48-5-7.  Assessment of tangible property

   (a) Except as otherwise provided in this Code section, taxable tangible property shall be assessed at 40 percent of its fair market value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's fair market value.

(b) Tangible real property which is devoted to bona fide agricultural purposes as defined in this chapter and which otherwise conforms to the conditions and limitations imposed in this chapter shall be assessed for ad valorem property tax purposes at 75 percent of the value which other tangible real property is assessed and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to said assessment.

(c) Tangible real property which qualifies as rehabilitated historic property pursuant to the provisions of Code Section 48-5-7.2 shall be assessed at 40 percent of its fair market value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's fair market value. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "fair market value" shall mean the fair market value of rehabilitated historic property pursuant to the provisions of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (3) of Code Section 48-5-2.

(c.1) Tangible real property which qualifies as landmark historic property pursuant to the provisions of Code Section 48-5-7.3 shall be assessed at 40 percent of its fair market value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's fair market value. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "fair market value" shall mean the fair market value of landmark historic property pursuant to the provisions of subparagraph (D) of paragraph (3) of Code Section 48-5-2.

(c.2) Tangible real property which is devoted to bona fide conservation uses as defined in this chapter and which otherwise conforms to the conditions and limitations imposed in this chapter shall be assessed for property tax purposes at 40 percent of its current use value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's current use value.

(c.3) Tangible real property located in a transitional developing area which is devoted to bona fide residential uses and which otherwise conforms to the conditions and limitations imposed in this chapter for bona fide residential transitional property shall be assessed for property tax purposes at 40 percent of its current use value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's current use value.

(c.4) Tangible real property which qualifies as brownfield property pursuant to the provisions of Code Section 48-5-7.6 shall be assessed at 40 percent of its fair market value and shall be taxed on a levy made by each respective tax jurisdiction according to 40 percent of the property's fair market value. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "fair market value" shall mean the fair market value of brownfield property pursuant to the provisions of subparagraph (F) of paragraph (3) of Code Section 48-5-2.

(d) The requirement contained in this Code section that all tax jurisdictions assess taxable tangible property at 40 percent of fair market value shall not apply to any tax jurisdiction whose ratio of assessed value to fair market value exceeded 40 percent for the tax year 1971. No tax jurisdiction so exempted shall assess at a ratio of less than 40 percent except as necessary to effect the preferential assessment provided in subsection (b) of this Code section.

(e) Each notice of ad valorem taxes due sent to taxpayers of counties and municipalities shall include both the fair market value of the property of the taxpayer which is subject to taxation and the assessed value of the property after being reduced as provided by this Code section.

 

48-5-7.1.  Tangible real property devoted to agricultural purposes -- Definition; persons entitled to preferential tax assessment; covenant to maintain agricultural purposes; penalty for breach of covenant

   (a) For purposes of this article, "tangible real property which is devoted to 'bona fide agricultural purposes'":

   (1) Is tangible real property, the primary use of which is good faith commercial production from or on the land of agricultural products, including horticultural, floricultural, forestry, dairy, livestock, poultry, and apiarian products and all other forms of farm products; but

   (2) Includes only the value which is $100,000.00 or less of the fair market value of tangible real property which is devoted to the storage or processing of agricultural products from or on the property; and

   (3) Excludes the entire value of any residence located on the property.

(b) No property shall qualify for the preferential ad valorem property tax assessment provided for in subsection (b) of Code Section 48-5-7 unless:

   (1) It is owned by one or more natural or naturalized citizens; or

   (2) It is owned by a family-farm corporation, the controlling interest of which is owned by individuals related to each other within the fourth degree by civil reckoning, and such corporation derived 80 percent or more of its gross income for the year immediately preceding the year in which application for preferential assessment is made from bona fide agricultural pursuits carried out on tangible real property located in this state, which property is devoted to bona fide agricultural purposes.

