Welcome to the Towns County Tax Commissioner Website
Our goal is to provide the people of Towns County with a website that is informative and easy to use. You can search our site for a wealth of information on any property in Towns County and you can securely pay your property taxes, as well as renew your car tags, online, at your convenience.
Although this website cannot cover the many laws governing taxation in Georgia, you can get answers to the most frequently asked questions and find general information about taxation and your rights and responsibilities as a property owner. You will also find useful links to local and state websites.
My staff and I are here to answer your questions and provide the best public service possible. Always feel free to contact this office if we can assist you.
Ad Valorem Tax Process
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 the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law. Fair market value, means "the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm's length, bona fide sale. " 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 State Revenue Commissioner is responsible for examining the tax digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties (O.C.G.A. 48-5-340). In addition, the State levies ad valorem tax each year in an amount .00005. This amount will be absolete in tax year 2016.
- The Towns County Board of Tax Assessors, appointed for fixed terms by the county commissioners, is responsible for the appraisal, assessment, and the equalization of all assessments within the county. They notify 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 Towns County Board of Equalization, appointed by the Grand Jury, is the body charged by law with hearing and adjudicating administrative appeals to property values and 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 Towns County Board of Commissioners establishes the annual budget for county government operations and levies the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.
- The Towns County Board of Education, an elected body, establishes the annual budget for school purposes and adopts the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.
- The Towns County Tax Commissioner, an elected office established by the Constitution, is the official responsible for performing all functions related to billing, collecting, accounting for and disbursing ad valorem taxes collected in this county. The Tax Commissioner also serves as an agent of the State Revenue Commissioner for the registration of motor vehicles. The Tax Commissioner does not set value or the millage rates.
Property Taxes are due by January 10th of each year. If taxes are not paid on the property, it may be levied upon and ultimately sold. When mailing in tax payments a United States Postal Service postmark will be accepted (not metered post marks).
For past due property taxes, interest will be added to your tax bill on the 16th of each month at a rate of prime plus 3% divided by 12 months. A FIFA will be filed in the Clerk of Courts office 30 days from the date on the delinquent notice. A 5% penalty is added after 120 days and every 120 days, thereafter (max 20%).
For past due mobile homes, interest will be added to your tax bill on the 16th of each month at a rate of prime plus 3% divided by 12 months. A 10% penalty is added April 2nd each year and a FIFA will be filed in the Clerk of Courts office 30 days from the date on the delinquent notice.
If you still remain unpaid, your account will be turned over to DTSi and admin/levy fees up to $215.00 plus will be added to your account. These fees will cover the cost of certified notices as well as a title search to prepare your property for tax sale. Your property will also be posted and photographed at some point before the sale. The four weeks prior to the sale your property will be advertised in the Sylvester Local newspaper with additional advertising cost added. We urge you to pay your taxes on time or make arrangements to avoid these additional fees.
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. The tax return is a listing of the property owned by the taxpayer and the taxpayer's declaration of the value of their property.
Personal property tax returns (PT-50p) are to be filed annually with the Board of Assessors without regard to change in value or use. Note: If you no longer own the listed items, you must contact the Tax Assessors office or you will be taxed on it.
Property tax returns for real estate must be filed with the Towns County Tax Assessor between January 1 and April 1 of each year where property has changed or been acquired. The filing deadline is April 1 of each year. The taxpayer may elect not to file a property tax return if they have no changes that would affect the value of their property from the previous year. Failure to file a required return will subject the taxpayer to a 10% penalty on the value of the property not returned plus interest and possibly penalties from the date the tax would have been due.
After the taxpayer has filed the initial tax return for real property, the law provides for an automatic renewal of that return each succeeding year at the value 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. Personal property tax returns are required to be filed each year.
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 initiates the taxpayer's appeal process if the declared value is not accepted by the Board of Tax Assessors.
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. Homestead exemptions are deducted from the assessed value of the qualifying property (40% of the fair market value). Then, the millage rate is applied to arrive at the amount of ad valorem tax due.
