What is all the fuss about Homestead Exemption and Stephens Day?
Under Georgia law, the owner of real estate is entitled to a “Homestead Exemption” if the property constitutes the owner’s primary residence. Thus, it does not apply to commercial, investment or 2nd home property. The exemption results in a reduction of $2,000.00 from the property’s net assessed value, with the tax savings measured in hundreds not thousands of dollars and can fluctuate depending on the millage rate (which we all know is subject to prevailing political winds). The application for Homestead Exemption must be made by April 1 of the year in which the property owner desires it to take effect, and, once applied for and granted, does not need to be re-applied for on an annual basis (that said, you can only have one homestead so if you move within the County but retain ownership of the first house that exemption will drop-off).
When to apply? The deadline to make application valid for the current tax year is April 1, which falls on a Wednesday this year. DO NOT wait until that week as the line can get pretty backed up. For practical purposes, note your SmartPhone calendar for March 15 and avoid the rush and anxiety. If you miss the deadline you can always apply for the following year.
That was Homestead, what is Stephens Day? First of all, it is a matter of “local legislation” so for this area it only applies in Chatham County. Effingham and Bryan Counties do NOT have a similar provision. Its original intent was to protect homeowners from being “taxed off of their land” in an increasing property value climate. Stephens Day results in a value lock-in upon which the County bases your taxes. It works in conjunction with the Homestead, so it too only applies to primary residential property and the paperwork required is the same.
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