How Can I Lower My Commercial Property Taxes?

There are many difficult struggles involved in owning a business, and one of these is the problem of constantly making sure your business is staying profitable. If your company is in a state with a high property tax, it’s helpful to know how you can reduce your property tax burden. The last thing any business owner wants to do is to sell or close the business because of uncertainty related to managing property taxes. There are a few things you should know that may help lower your commercial property taxes as a business owner.

How Can I Keep My Commercial Property Taxes Low?

  • Understand that property tax is not a fixed cost: A big mistake that business owners might make is to treat their commercial property taxes just like their income taxes. Income tax is a fixed cost, but property tax is a variable amount. Oftentimes, a company will attempt to focus their property tax filing on making sure their taxes are being paid on time without really examining whether they’re paying a fair amount. It will be up to you, as the business owner, to decide if local taxing jurisdictions have overstated your property’s tax value.
  • Ensure your property is in the right jurisdiction and maintain correct asset records: Sometimes, certain personal property will be put under your personal name instead of your business name. If you move your property across state lines, or if certain machinery is moved or discarded, records need to be properly kept in order to avoid paying unnecessary personal property taxes.
  • Know how to classify your assets properly: There’s a big difference between taxable and non-taxable real estate and personal property. Make sure that you’re classifying each piece of personal property correctly when you report it to your tax jurisdiction.
  • Shop around in neighboring jurisdictions: If you’re building a new business, you should always keep your eye on neighboring states and different jurisdictions within a state, so you can find the best tax rate for your company.

Knowing how to keep your commercial property taxes reduced is crucial if you want to maximize your business’s potential. However, this can be a lot to handle if you’re a small business or if you’re just unfamiliar with commercial taxes. Contact the attorneys at Hecht Walker, P.C. for more information.

How Are Commercial Property Taxes Assessed?

Depending on your location and other important factors, your property taxes will represent an important part of your overall tax payments. Property tax revenue is extremely important for a city like Atlanta’s resources and services, such as public utilities, roads, and law enforcement protection. Since property taxes are important for your city’s growth and maintenance, it’s important to know how Georgia’s local governments determine how your commercial property tax duty is assessed.

What Form of Assessment Is Used?

The most common approach for your local government to assess your commercial property taxes is to give you an income and expense form. This form will request commercial property owners to give more details on all of the income and expenses that they have acquired this past year. For your rental income, the form will ask you questions regarding your purchase of the property and if there have been any additional changes since the purchase, such as a structure improvement or structure demolition. This will help determine if there is additional property value that wasn’t accounted for in other assessments, which will then change your tax assessment. It’s also crucial that commercial property owners identify all expenses relating to their property in this form as well. Expenses can include management fees, other agency fees, any legal fees, advertising fees, payroll, insurance, utilities, supplies, repairs and maintenance, etc. Your safest bet as a business owner is to list all expenses, and then let the assessors figure out which costs are relevant or not.

Once the assessors receive your income and expense form, they use a relevant cap rate to determine what the initial value of your commercial property is. They will then take that value and calculate your expected local taxes for the upcoming year.

For commercial property owners, knowing how your local government calculates your property value will help you predict your property’s future financial worth. Knowing this process will also better prepare you for determining if you should appeal your commercial property taxes. For more information on your commercial property and taxes Contact Hecht Walker, P.C. .

Hecht Walker, P.C. Welcomes Brad Baldwin, Of Counsel

Brad Baldwin has 27 years of experience in lending transactions, corporate reorganization, financial workouts, loan restructurings, creditor’s rights, bankruptcy, and commercial litigation.   One key to Brad’s expertise comes from understanding both sides of the table and his experience representing both borrowers and lenders in loan transactions and workout situations.

Brad frequently represents banks and financial institutions in most all facets of loan restructuring  and recovery involving commercial borrowers.   Providing both transactional and litigation services, Brad is experienced in loan document preparation, collection lawsuits, foreclosures, state court receiverships, garnishments, repossessions, and bankruptcy.

Brad’s expertise further includes guiding commercial businesses through financial restructurings, including out-of-court workouts and Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.   He has served as lead counsel for the Chapter 11 financial reorganization of numerous companies, including a $100 million textile business, a $100 million rope manufacturer, and a $200 million retail chain of faith-based bookstores.   Brad is a past Chairman of the Bankruptcy Section for the Atlanta Bar Association, and he represents a wide variety of constituencies in bankruptcy, including financial institutions, landlords, equipment lessors, suppliers, and government entities.   Having personally conducted several bankruptcy auctions for the sale of entire companies, Brad is  skilled in representing parties seeking to sell or acquire select assets or entire businesses in bankruptcy.