To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. The application is filed with the Towns County Tax Assessor's Office. First time homeowners need to bring a copy of their warranty deed to insure their application is filed correctly. With respect to all of the homestead exemptions, the Board of Assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility; however, if the application is denied the taxpayer must be notified and an appeal procedure is then available to the taxpayer.
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. The deadline for filing an application for a homestead exemption in Towns County is April 1. 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.
Under authority of the State Constitution several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. These are called State Exemptions. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts. These are called Local County Exemptions. Towns County has such local county exemptions. The Local County Exemptions supersede the State Exemptions when the Local Exemption amount is greater than the State Exemption amount. The Tax Commissioner's office and Tax Assessor's Office can answer questions regarding the standard exemptions as well as any local exemptions that are in place. The State exemptions include:
- 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 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 up 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 in an amount up to $50,000 deducted from the 40% assessed value of the homestead property. This exemption applies to all ad valorem tax levies; however, it is restricted to certain types of very serious disabilities (that are service-connected disabilities) and proof of disability, either from the Veterans Administration or from a private physician in certain circumstances. A similar exemption in the same amount is now available to the un-remarried surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in any war or armed conflict engaged in by the United States. The surviving spouse must furnish appropriate documentation that spousal benefits are received as a result of the death of the armed forces member.
- 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. However, since 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.
- Age 65 and Older Exemption from State Ad Valorem Taxes - If you qualify for one of the other homestead exemption listed and are age 65 or older as of January 1, you also qualify for an exemption from the State portion of ad valorem taxes in an amount equal to 100% of the value of your home and up to 10 acres of land. The value of any additional land or improvements on the same parcel will be granted the standard maximum exemption of the homestead exemption for which you otherwise qualify.
- The Un-remarried Surviving Spouse of a Firefighter or Peace Officer shall be granted total exemption from all ad valorem taxes levied, if such person’s spouse, who as a member of a qualified Fire Department or Peace Officer Agency, stead Exemption is available for the surviving spouse, which provides an exemption for the full value of the homestead with respect to all ad valorem taxes for the unmarried surviving spouse of a peace officer or firefighter who was killed or died as a result of injury in the performance of their duty. Documents from the agency must be provided.
Property Tax Deferral Program
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.
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 program 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. These exemptions must be applied for by April of each year.
- Rehabilitated and Landmark Historic Property - Historic property that qualifies for listing on the Georgia National Register of Historic Places may qualify for preferential assessment. The preferential assessment shall extend to the building or structure, the real property on which the building or structure is located, and not more than two acres surrounding the building or structure. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for this assessment.
- Brownfield Property - Property which qualifies for participation in the State's Hazardous Site Reuse and Redevelopment Program and which has been designated as such by the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources may qualify for preferential assessment. This special program provides for the preferential assessment of environmental and contaminated property by freezing the value for ten years as an incentive for developers to clean up the property and return it to the tax rolls. The Board of Tax Assessors can explain the ownership and use restrictions regarding property qualifying for this assessment.
- Timber - Standing timber is not taxed until sold or harvested, at which time it is taxed based upon 100 percent of its fair market value. This value is then multiplied by the appropriate mill rate to determine the tax amount due.
Mobile/Modular Home Permits
Owners of mobile homes that are located in Towns County on January 1 must pay the ad valorem taxes on the home by April 1 of each year and obtain their location permit at that time. Failure to pay the taxes and obtain the permit will result in a 10% tax penalty, issuance of a citation for appearance in Towns County Magistrate Court or possible sale of the mobile/manufactured home.
Bills for mobile/modular homes in Towns County are usually mailed January 2. All mobile homes must be registered in the Tax Assessors office. You must display your decal. If you do not do so, you can be sent to magistrate court. Contact the Tax Assessors’ office for more information at 229-776-8203.
Mobile home owners desiring to declare a different value from the existing value on the home have 45 days to file an appeal with the Board of Tax Assessors. If a taxpayer is dissatisfied with the value change or corrections, the taxpayer has the right to appeal to the Board of Equalization within 21 days of the date of the notice.
