Georgia is set to become the only state among its neighboring states to offer temporary real estate property taxes relief to residential property owners affected by storm damage. This comes as Governor Brian Kemp signed into law House Bill 311, authored by State Representative Lynn Smith of Newnan, last week.
The new law, which goes into effect on April 1, permits local governments in Georgia to provide property taxes relief through a millage rate reduction or a credit when the federal government declares a disaster. This means that local governments have the option to grant different levels of tax breaks for damaged or destroyed properties.
How to Get a Property Taxes Alleviation in Case of Natural Disaster
The “pay it forward” initiative, as described by Rep. Smith, was developed in response to the violent EF-4 tornado that struck Newnan, Georgia, on March 26, 2021, with peak winds of 170 mph and leaving destruction in its wake across Heard, Coweta, and Fayette counties. Smith championed House Resolution 594, which led to the ballot choice for local governments to provide temporary property tax relief for natural disasters in November 2020. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by voters.
After the devastation caused by the “Midnight Tornado,” the Georgia legislature sought to find a solution to the difficult problem of providing relief to property owners affected by natural disasters. The resulting House Bill 311 provides local governments with the ability to alleviate the burden on homeowners by offering temporary tax relief.
The new law permits local governments to grant tax relief to homeowners with damaged or destroyed properties by reducing the millage rate or offering a credit. The reduction in the millage rate is measured by a mill, which is equivalent to $1,000 worth of property value.
Georgia’s State Law That Allows Homeowners Access to Property Taxes Reductions
While a few similar laws were found in state law databases among Georgia’s neighboring states, none of them allowed local governments to provide property tax relief for those with damaged or destroyed residential properties. Florida allowed refunds on tax paid on residential improvements of homes for those affected by hurricanes Ian and Nicole in 2022, but only on the habitable part of the home. Non-essential structures such as storage sheds and swimming pools aren’t eligible for refunds.
As Georgia braces itself for the unpredictable spring weather, Governor Kemp’s signature on House Bill 311 will provide impacted homeowners some relief from the devastating impact of natural disasters. The solution is reflective of the community’s positive response to a tragedy that hit their hometown and is a testament to the selfless leaders who worked to find a solution to this difficult problem.
After multiple violent tornadoes struck Tuscaloosa, Cullman and other cities in Alabama in 2011, the Alabama Legislature passed a law that allowed local governments to give tax relief to industrial properties affected by natural disasters. North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee have no similar laws on the books.