Brad spent over two decades at the Atlanta offices of very large or nationwide law firms, including Jones Day and Burr Forman.   Brad was attracted to the ability of Hecht Walker’s attorneys to provide big firm expertise to clients with the hands on care and personal attention at smaller firm rates.  Brad now joins the Hecht Walker tradition of providing hard and responsive work in a cost-efficient manner for our clients.

How to File Your Property Tax Appeal in Atlanta

If you have a company in a big and growing city like Atlanta, you can expect your property tax amounts to fluctuate, and they recently have probably increased dramatically. As an Atlanta business owner, you have the right to challenge the value of your property taxes that your assessors have placed on your commercial property. There is a specific property tax appeal process that Atlanta business owners should know about in case you disagree with your tax assessment.

How Does My Business File an Appeal?

First, your business must file a proper Notice of Appeal to the County Board of Tax Assessors within 45 days of your County’s Tax Assessment and Valuation notice. The Board of Assessors will review your property value and then send your business a notice of their decision. The decision will either let you know if a change will be made, or it will refer you pursue your issue further with another hearing board or an arbitration hearing. Sometimes the change that the board agrees to can still not be enough for your business, so you can ask at that point to continue the appeal, which will usually happen through a Board of Equalization appeal. If your company owns the property, keep in mind that only a licensed attorney can represent your business in court, not you as an individual.

Before going into this process, your Atlanta business should assess three things about your commercial property in order to best win your case: uniformity, sales, and finances. Before filing your appeal, locate other properties in your area that are comparable to your business. Uniformity is a big factor that can exclude your property in a tax appeal. You should also attempt to compare sales market values to other similar properties, as well as other mortgage and interest expenses. These three factors will help give a better evaluation of how high your taxes really are on your property.

Our Atlanta property tax and appeal attorneys can help you and your company through this complicated appeal process, and we can help assist you in finding out the grounds for assessing your property value. Contact us today for your consultation.

Landlord Tips for Managing Your Commercial Property

Managing a rental property as a landlord is tough and can result in various legal problems. One of the main managing aspects of being a landlord is preventing these problems from happening or from escalating to even larger issues. Landlords and tenants should be fully aware of the basic duties of managing property, so both parties can avoid any future legal issues. Here are some landlord tips that will help prevent any future unwanted legal affairs.

 

Have a Landlord/Tenant Agreement in Writing: One of the most important landlord tips is to make sure you have any rental agreements in writing. This will create a solid landlord/tenant relationship from the beginning and will make any agreements contractual by law. Ensure that all important information is written in these contracts.

Regularly Inspect the Property: Landlords should always be inspecting the rental property for dangerous conditions. Most of the time, a landlord has legal responsibility if a tenant gets injured on the property, so regular inspections will help protect both parties from lawsuits. 

Don’t Discriminate Against Tenants: Landlords are prohibited from rejecting any prospective tenants based on race, national origin, familial status, financial history, disability or sex. Landlords are disallowed from inspecting any credit, employment, or income history based solely on discrimination. 

Give Notice Before Entering the Rental Unit: Landlords should always give previous notice (via phone call or email, for example) to their tenants if they plan on entering a rental unit for inspections or some other relevant reason. An emergency will usually override this rule.

Make Repairs Immediately: As soon as a landlord is notified of a repair needed for the rental property or for a specific rental unit, it is the landlord’s duty to repair and maintain the issue. Requests for repairs should be handled promptly, and communication of any extra costs and timelines should be made between landlords and tenants.

If you have encountered any legal issues with your rental or commercial property as a landlord, the attorneys at Hecht Walker, P.C. can help you resolve your problems. Contact our office today to speak to our attorneys at law and schedule a free consultation.

How Atlanta’s New Zoning Laws Will Affect Housing Development

At the end of January 2018, Atlanta became the first city in Georgia to enact inclusionary zoning laws. The ordinances specifically apply to areas near the Beltline and the new Mercedes-Benz stadium. In summary, the laws demand that developers give a specific portion of units to Atlanta residents who make between 60 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. There are a few ways that these new ordinances will affect the city’s development scene.

What Do These Laws Solve for Atlantans?