Equipment, Machinery, and Fixtures
Equipment, machinery, and fixtures are assessed at 40 percent of fair market value. The tax assessor may value the equipment, machinery, and fixtures of a going business to reflect the fair market value of the business as a whole. When no ready market exists for the sale of equipment, machinery, and fixtures, a fair market value may be determined by resorting to any reasonable, relevant, and useful information available. This information may include, but is not limited to, the original cost of the property, depreciation or obsolescence, and any increase in value by reason of inflation.
Freeport Exemptions for Businesses
Manufacturers may qualify for Freeport Exemption on one or more of three categories. The categories are raw goods, goods in process and manufactured goods stored in warehouse to be shipped out of state. Specific detailed information is available and applications must be filed with the Board of Tax Assessors between January 1st and April 1st each year.
Assessed Value and Appeals
In Georgia, property is assessed at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law. (O.C.G.A. Sect; 48-5-7) Property is assessed at the county level. The State Revenue Commissioner is responsible for examining the tax digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties. (O.C.G.A. Sect; 48-5-340)
The tax bills received by property owners will include both the fair market value and the assessed value of the property. Fair market value means "the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm's length, bona fide sale." (O.C.G.A. Sect; 48-5-2)
When the Board of Tax Assessors changes the value of property from the value in place for the preceding year or from the value that was returned by the taxpayer for the current year, a notice of that change must be sent to the property owner. The property owner that does not agree with the appraised value on their tax bill and wants to appeal the change in value must do so within 45 days of the date of mailing of this assessment notice. (O.C.G.A. Sect; 48-5-311). The assessment appeal may be made on the basis of the taxability of the property, the value placed upon the property, or the uniformity of that value when compared to other similar properties in the county. The appeal must be filed within the applicable time period and cannot be filed after that time. Additionally, the appeal should not be based on any complaint about the amount of taxes levied on the property.
Property owners can file an appeal with the Board of Assessors. If no agreement is reached, the appeal is automatically forwarded to the Board of Equalization. The appeal is filed with the Board of Tax Assessors who again reviews their valuation and the appeal filed and informs the taxpayer of its decision. If the taxpayer remains dissatisfied, the appeal is forwarded to the County Board of Equalization. A hearing is scheduled and conducted and the Board of Equalization renders its decision. If the taxpayer is still dissatisfied with the decision, an appeal to Superior Court may be made. In lieu of an administrative appeal with the Board of Equalization, an arbitration method of appeal is also available to the taxpayer. The Board of Tax Assessors can provide details regarding this procedure.
If the owner is absent from their residence because of duty in the armed forces, a friend or family member may file on behalf of said owner. Said notice shall be filed within 90 days of the notice of value from the Board of Assessors.
For further information regarding property taxation in Georgia, please visit the State of Georgia Local Government Services Division website at http://dor.georgia.gov/.
Tags are due on or before your birthday, unless it's in a Business name or IRP. You can renew your tags online at Renew Tags Online. You will need your license plate or VIN and your drivers license or letter ID.
If you’ve purchased a new vehicle or looking at buying one, you can find out how much TAVT you will owe by clicking the link. Calculate TAVT (Title Tax) . You will need the VIN of the vehicle.
For all other online tag, registration and related services, such as going green, cancelling your registration, changing your address, etc., visit https://eservices.drives.ga.gov/.
As of March 2013 there will no longer be sales tax on the purchase of motor vehicles. A 6.6% Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) is now required on every title transfer based on the State's fair market value and is due at the time of the title transfer.
New residents must title and register their vehicles within thirty days of establishing residency in Georgia. A Georgia Driver's License must be obtained with your current address before registering your vehicle. New to Georgia will pay 3% TAVT and it is all due at the time of title transfer and registration.
