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Office of the Tax Commissioner
Of all the duties and responsibilities held by the County Tax Commissioner, the main function of this office is to serve the citizens of Ben Hill County. This site has been prepared to help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a property owner.

Please remember that this website cannot cover the many complex laws and should not be relied on as a legal source of information. Whether you are a new or longtime county resident, my goal is to fulfill my responsibility as your Tax Commissioner in a fair and equitable manner. Please feel free to contact this office if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Barry Foster
Tax Commissioner
Ben Hill County, Georgia

General Information

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 (O.C.G.A. 48-5-7). 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. 48-5-311) 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 which cannot exceed one-fourth of one mill(.00025).
  • The Ben Hill 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 Ben Hill 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.
  • The Ben Hill Board of County Commissioners or County Governing Authority (or the sole Commissioner in some counties), an elected body, establishes the budget for county government operations each year, and then they levy the mill rate necessary to fund the portion of the budget to be paid for by ad valorem tax.
  • The Ben Hill 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 Ben Hill 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 is responsible for distributing tax to the State, County and Schools.The Tax Commissioner does not set value or the millage rates.

Tax Bills
Generally, Ben Hill County property taxes are due by December 20th. 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).

Tax Returns
Taxpayers are required to file at least an initial tax return for taxable property (both real and personal property) owned on January 1 of that 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.

Property tax returns must be filed with the Board of Tax Assessors between January 1 and April 1 of each year. (Please note: the filing deadline for homestead exemption is also April 1). 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.

Mobile/Manufactured Home Permits
Owners of mobile homes that are located in Ben Hill 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 Ben Hill County Magistrate Court or possible sale of the mobile/manufactured home.

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.

Homeowners' Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) Credit - 2010 Update
The HTRG (Homeowner's Tax Relief Grant) Credit is the result of the homeowner's tax relief enacted by the Governor and the General Assembly of the State of Georgia in 1999. The grant, appropriated by the General Assembly and the Governor for the last several years to counties, cities and schools, had given tax relief to homeowners in the form of a credit on their tax bills. For the 2009 tax year, the Governor and General Assembly did not fund the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant. Declining state revenues during the current recession means there is no money for the State to give the tax relief to homeowners. Therefore, there will not be a credit for this grant on 2009 tax bills on properties with homestead exemption. According to legislation passed in 2009 (House Bill 143), the grant will only be made available in the future if state revenues grow at least 3% plus the rate of inflation.

Homestead Exemptions
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. Homestead exemptions are deducted from the assessed value of the qualifying property (40% of the fair market value).

To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, the taxpayer must file an initial application. The application is filed with the Ben Hill 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.

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. Ben Hill 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 Local County Exemptions supersede the state exemption amount when the local exemption is greater than the state exemption.

The Local Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners 65 and older with a net income of less than $10,000.00. There is a $12,500.00 exemption for the County portion of the tax bill; $12,5000.00 is subtracted from your assessed value before your bill is calculated. Homeowners must apply between January 1st and April 1st.

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 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 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 members.

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.

  • 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.

Assessment Appeals
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 desiring to appeal the change in value must do so within 45 days of the date of mailing of this assessment notice. 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. Additionally, the appeal should not be based on any complaint about the amount of taxes levied on the property.

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.

Motor Vehicle

Vehicle Tag Renewals
New residents must register their vehicles within thirty days of establishing residency in Georgia. A Georgia Driver's License must be obtained before registering your vehicle.

Out-of-state titles must be surrendered and transferred to Georgia titles (year models 1985 and older are not required to be titled in Georgia). If there is a lien on the vehicle and you do not have the title, we must have the current registration and name and address of the lien holder. Additionally leased vehicles require a power of attorney from the leasing company.

Georgia liability insurance is required to be transmitted to the state's data base by your insurance company in order to register your vehicle. The vehicle must be covered by liability insurance at all times or a lapse in coverage penalty will apply. If you cancel the insurance, you must also cancel the registration by coming into the office.

Tags expire on the birthday of the first owner shown. You should receive a bill 30 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, call the Tag Office with your tag number and one will be mailed to you. This must be done in time to insure registration by your birthday. If your birthday falls on a weekend or holiday, you can renew next business day without penalty.

It is the vehicle owner's responsibility to insure their vehicle is properly registered.

