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Local tax commissioner shares inside scoop on property taxes

As Georgia property owners know, property tax bills contain a lot of information. Trying to sift through all of that jargon can be challenging and a bit overwhelming. However, if you do not get a good grasp on your responsibilities, it can leave you facing charges of tax delinquency. Fortunately, the tax commissioner from nearby Gwinnett County shared some information about property taxes that could help clear a few things up.

One common point of confusion is who is liable for property taxes after a sale. The answer depends on when the sale takes place. If you owned the property on Jan. 1, you are responsible for paying the taxes. Although property taxes are usually prorated as part of a sale, if taxes go unpaid, you could end up facing a lien. A good way to avoid tax problems is to send any information about the sale, including closing papers or a tax liability contract to the tax commissioner's office.

Another myth that seems to exist in the property tax world is that tax bills are sent to mortgage companies instead of the property owner. The Gwinnett tax commissioner is adamant that this is not true. Under Georgia law, tax bills must be mailed directly to property owners. Often, though, mortgage companies get to view your electronic tax files so they can make payments on your behalf.

One last common mixup the commissioner found important to mention had to do with the senior homestead exemption. While many people think you automatically get the exemption once you hit a certain age, the commissioner was quick to say that counties often don't have access to a property owner's age, which means property owners must apply for the exemption.

There's no doubt that property taxes can get confusing. Hopefully, however, these pointers help Atlanta-area residents get a better grasp on their responsibilities when it comes to property taxes. Knowing what you need to do can help avoid unwanted interactions with the county or state over unpaid taxes.

Source: Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch, "Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Dispels Common Property Tax Myths," Vanzetta Evans, Sept. 18, 2013

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