Vehicles bought from dealer must be registered within 30 days from the date of purchase. The dealer will be responsible for collecting the TAVT and sending to the county with the title paperwork. Dealer title work must be applied for through ETR, unless it is an out of state title, disabled veteran exemption, non-resident, or other special circumstances.
Individual to Individual Sales are required to pay the TAVT upon applying for the title. Title must be applied for within 7 days of the date of purchase.
It is the vehicle owner's responsibility to ensure their vehicle is properly registered. Vehicle owners must renew their registration every year during the 60-day period, which ends on their birthday. If the vehicle is owned by more than one person, then the birthday of the person's name that appears first on the title is used to determine the registration period. In other words, tags expire on the birthday of the first owner shown on the title. You should receive a bill 60 days prior to renewal. Penalties apply after the birthday deadline. Failure to receive a bill in the mail does not relieve the penalty. If you do not receive a bill, you can contact the Tag Office or go online to get your balance. This must be done in time to ensure registration by your birthday.
Georgia liability insurance is required to be transmitted to the state's database by your insurance company in order to register your vehicle. The vehicle must always be covered by liability insurance or a lapse in coverage penalty will apply. If you cancel the insurance, you must also cancel the registration.
The penalty for late registration is 10% of the tax ($5.00 minimum) and 25% of the tag fee. These penalties begin immediately following the due date.
If you trade in a vehicle...keep your old tag. As long as the tag and the vehicle are in the same name, we can transfer that tag to your new vehicle. All vehicles that are 1986 or newer requires a Georgia title in order to register it. Proof of title (bill of sale for 1985 and older) is required to purchase a tag or transfer a tag from a vehicle you no longer own.
The State of Georgia has a variety of tags from which to choose. Visit the Georgia Department of Revenue/Motor Vehicle Division for tag samples at https://mvd.dor.ga.gov/motor/plates/PlateSelection.aspx
For further information regarding vehicle registration, please visit the State of Georgia Motor Vehicle Division website at https://eservices.drives.ga.gov/.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 and timber tax. The information found on this web site is intended to aid you in understanding your rights and responsibilities relating to property tax in Towns County. This web site does not cover the many complex laws governing taxation in the state of Georgia and should not be relied on as a legal source of information. If you don’t find the answers to your questions below, or, if you need clarification on information you find here, please contact us.
For more detailed information about revenue and taxation, the Georgia Department of Revenue sponsors a web site where the annotated version of the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) can be viewed. Click HERE to visit this web site.
The Towns County Tax Commissioner's Office should be contacted for more information on inquiries about billing and collection of property taxes. The phone number is (706) 896-2267.
The Towns County Board of Tax Assessor's Office should be contacted for more information on property values. The phone number for the Tax Assessor is (706) 896-3984.
What is property taxation?
Property tax is an ad valorem tax, which means according to value. Ad valorem tax, the tax collected by the tax commissioner, is based on the value of the taxable property in the county.
What property is taxed?
All real estate and personal property are taxable unless law has exempted the property. (O.C.G.A. 48-5-3) Real property is land and generally anything that is erected, growing or affixed to the land; personal property is everything that can be owned that is not real estate. Personal property typically consists of inventory and fixtures used in conducting business, boats, aircraft, farm machinery, motor vehicles and mobile homes. Your household property is not normally taxable.
Who decides how much my property is worth for tax purposes?
The Board of Assessors has the responsibility of determining the value of property in Towns County. Each year between January 1 and April 1 every property owner has the ability to declare a proposed value for their property. (O.C.G.A. 48-5-9) These values are declared in the manner of 'filing a return'. Returns for real estate are filed in the Tax Assessor's office and returns for personal property are filed with the Board of Assessors. The Board of Assessors will review your proposed value and if they disagree, an assessment notice with the Boards' value will be mailed to you.
What if I disagree with the Tax Assessors' value?
Taxpayers may challenge an assessment by Towns County Board of Tax Assessors by appealing to Towns County Board of Equalization or to an arbitrator(s) within 45 days from the date of the assessment notice. Once the county board of equalization or the arbitrator(s) has rendered a decision, the taxpayer may continue their appeal to the superior court by mailing or filing with Towns County Board of Tax Assessors a written notice wishing to continue the appeal.
