2012-04-05 / Editorial Page

Coding issues


In the January 26, 2010 Board of Assessor’s hearing, the chairman is quoted: “You’re looking at a $250,000 lot. Prices start falling and the cost of lots drop to $126,000 or even $70,000. How do we determine fair market value in these neighborhoods?”

Two major compliance issues that are pervasive in Lincoln County’s administration of the information contained in Tax Assessor’s database (Wingap) are the miscoding of distress sales and multi-parcel sales. The miscoding results in Fair Market Sales being coded as “Unqualified” and not being able to be used as comparables when determining the Fair Market Values of surrounding properties. The ultimate result with this miscoding is an artificially inflated Tax Digest and an unfair tax burden levied on some county taxpayers due to proportionality and uniformity issues.

Wingap is fairly technical in nature but written in layman’s terms. If you read it, you can see that Wingap has built-in fixes that the Tax Assessor can easily use to fix compliance errors. Basically, with the click (or two) of a mouse, compliance issues in Wingap can be fixed instantly. If the Tax Assessor would use the tools at his disposal and clean up the database, many Georgia Code and Senate Bill 346 compliance violations could be brought into compliance.

Quoting from the Wingap instruction document: “With the passage of Senate Bill 346 in 2010, in certain situations the value (in Wingap) of a parcel cannot exceed the net sales price of the property. In order to accommodate the modifications to the law resulting from SB 346, a module was added to Wingap to provide a means of handling valuation process when a parcel’s situation matched the details of SB 346.”

The two areas of concern where the Tax Assessor is miscoding Fair Market Sales are Distress Sales and Multi-Parcel sales. Distress sales include: Sheriff Tax Sales, Bank Sales, Buyer/Seller Financial Inst. Sales, Fire Sales, Forced by Legal Difference Sales, Short Sales, and Sales at Public Auction. Multi-parcel sales are sales of more than one parcel.

Quoting from the document: “Sales involving more than one parcel are now being used by the (Department of Revenue) Department of Audits. Questions concerning these types of transactions and how to administer the sales price over the involved parcels have been asked quite frequently.”

“The user (Tax Assessor) would receive the SB 346 prompt (in Wingap) after each sale is entered if the sales reason (code) has been properly set to denote an arm’s length transaction. The value for each parcel will then reflect their respective net sales price.”

Wingap describes a very simple process provided by the Georgia Department of Revenue that can insure that Lincoln County is in compliance with Georgia Code and Senate Bill 346. It is disappointing that the Tax Assessor has elected not to use these simple guidelines and tools to keep Lincoln County taxes legal.


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