As 2016 begins, so do questions regarding the Homestead Exemption. If you are a Georgia resident and purchased a primary residence in 2015 located in Chatham County, the following is a guide to help you determine whether you should file for the exemption this year.
While some states provide this exemption automatically, in Georgia a homestead exemption must be applied for. Depending on the county, this can be done online, by fax, by mail or in person. You only have to apply for the exemption once. The exemption remains as long as you reside in the home as your primary residence. A Homestead Exemption provides more than just a tax break. It also provides two important protections. It prevents the forced sale of a home to meet the demands of creditors and provides the surviving spouse with shelter. You may file for homestead exemption year round. Deadlines are listed below by county along with a link for a homestead application. Applications received after these deadlines will be processed the following year.
For Chatham County property owners, first go to the Chatham County Tax Commissioner’s website at chathamtax.org. Follow the prompts to search for your property tax bill. Do not be alarmed if the tax bill for your property is not in your name yet. The tax assessor updates its records regarding the new owner in 2016. On the tax bill locate the Fair Market Value. You will need to know the Fair Market Value to determine whether to file for the Homestead Exemption.
Residents of Chatham County who own and actually occupy a home and the land it rests on are eligible for an exemption. Property owners are allowed to claim only one homestead exemption, in which case must be on their primary residence. Rental property does not qualify. Only persons who reside on the property and whose name appears on the title can file for exemptions. Applications must be completed in person by the property owner, unless they have given another party their power of attorney. All exemptions must be filed with the Assessors Office, 222 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Suite 113., 1st Floor of the Pete Liakakis Government Building between 8:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Applications are accepted year-round. Applications taken prior to April 1 of a Tax Year will be processed for the current year. Applications taken after April 1 will be applied to the next Tax Year. Failure to file within the allocated time for the homestead exemption constitutes a waiver of exemption for that tax year. Georgia law does not provide for extension of time for filing for whatever reason. All exemptions, once approved, are automatically renewed each year until eligibility changes.
Available Homestead Exemptions:
1. Regular Homestead Exemption
2. Stephens-Day Exemption
3. Senior School Tax Exemption
4. School Tax Disability
5. Special Chatham County
6. Disabled Veterans
7. Unremarried Surviving Spouse of US Service Member Killed in Action
8. Surviving Spouse of Peace Officers and Firefighters Killed in the Line of Duty
9. City of Savannah
10. Floating Homestead
11. Tax Deferral for the Elderly
a. A homestead exemption that is equal to the difference between the current year fair market value and the adjusted base year value (property’s value in the year prior to the homestead application plus any improvements since the year of the application). This exemption does not apply to improvements added to the property after January 1 of the base year.
b. The Savannah Chatham County Public School System bills have a Consumer Price Index percentage that will be added to the base year value, whenever there is an annual increase in the Consumer Price Index. There have been annual Consumer Price Index increases every year since the beginning of Stephens-Day. The Consumer Price Index percentage increase is not included in any of the other levying authorities’ bills. If you have any questions, please call 912-652-7271 or 912-447-4856.
c. When the property was in the name of one spouse, the homestead and Stephens-Day exemptions would be removed. The law has since been amended so that the surviving spouse would be granted the original Stephens-Day value of the deceased spouse. To qualify for this, the property has to be in the name of the unremarried surviving spouse with an application being made in the same manner as the other homestead exemptions.