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.

You can renew your tag online at https://eservices.drives.ga.gov/?Link=RenewVehicle.

For all other online tag, registration and related services, visit https://eservices.drives.ga.gov.

New and Used Vehicles
Newly purchased vehicles must be registered within 30 days. Sales Tax is due at the time the title is applied for on vehicles purchased from an out-of-state dealer or business.

If you sell a vehicle, you keep your tag. Tags can be transferred to new vehicles that are registered to the same first owner. The 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.

For further information regarding vehicle registration please visit the State of Georgia Motor Vehicle Division website at http://dor.georgia.gov/motor-vehicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this web site is intended to aid you in understanding your rights and responsibilities relating to property tax in Ben Hill County. This site does not necessarily cover every aspect of property taxation and should not be relied upon as a legal source of information. There are many complex tax laws in Georgia, so if you don’t find the answers to your questions below, or, if you need clarification on information you find here, please contact us.

The Ben Hill County Tax Commissioner's Office should be contacted for more information on inquiries about billing and collection of property taxes. The phone number is 229-426-5144.

The Ben Hill County Board of Tax Assessor's Office should be contacted for more information on property values. The phone number for the Tax Assessor is 229-426-5147.

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 Ben Hill 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 Ben Hill County Board of Tax Assessors by appealing to Ben Hill 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 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 Ben Hill County Board of Commissioners the Ben Hill 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?
Taxes for real estate and business personal property are normally due in Ben Hill County on December 1st of each year.

Mobile/manufactured homes are due May 1 of each year and motor vehicles are due based on the owners' birthday.

After the due date, for real estate and business personal property, interest at the rate of 1% per month is charged after December 1st. Additionally, a penalty of 10% will apply to all taxes that are not paid within 90 days of the deadline; however, homesteaded property with a tax liability of less than $500 does not receive the 90-day penalty. 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. Tax bills are mailed to the homeowner, never to the mortgage company. You must forward your bill to your mortgage company if necessary.

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 Ben Hill 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 Ben Hill County Courthouse.

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 May 1. The owner of any mobile/modular home located in Ben Hill 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.

Where do property tax dollars go?
Property tax dollars support administration of county government and the public school system; build and maintain public buildings; bridges and county roads; pay expenses of courts; county jail and law enforcement; provide fire protection; and provide for public health and sanitation. This is an abbreviated list of how tax dollars are used to support local government projects. Please click here to review the Georgia Code for a complete list. (O.C.G.A. 48-5-220)

Will paying my taxes late affect my credit?
When taxes remain unpaid for more than 90 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.

What is the HTRG credit on my tax bill?
The HTRG (Homeowner's Tax Relief Grant) is the result of the homeowner's tax relief enacted by the Governor and the General Assembly of the State of Georgia in 1999. The grant, appropriated by the General Assembly and the Governor for the last several years to counties, cities and schools, had given tax relief to homeowners in the form of a credit on their tax bills. For the 2009 tax year, the Governor and General Assembly did not fund the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant. It is expected that the credit will not be granted in future years until state revenues Therefore, there will not be a credit for this grant on 2009 tax bills on properties with homestead exemption. This credit will not be available in 2010 or future years until state revenue levels improve.

How do I pay my tax bill?
The Ben Hill County Tax Office accepts checks and cash in person with no fees. In addition, the county offers as a convenience to its citizens an alternative method to pay. Citizens can now pay online when and where it is most convenient for them to do so. For the convenience of paying online all payment methods will be assessed a convenience fee. The customer will be informed of the convenience fee and may elect to continue or revert back to paying by check or cash at the tax office or via mail. PayPal and Card payments are only available via the website.

News

Welcome to our New Web Site
The Ben Hill County Tax Commissioner's web site allows citizens to search and pay taxes online. Begin your record search HERE.

Office Closings
The Ben Hill County Tax Commissioner's office is closed most major holidays.

Online Address Change Now Available
View your tax record to submit an address change request. Once we receive your request, we will contact you for confirmation and additional information.

Tax Sale
For dates and times of our county tax sale, please contact our office.


Ben Hill County, Georgia

Tax Commissioner
Barry Foster

324 East Pine Street
Fitzgerald, GA 31750
229-426-5144

GovtWindow Help
(877) 575-7233
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