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Cobb property tax bills go out today

The bill will be in the mail this week for Cobb County property owners.

Tax Commissioner Gail Downing said her staff expects to mail 255,625 property-tax bills on Wednesday, for a total of $600,710,214.10.

Bills are due Oct. 15. A 5 percent late penalty is charged on Oct. 16, and an additional 1 percent in interest is charged each month until the taxes are paid.

Downing’s office handles billing and collections for the state of Georgia, Cobb County, the county school district and the Cumberland and Town Center community improvement districts.

All six of Cobb’s cities now handle their own tax billing and collection, which means residents who live in those cities can expect a separate, city tax bill, Downing said.

This year’s county tax bills will have a Quick Response code that can be scanned with a smart-phone application and will take users to the tax commissioner’s website.

Downing’s office also plans to debut a new website the week of Aug. 20.

“We … hope taxpayers will find it more helpful and friendly to navigate,” Downing said.

Downing advised taxpayers mailing payments close to the Oct. 15 deadline to be sure to use a U.S. postmark, because metered postmarks are not acceptable proof of timely mailing.

If using a financial institution’s bill-pay option, make sure to leave adequate time for payment to be received by Oct. 15.

In Cobb, 148,984 residents have the basic homestead exemption, which saves those homeowners $266.60 in taxes.

In addition, 104,169 owners have the senior school tax exemption, which exempts property owners age 62 and older from all property taxes charged by the county school districts.

This year begins the gradual reduction, and eventual elimination, of the state’s small property tax, under legislation signed in 2010.

Tax payments can be made:

  • In person at the Cobb Tax Commissioner’s Office, 736 Whitlock Ave., Marietta, 30064. This office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and will stay open until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays from Sept. 4 through Oct. 9.
  • In person at the East Cobb Government Center, 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta, 30068, or at the South Cobb Government Center, 4700 Austell Road, Austell, 30106. These offices are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
  • Drop boxes are located outside the office on Whitlock, and inside the other offices. There is also a drop box at the IBM Credit Union Branch at 100 Cherokee St. on the Marietta Square.
  • By phone (1-866-PAY-COBB or 1-866-729-2622), using either an e-check or credit card.
  • Online at www.cobbtax.org with an e-check or credit card. Once Downing’s office has its new website up and running, e-checks will be free (those now have a $1 surcharge), and credit-card processing fees will decrease from the current 2.35 percent to 1.90 percent, plus a 30-cent transaction fee.
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover are accepted for phone or internet payments.

Disabled veterans who own property in Georgia are eligible for a property-tax exemption on up to $63,780 worth of property, and Downing said some of those property owners who had the exemption in recent years may be due a refund.

State revenue officials notified county tax commissioners across Georgia in May that the exemption amount actually increased in 2009, though none of the counties were aware, Downing said.

“We’ve obviously had an error, so we need to do refunds,” she said. Refunds for overpayments range from about $35 to $317, she said, and her office will automatically mail refund checks within four weeks.

About 250 Cobb owners currently have the disabled veterans exemption, she said.

Downing said telephone calls to her office generally spike for about a week after bills are mailed, and again from mid-September until the payment deadline.

Initially, she said callers question their bill amount and assessed value, exemption status, why the previous owner’s name is still on the bill, and whether taxes should be pro-rated. In September, callers often want to check to see if their mortgage company has paid the bill.

“The answers to the majority of these common questions are available on our website,” she said.

Cobb County collects property taxes after its fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, which means the county must take out short-term loans, known as tax anticipation notes, earlier in the fiscal year to pay for its operations.

Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott has said he would prefer to collect taxes at the start of the fiscal year, to avoid borrowing money.

“We have great interest rates now, because of the county’s AAA bond rating,” Ott said. “But if the rates go up, we don’t want to borrow the short-term notes.”

Nearly 99 percent of 2011 taxes have been collected, Downing said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, August 12, 2012. Written by Geoff Folsom. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Cobb property tax bills go out Wednesday)

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