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Residential property tax returns
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The real estate and foreclosure crises have played havoc with property values throughout this nation for the last four years. Wide areas of Georgia, as well as Dawson County have seen so many properties flood the market causing values to plummet.

Owners who believe their property's worth is below its appraised value for taxes can possibly lower their taxes by filing a residential property tax return. This law is in accordance with O.C.G.A. 45-5-15(a) and is form number PT-50R.

Owners can contact the Dawson County Tax Assessors Office directly or go to the county tax assessor's Web site, where forms can be downloaded.

Filing must be in person between Jan. 2 and April 1.

Owners can declare what they think is the true taxable value of their property. The property tax returns then go through the same course an appeal would, getting reviewed by staff and eventually by the county board of assessors.

This could prevent hundreds or maybe thousands of taxpayers in this county from paying more property taxes next fall than they should unless they take advantage of a little-known, rarely used option to file a residential property tax return. If you do not file the form PT-50 you have no recourse and must accept the assessor's value. This same law if you disagree with the board, allows you to move your assessment on to superior court and be tried in front of a jury of your peers.

Assessors are required by law to set the value as to what the property should be worth in a fair market sale as of Jan. 1 of each year. However, the records show they typically do not.

The volume of complaints to our state legislators has prompted them to pass many laws within the past four years in favor of the citizen. Every year there is a bill submitted to eliminate property taxes for sales taxes, which many states have done. This bill fails to get out of committee or on the floor for a vote because of lobbyists and the lack of citizen response.

Taxable values that are 40-50 percent higher than sales prices are common in areas over run with foreclosures and abandoned housing. A bill passed in 2009 required the tax assessors to use "short sales" or sales caused by non-property tax or mortgage payment in assessing values.

When you put in your own value, it will force the assessors to deal with you on an individual basis. I encourage every citizen to exercise their legal right and file a residential property tax return if they feel their tax evaluation is higher than the present day market value.

Hugh Stowers Jr.
Dawson County