(c) No property shall qualify for said preferential assessment if such assessment would result in any person who has a beneficial interest in such property, including any interest in the nature of stock ownership, receiving in any tax year any benefit of preferential assessment as to more than 2,000 acres. If any taxpayer has any beneficial interest in more than 2,000 acres of tangible real property which is devoted to bona fide agricultural purposes, such taxpayer shall apply for preferential assessment only as to 2,000 acres of such land.

(d) No property shall qualify for preferential assessment unless and until the owner of such property agrees by covenant with the appropriate taxing authority to maintain the eligible property in bona fide agricultural purposes for a period of at least ten years beginning on the first day of January of the year in which such property qualifies for preferential assessment and ending on the last day of December of the tenth year of the covenant period. After the expiration of any ten-year covenant period, the property shall not qualify for further preferential assessment until and unless the owner of the property enters into a renewal covenant for an additional period of ten years.

(e) No property shall maintain its eligibility for preferential assessment unless a valid covenant remains in effect and unless the property is continuously devoted to bona fide agricultural purposes during the entire period of the covenant.

(f) If any change in ownership of such qualified property occurs during the covenant period, all qualification requirements must be met again before the property shall be eligible to be continued for preferential assessment. If ownership of the property is acquired during a covenant period by a person qualified to enter into an original covenant, by a newly formed corporation the stock in which is owned by the original covenantor or others related to the original covenantor within the fourth degree by civil reckoning, or by the personal representative of an owner who was a party to the covenant, then the original covenant may be continued by such acquiring party for the remainder of the term, in which event no breach of the covenant shall be deemed to have occurred.

(g) A penalty shall be imposed under this subsection if during the period of the covenant entered into by a taxpayer the covenant is breached. The penalty shall be computed by multiplying the amount by which the preferential assessment has reduced taxes otherwise due for the year in which the breach occurs times:

   (1) A factor of five if the breach occurs in the first or second year of the covenant period;

   (2) A factor of four if the breach occurs during the third or fourth year of the covenant period;

   (3) A factor of three if the breach occurs during the fifth or sixth year of the covenant period; or

   (4) A factor of two if the breach occurs in the seventh, eighth, ninth, or tenth year of the covenant period.

(h) A penalty imposed under subsection (g) of this Code section shall bear interest at the rate specified in Code Section 48-2-40 from the date the covenant is breached.

(i) Penalties and interest imposed under this Code section shall constitute a lien against the property and shall be collected as other unpaid ad valorem taxes are collected. Such penalties and interest shall be distributed pro rata to each taxing jurisdiction wherein the preferential assessment has been granted based upon the total amount by which such preferential assessment has reduced taxes for each such taxing jurisdiction on the property in question as provided in this Code section.

(j) The penalty imposed by subsection (g) of this Code section shall not apply in any case where a covenant is breached solely as a result of:

   (1) The acquisition of part or all of the property under the power of eminent domain;

   (2) The sale of part or all of the property to a public or private entity which would have had the authority to acquire the property under the power of eminent domain; or

   (3) The death of an owner who was a party to the covenant.

(k) All applications for preferential assessment, including the covenant agreement required under this Code section, shall be filed on or before the last day for filing ad valorem tax returns in the county for the tax year for which such preferential assessment shall be first applicable. An application for continuation of preferential assessment upon a change in ownership of the qualified property shall be filed on or before the last date for filing tax returns in the year following the year in which the change in ownership occurred. Applications for preferential assessment shall be filed with the county board of tax assessors who shall approve or deny the application. If the application is approved on or after
July 1, 1998, the county board of tax assessors shall file a copy of the approved application in the office of the clerk of the superior court in the county in which the eligible property is located. The clerk of the superior court shall file and index such application in the real property records maintained in the clerk's office. Applications approved prior to July 1, 1998, shall be filed and indexed in like manner without payment of any fee. If the application is not so recorded in the real property records, a transferee of the property affected shall not be bound by the covenant or subject to any penalty for its breach. The fee of the clerk of the superior court for recording such applications approved on or after July 1, 1998, shall be paid by the owner of the eligible property with the application for preferential treatment and shall be paid to the clerk by the board of tax assessors when the application is filed with the clerk. If the application is denied, the board of tax assessors shall notify the applicant in the same manner that notices of assessment are given pursuant to Code Section 48-5-306 and shall return any filing fees advanced by the owner. Appeals from the denial of an application by the board of tax assessors shall be made in the same manner that other property tax appeals are made pursuant to Code Section 48-5-311. As to property approved for preferential assessment prior to July 1, 1998, the county board of tax assessors shall file copies of all approved applications in the office of the clerk of the superior court not later than August 14, 1998, and the clerk shall file, index, and record such approved applications, as provided for in this subsection, with the fee of the clerk of the superior court for filing, indexing, and recording to be paid out of the general funds of the county.

