Applications are now available for homeowners seeking relief on their property taxes through homestead tax exemptions.
"A homestead tax exemption is a benefit that one receives from having a permanent residence and owning that and taking care of that," said Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
"The government gives you a break in taxes, because they feel that as a homeowner you are going to take much better care of your property than you would if you were not an owner."
Homeowners could see a $200 increase in their tax bill next year because Gov. Sonny Perdue eliminated the Homestead Tax Relief Grant, Allen said.
But state Rep. Ben Harbin said lawmakers, in the session that began Monday, likely will provide funding for the current grant to spare homeowners from the tax increase.
But that relief will be for this year only, Harbin said, and won't likely be repeated.
Homestead tax exemptions come in different versions, but taxpayers are limited in their choice.
"You can only receive one," Allen warned. "It can be a school tax exemption. It can be an elderly exemption. It can be a regular exemption. All of those homestead exemptions must be followed in order to receive that benefit."
The tax breaks are available only for permanent, full-time residences.
The exemptions must be filed at Allen's office, in Building C of the Evans Government Center, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive. She said it takes about five minutes to fill out the application and file it.
The deadline is April 15.
Some caveats exist for filing for an exemption, Allen said.
Those living in a mobile home must own both the home and the property it sits on. Also, those filing must have a valid state identification displaying the same address as the home for which they are seeking tax relief.
Any county residents who believe their properties are worth less than the assessed value might try seeking help from the Tax Commissioner's office.
"You fill out a form that says you believe your house is worth that certain amount," Allen said. "The Tax Assessor's office makes a site visit to your home, and then they will communicate with you what they believe is the proper value."
Anyone who disagrees with that assessment may file appeals with the county Board of Assessors, Board of Equalization and even Superior Court.
The deadline to seek a reassessment is April 1.
For more information, call the Tax Commissioner's office at (706) 261-8299.
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