Property Value Determination
Property tax is an ad valorem tax based upon the value of
property, both real and personal. Real property is defined as land and
generally anything that is erected, growing, or affixed to the land.
Personal property is boats, airplanes, business inventory, and any
equipment, furniture, and fixtures needed to run a business.
Property taxes are charged against the owner of the
property as of January 1, and against the property itself if the owner
is not known. Property tax returns are to be filed between January 1 and April 1 with the county Assessor's Office.
Fair Market Value
The assessors are charged with establishing the fair
market value of the taxable real and personal properties in Lowndes
County. 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."
The Board of Assessors does not create property values.
Assessors and appraisers merely interpret what is happening in the
market place. The appraised value is simply the estimate of what the
property is worth.
The Assessors use standard approaches in setting the value on
all real and personal property. There are 3 approaches to value:
Cost Approach: The cost approach uses actual replacement cost of the building, less general depreciation, plus the value of the land
Income Approach: The income approach is
used for income-producing properties. It involves capitalizing the net
income to arrive at a probable selling price for the property
Market Approach: The market approach involves analyzing sales of similar properties to predict the likely selling price of unsold properties
Special Assessment Programs
There are special assessment programs available to taxpayers. These special programs include:
Preferential Agricultural Property
Bona fide agricultural property can be assessed at 75%
of the assessment of other property. This means that this type of
property is assessed at 30% of fair market value rather than 40%. Property that qualifies for this special assessment must be
maintained in its current use for a period of 10 years.
Conservation Use Property
Bona fide agricultural property can be assessed at its current
use value rather than the fair market value. Property that qualifies for
this special assessment must be maintained in a current use for a
period of 10 years.
Environmentally Sensitive Property
Property can be assessed at its current use value rather than
the fair market value when such property is maintained in its natural
condition and meets the requirements set by the Department of Natural
Resources. Property that qualifies for this special assessment must be
maintained in a current use for a period of 10 years.
Residential Transitional Property
Property can be assessed at its current use value, rather than
fair market value, when it is used for residential purposes but located
in an area that is changing to, or being developed for, a use other than
Standing timber is not taxed until sold or harvested, at which
time it is taxed based upon 100% of its fair market value. There
are 3 types of sales and harvests that are taxable:
Lump sum sales where the timber is sold at a specific price regardless of volume
Owner harvests where a land owner harvests his own timber and sells it by volume
Unit price sales where the timber is sold or harvested based on a specific price per volume
Equipment, Machinery, & Fixtures
Equipment, machinery, and fixtures are assessed at 40%
of fair market value. The tax assessor may value the equipment,
machinery, and fixtures of a going business to reflect the fair market
value of the business as a whole. When no ready market exists for the
sale of equipment, machinery, and fixtures, a fair market value may be
determined by resorting to any reasonable, relevant, and useful
information available. This information may include, but is not limited
to, the original cost of the property, depreciation or obsolescence, and
any increase in value by reason of inflation. Other determining factors
Existing zoning of property
Existing use of property
Existing covenant or restrictions in deed dedicating the property to a particular use
Any other important factors
Tax assessors have access to any public records in order to discover such information.