(l) The commissioner shall by regulation provide uniform application and covenant forms to be used in making application for preferential assessment. Such application shall include an oath or affirmation by the taxpayer that he has not at any time received, or made a pending application for, preferential assessment in the same or another county with respect to any property which taken together with property for which application is then being made exceeds 2,000 acres.

(m) The commissioner shall annually submit a report to the Governor and members of the General Assembly which shall show the fiscal impact of the preferential assessment provided for in this Code section. The report shall include the amount of assessed value eliminated from each county's digest as a result of the preferential assessment; approximate tax dollar losses, by county, to all local governments affected by such preferential assessment; and any recommendations regarding state and local administration of this Code section, with emphasis upon enforcement problems, if any, attendant with this Code section. The report shall also include any other data or facts which the commissioner deems relevant.
   (n)(1) The transfer prior to July 1, 1988, of a part of the property subject to a covenant shall not constitute a breach of a covenant entered into before or after July 1, 1984, if:

      (A) The part of the property so transferred is used for single-family residential purposes and the residence is occupied by a person who is related within the fourth degree of civil reckoning to an owner of the property subject to the covenant; and

      (B) The part of the property so transferred, taken together with any other part of the property so transferred during the covenant period, does not exceed a total of three acres.

   (2) The transfer on or after July 1, 1988, of a part of the property subject to a covenant shall not constitute a breach of a covenant entered into before or after July 1, 1988, if:

      (A) The part of the property so transferred is transferred to a person who is related within the fourth degree of civil reckoning to an owner of the property subject to the covenant; and

      (B) The part of the property so transferred, taken together with any other part of the property transferred to the same relative during the covenant period, does not exceed a total of five acres.

(o) The following shall not constitute a breach of a covenant entered into before or after July 1, 1984:

   (1) Mineral exploration of the property subject to the covenant or the leasing of the property subject to the covenant for purposes of mineral exploration if the primary use of the property continues to be the good faith commercial production from or on the land of agricultural products; or

   (2) Allowing all or part of the property subject to the covenant to lie fallow or idle for purposes of any land conservation program, for purposes of any federal agricultural assistance program, or for other agricultural management purposes.

(p) Property which is subject to preferential assessment shall be separately classified from all other property on the tax digest; and such separate classification shall be such as will enable any person examining the tax digest to readily ascertain that the property is subject to preferential assessment. Covenants shall be public records and shall be indexed and maintained in such manner as will allow members of the public to readily locate the covenant affecting any particular property subject to preferential assessment.
   (q)(1) In any case in which a covenant is breached solely as a result of the foreclosure of a deed to secure debt, or the property is conveyed to the lienholder without compensation and in lieu of foreclosure, the penalty specified by paragraph (2) of this subsection shall apply and the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section shall not apply if:

      (A) The deed to secure debt was executed as a part of a bona fide commercial loan transaction in which the grantor of the deed to secure debt received consideration equal in value to the principal amount of the debt secured by the deed to secure debt;

      (B) The loan was made by a person or financial institution who or which is regularly engaged in the business of making loans; and

      (C) The deed to secure debt was intended by the parties as security for the loan and was not intended for the purpose of carrying out a transfer which would otherwise be subject to the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section.

