A trial court did not err in ruling that a Georgia county board of assessors (BOA) lacked authority to issue two corrected local property tax assessment notices that increased a property’s fair market value originally listed for the 2009 tax year because the notices were not sent merely to correct a clerical error as claimed by the BOA. Rather, they were sent to revise the BOA’s view of the proper value of the property during a pending appeal of the prior year valuation. This difference in value was not the result of a clerical error, such as the omission of a digit or the transposition of number, but it went to the substantive valuation decision made by the BOA. Accordingly, the amended notices were not authorized under the “clerical error” rule identified in such cases as Barland Co. v. Bartow County Board of Tax Assessors, 338 S.E. 2nd 16 (1985).

The BOA also argued that it was authorized to issue a revised assessment even in the absence of a clerical error by relying on regulations promulgated by the Georgia Department of Revenue and compiled as an Appraisal Procedures Manual. Based on language in the manual, the BOA claimed that because an assessment was not final until the tax digest had been approved and the final tax bills mailed, or an appeal was resolved, the assessment may be changed at any time until that point. The Georgia Court of Appeals held, however, that while the assessed value could be changed to reflect the outcome of an appeal, the Appraisal Procedures Manual did not authorize the BOA to create its own new reassessment at any time until the assessment was deemed final.

The BOA further argued that the trial court erred by ruling that the BOA was not expressly authorized, as a general matter, to issue more than one notice of assessment. The court held, however, that county boards of assessors were not authorized to change the value of property retroactively based on a reappraisal even if the original appraised value did not accurately reflect improvements made to the property.

Douglas County Board of Assessors v. Denyse, Georgia Court of Appeals, No. A11A2353, February 21, 2012

Source: CCH

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