What is the difference between fair market value and assessed value?
Assessed value is defined as being 40% of the fair market value. Property in Georgia is taxed on the assessed value.
What is a millage rate?
The tax rate, or millage rate, is set annually by the Towns County Board of Commissioners and the Towns County Board of Education. A tax rate of one mill represents a tax liability of one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value. Each governing authority estimates their total revenue from other sources. This figure is subtracted from their overall budgetary needs, and then a millage rate is set that will generate the necessary revenues to fulfill budgetary requirements.
How is my tax bill calculated?
Once the property owner and the Board of Assessors have come to terms with an appropriate value, this value is provided to the Tax Commissioner for tax bill calculation. To calculate a tax bill, you must first deduct any exemptions that may apply from the assessed value; thus generating a net assessed (taxable) value. Next you multiply the net assessed value by the millage rate.
When is my tax bill due?
Beginning in 2018, taxes for Towns County real estate and business personal property will be due on January 10th of each year. Mobile/manufactured homes are due April 1 of each year and motor vehicles are due based on the owner's birthday. After the due date, for real estate and business personal property, interest at the rate of 1% per month is charged. Additionally, a penalty of 10% will apply to all taxes that are not paid within 90 days of the deadline. If the property taxes remain unpaid, the Tax Commissioner has the right and responsibility to levy on the property for non-payment. Of course we consider this a last resort for tax collection and prefer to use other collection methods.
Is there any way to reduce my tax bill?
Yes. There are several exemptions and special assessment programs available that may apply to your property. The most common are the homestead exemption for real estate and for business personal property there is the freeport exemption. Contact the Towns County Tax Assessor's Office for details of the available special assessment programs and Homestead exemptions.
What is and how do I file for homestead exemption?
Homestead exemption is the system developed by the State of Georgia that exempts from taxation a specified amount of assessed value of your home. You may apply for homestead exemption in the Tax Assessor's office. To qualify, you must both own and occupy your home as of January 1. Once you have qualified for homestead exemption and remain in the same house you do not need to reapply. However, if you move, you are required to reapply for the exemption for the new location. Application for homestead exemption may be submitted any time during the year but must be received before April 1 of the taxable year to qualify for the exemption that year. If received after April 1, the Tax Assessor will activate the exemption the following year. When the homeowner reaches the age of 62 years old, they may apply for an additional homestead exemption.
Where do I get a copy of my warranty deed?
You can obtain a copy of your warranty deed from the Clerk of Superior Court deed room. This office is located in the Towns County Courthouse.
Where do property tax dollars go?
- To support administration of county government and the public school system
- To build and repair public buildings and bridges
- To pay expenses of courts, county jail and law enforcement
- To build and maintain county roads
- To provide for fire protection
- To provide for public health and sanitation
Do I pay taxes on my mobile/modular home?
Yes. Mobile/modular homes are considered personal property and are taxable in the State of Georgia. Tax must be paid annually with a due date of April 1st. The owner of any mobile/modular home located in Towns County must file a return and obtain a location permit. In order to obtain this permit the mobile home tax for the current year must be paid in full.
Will paying my taxes late affect my credit?
When taxes remain unpaid for more than 30 days after their due date, the taxes are subject to a tax fifa (lien) being recorded in the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court. These records are public so credit bureaus may access them and may use them to adversely affect your credit. The tax office does not deal with these credit bureaus and so has no control of how they use the information or how often they update their records.
- Renew Tags Online
- Pay Insurance Fines
- Calculate TAVT (Title Tax)
- Go Green (Tag Renewals)
- Vehicle Registration & Insurance Status
- Towns County Tax Assessor - MAPS
- Towns County Board of Education
- Georgia Department of Revenue, Property Tax Division
- Georgia Superior Court Clerk's Cooperative Authority
- State of Georgia General Assembly