   (2) When a breach occurs solely as a result of a foreclosure which meets the qualifications of paragraph (1) of this subsection, the penalty imposed shall be the amount by which preferential assessment has reduced taxes otherwise due for the year in which the covenant is breached.

   (3) A penalty imposed under this subsection shall bear interest at the rate specified in Code Section 48-2-40 from the date the covenant is breached.
   (r)(1) In any case in which a covenant is breached solely as a result of a medically demonstrable illness or disability which renders the owner of the real property physically unable to continue the property in agricultural use, the penalty specified by paragraph (2) of this subsection shall apply and the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section shall not apply. The penalty specified by paragraph (2) of this subsection shall likewise be substituted for the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section in any case in which a covenant is breached solely as a result of a medically demonstrable illness or disability which renders the operator of the real property physically unable to continue the property in agricultural use, provided that the alternative penalty shall apply in this case only if the operator of the real property is a member of the family owning a family-farm corporation which owns the real property.

   (2) When a breach occurs which meets the qualifications of paragraph (1) of this subsection, the penalty imposed shall be the amount by which preferential assessment has reduced taxes otherwise due for the year during which the covenant is breached.

   (3) A penalty imposed under this subsection shall bear interest at the rate specified in Code Section 48-2-40 from the date the covenant is breached.

   (4) Prior to the imposition of the alternative penalty authorized by this subsection in lieu of the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section, the board of tax assessors shall require satisfactory evidence which clearly demonstrates that the breach is the result of a medically demonstrable illness or disability which meets the qualifications of paragraph (1) of this subsection.

(r.1) In any case in which a covenant is breached solely as a result of an owner electing to discontinue the property in its qualifying use, provided such owner has renewed without an intervening lapse at least once the covenant under this Code section, has reached the age of 65 or older, and has kept the property in a qualifying use under the renewal covenant for at least three years the penalty specified by subsection (g) of this Code section shall not apply and the penalty imposed shall be the amount by which preferential assessment has reduced taxes otherwise due for the year in which the covenant is breached. Such penalty shall bear interest at the rate specified in Code Section 48-2-40 from the date of the breach. Such election shall be in writing and shall not become effective until filed with the county board of tax assessors.

(s) Property which is subject to preferential assessment and which is subject to a covenant under this Code section may be changed from such covenant and placed in a covenant for bona fide conservation use under Code Section 48-5-7.4 if such property meets all of the requirements and conditions specified in Code Section 48-5-7.4. Any such change shall terminate the covenant under this Code section, shall not constitute a breach of the covenant under this Code section, and shall require the establishment of a new covenant period under Code Section 48-5-7.4. No property may be changed under this subsection more than once.

(t) At such time as the property ceases to be eligible for preferential assessment or when any ten-year covenant period expires and the property does not qualify for further preferential assessment, the owner of the property shall file an application for release of preferential treatment with the county board of tax assessors who shall approve the release upon verification that all taxes and penalties with respect to the property have been satisfied. After the application for release has been approved by the board of tax assessors, the board shall file the release in the office of the clerk of the superior court in the county in which the original covenant was filed. The clerk of the superior court shall file and index such release in the real property records maintained in the clerk's office. No fee shall be paid to the clerk of the superior court for recording such release. The commissioner shall by regulation provide uniform release forms.

HISTORY: Code 1981, 48-5-7.1, enacted by Ga. L. 1983, p. 1850, 3; Ga. L. 1984, p. 22, 48; Ga. L. 1984, p. 686, 1; Ga. L. 1985, p. 149, 48; Ga. L. 1986, p. 820, 1; Ga. L. 1987, p. 286, 1-3; Ga. L. 1988, p. 895, 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 292, 1; Ga. L. 1991, p. 668, 1; Ga. L. 1991, p. 1903, 5; Ga. L. 1998, p. 553, 1, 2; Ga. L. 1999, p. 589, 1; Ga. L. 2002, p. 1031, 1.