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 commissioner can explain them to you).
To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. In Troup County, the application is filed with the Tax Assessor. The application must be filed between January 1 and March 1 of the year for which the exemption is first claimed by the taxpayer and it normally is filed at the same time that the initial tax return for the homestead property is filed.
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 ownership or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.
Under authority of the State Constitution several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts and several have done so. The tax commissioner in your county can answer questions regarding the standard exemptions as well as any local exemptions that are in place.
The Local County Exemptions supersede the state exemption amount when the local exemption is greater than the state exemption.
Troup County has such an exemption:
Taxpayers 65 years and older with a $22,000 or less gross income, or social security disability receive an exemption I of $10,000 on Local County M&O, Local School M&O and Local School Bond.
The Standard Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners who otherwise qualify by ownership and residency requirements and it is an amount equal to $2,000, which is deducted from the 40%, assessed value of the homestead property. The exemption applies to the maintenance and operation portion of the mill rate levy of the county and the county school system and the State mill rate levy. It does not apply to the portion of the mill rate levied to retire bonded indebtedness.
The Standard Elderly School Tax Homestead Exemption is an increased homestead exemption for homeowners 62 and older where the net income from all family members residing in the homestead does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. This exemption applies only to school tax but it does include taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness. The amount of the exemption is up to $10,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property.
The Standard Elderly General Homestead Exemption is available to homeowners who otherwise qualify and who are 65 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption, which is in an amount lip to $4,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property applies to county taxes, school taxes, and the state tax and it does apply to taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness.
The Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption is available to certain disabled veterans or to the unremarried spouse or minor children in an amount up to $60,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property plus an additional sum determined according to an index rate set by United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The Floating or Varying Homestead Exemption is an exemption which is available to homeowners 62 or older with gross household incomes of $30,000 or less. The exemption applies to state and county ad valorem taxes but it does not apply to school tax. The exemption is called a floating exemption because the amount of the exemption increases as the value of the homestead property is increased. Since, however, the exemption replaces any other state and county exemption already in place for the property, taxpayers should be very careful in making application since in many instances the granting of this exemption will initially at least increase the amount of taxes levied on the property.
The Homeowners Tax Relief Grant, authorized for the first time by the Governor and the General Assembly in 1999 provides a tax relief credit in an amount up to $2,000 in assessed value for all homeowners who are receiving one of the normal homestead exemptions. This tax relief credit is expected to increase until it reaches the equivalent of a $20,000 homestead exemption. This relief is shown on the property tax bill for State, county and county school purposes as a credit against taxes that otherwise would have been due. In addition to the various homestead exemptions that are authorized, the law also provides a Property Tax Deferral Program whereby qualified homestead property owners 62 and older with gross household income of $15,000 or less may defer but not exempt the payment of ad valorem taxes on a part or all of the homestead property. Generally, the tax would be deferred until the property ownership changes or until such time that the deferred taxes plus interest reach a level equal to 85% of the fair market value of the property.
With respect to all of the homestead exemptions, the board of tax assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility; however, if the application is denied the taxpayer must be notified and an appeal procedure then is available for the taxpayer.
Specialized and Preferential Assessment Programs
Two general types of specialized or preferential assessment programs are available for certain owners of certain types of property. One of these programs authorizes assessment at 30% rather than 40% of fair market value for certain agricultural properties being used for bona fide agricultural purposes.
The second type of preferential programs is the Conservation Use program which provides that certain agricultural property, timber land property, environmentally sensitive property, or residential transitional property is to be valued and assessed for ad valorem tax purposes at its current use value rather than its fair market value.
Each of these specialized or preferential programs requires the property owner to covenant with the board of tax assessors to maintain the property in its qualified use for at least 10 years in order to qualify for the preference. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for either of these programs.