Now that Ho Ho Ho is over and Happy New Year is upon us, another important “H” word must be addressed. That’s right . . . the Homestead Exemption. If you are a Georgia resident and purchased a primary residence in 2016, the following is a guide to help you determine whether you should file for the exemption this year. Please note that for those of you who live in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty or Bulloch County guidance for filing the Homestead Exemption is addressed towards the end of this post.
For Chatham County property owners, first go to the Chatham County Tax Assessor’s website. Search by address to view your property record card. Do not be alarmed if the proprty record card is not yet in your name. The 2016 Fair Market Value of your property can be found in the top right corner of the property record card. You will need to know the Fair Market Value to determine whether to file for the Homestead Exemption.
What if I bought my home in 2016 and the 2016 tax assessed value is the same or less than I paid?
For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2016 and paid the same or more than the 2016 tax assessed value (assuming the building and the land have been given values) you want to file for the Homestead Exemption on or before April 1, 2017. By filing for Homestead, you will receive a reduction of your home’s assessed value each year going forward and will lock in your home’s assessed value. This is a good thing because this “lock” will prevent your home’s assessed value from significantly increasing over the years (as long as you do not apply for a building permit). Please note that the locked value (commonly known as your Stephens-Day Exemption Value) does not apply to the school tax portion of your tax bill).
You can file the Homestead Exemption by going to the Chatham County Tax Assessor’s office located at 222 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Suite 113, Savannah, Georgia (1st floor of the Pete Liakakis Government Building).
You will need to bring the following items with you when you file:
- a utility bill with your name on it showing service in December 2016
- your driver’s license
- your Georgia car registration which shows the address of your new Chatham County property. You can change your car registration address at the same building you will file the Homestead Exemption.
What if I bought my home in 2016 and the 2016 tax assessed value is more than I paid?
For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2016 at a price lower than the 2016 tax assessed value, generally you should not file for the Homestead Exemption in 2017 (note, however, if the difference in the 2016 tax assessed value and what you paid for the home is small, you likely should go ahead and file). So why don’t I file yet? If you file the Homestead Exemption under these circumstances, you will lock in your tax assessed value (also known as the Stephens-Day Exemption value) at an amount that is higher than what you paid for the property (not so good). So what do I do?
Around May 2017, you should receive a valuation notice (Notice of Value) from the Chatham County Tax Assessor showing the 2017 tax assessed value of your home is equal to the price you paid for the house. Assuming that is what the valuation notice shows, you should go ahead and file the Homestead Exemption before April 1, 2018. If for some reason the valuation notice you receive this year does not reflect the purchase price (as there are a few exceptions), the valuation notice will provide you instruction on how to appeal your home’s tax assessed value.
For those of you who are Georgia residents and purchased a primary residence in 2016 located in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty or Bulloch County, no guidance is needed – you should file away! To file for the Homestead Exemption in these four counties you will need to bring your driver’s license and a utility bill showing service in December 2016 to your respective county tax assessor’s office. Those in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty or Bulloch County must file for the Homestead Exemption before April 1, 2017. Please note the Stephens-Day Exemption discussed above only applies in Chatham County.
Wishing all of you a happy and healthy New Year!
Please understand that the information provided above is general information and may not apply to your specific situation.
As always, if you need help with anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at (912) 484-1996 (even nights and weekends) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.