of the improvement and not the second story or any one story additions.

(601-608) ADDITIONS
The additions area is where the different components of the house are priced and valued. The different codes represent items such as garages, decks, patios, one story areas of two story homes, porches, bay windows, etc. There are a maximum of eight additions allowed in our current appraisal system. Many times similar additions will be added together and not drawn in the diagram so that all additions will be entered into our appraisal system. The following is a representative list of the most commonly used codes and what they mean:
10. 1.0 story frame
11. Open frame porch
12. Enclosed frame porch
13. Frame garage
14. Frame utility building
15. Frame bay window
16. Frame overhang
17. ½ story frame, usually on second floor area
18. Attic unfinished
19. Attic finished
20. 1.0 story brick
21. Open masonry (brick) porch
22. Enclosed masonry (brick) porch
23. Brick garage
24. Masonry utility building
25. Masonry bay window
27. ½ story masonry (brick), usually on second floor
30. Carport
31. Wood deck
33. Concrete patio
34. Stone or tile patio
35. Masonry stoop

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