Many areas in Atlanta are expecting to have residential development on various pieces of land. This has resulted in sharp increases in rent and property possession prices, which has made area residents very concerned about future affordability with limited land. Atlanta fixed the original zoning code by making it a development for workforce housing. Workforce housing is a real estate term that’s also known as affordable housing occupied by a group of profitably employed people. The goal of inclusionary zoning is to fix this problem by bringing people from all different socio-economic backgrounds into a similar community. Atlanta prides itself on its diverse culture and having a workforce housing zone will promote this inclusionary community.

The city of Atlanta has had one of the largest metropolitan population growths in the country in the last ten years. This has resulted in many different zoning laws being enacted, and these laws can be complex when there’s constant rezoning and special permits happening throughout the city. Atlanta’s government wants to keep the city as economically productive as possible, but unfortunately, many local politicians have disagreed with the new zoning campaigns. The attorneys at Hecht Walker, P.C. have experience in helping their clients address these Atlanta zoning and permitting policies. Contact us today for a consultation.

How to Prevent Wrongful Foreclosure

Like many legal processes, the process of foreclosure can be drawn out and complicated. A foreclosure is the action of taking possession of a mortgaged property when the mortgagor fails to keep up their mortgage payments. Few people actually decide to go into foreclosure; they can’t make their payments for various reasons, such as unemployment, inability to work due to a medical condition, excessive debt, divorce, moving to another state, etc. Also, like other legal processes, it can be easy for the lender, bank, or other consultant to be accused of fraud, which in this case would be called wrongful foreclosure.

What Could Be Considered Wrongful Foreclosure?

Foreclosure fraud, or wrongful foreclosure, can occur when any party involved in the foreclosure alters, deletes, or adds something to the official documents or whole procedure. One common instance of wrongful foreclosure is forging signatures, which happens when foreclosure processing companies submit the proper documents to courts that either have not been actually signed, or have a forged signature. Forging a signature is not only a very common act of wrongful disclosure and a breach of contract, but it’s also a criminal act in many circumstances. Another aspect of wrongful disclosure is when the lender does not follow state procedure. Every state has its own set of notice requirements, property rights, judicial sale procedures, and eviction rules.

How Can I Avoid Foreclosure Fraud?

Firstly, don’t ever forge a signature. If you are confused about what you’re signing or you don’t agree with the terms listed in a document, don’t sign it or ask your attorney or your bank for more information before signing. Also, be aware of the bank possibly forging signatures; one common way they do this is by robo-signing, or blindly signing documents without checking for accuracy. Also, once you begin the foreclosure process, make sure you’re fully aware of all state procedure that would apply.

The Attorneys at Law at Hecht Walker, P.C. are here to help you through your foreclosure in Atlanta. If you suspect a wrongful foreclosure during this process, don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys for assistance.

Upcoming Webinar on Business Disputes and Litigation

Aaron Chausmer of Hecht Walker, P.C. Attorneys at Law is set to speak in an upcoming webinar for the Clear Law Institute. The webinar will premiere on January 31, 2018. The webinar will be titled Fiduciary Duty Litigation in Business Disputes: Identifying Causes of Action, Key Defenses, Remedies and Proof. Aaron Chausmer will be giving valuable insights on the topic and providing a wealth of information that anyone in the legal field will not want to miss.

About the Clear Law Institute

The Clear Law Institute offers engaging workplace learning for online continuing education. It focuses on providing practical and engaging continuing education on law, compliance, investigation, accounting, HR, and management topics. The Clear Law Institute, or CLE, is well-known in the legal community for its informative webinars that include over 1,000 previously recorded webinars and approximately 70 live webinars that are added each month. In addition to the webinars, the online workplace offers courses and games for continuing education. The CLE is led by Michael W. Johnson, the former U.S. Department of Justice attorney.

About Aaron Chausmer

Aaron Chausmer, Senior Counsel with Hecht Walker, P.C., has 19 years of experience in commercial and business litigation matters. Prior to becoming part of the Hecht Walker, P.C. team, Aaron Chausmer led his own commercial and business litigation practice. His primary area of focus included commercial and contract disputes, internal business affairs, corporate governance, strategic planning, litigation avoidance, and competition-based matters.

His education includes graduating from Emory University, attending the Boston University School of Law, and earning a Juris Doctor degree. As a part of Hecht Walker, P.C., Aaron Chausmer uses his years of experience and education to offer services in his area of focus as well as generalized advisory services for businesses.

As an active member of the State Bar of Georgia and an accomplished attorney, Aaron Chausmer has a history of imparting his knowledge to others through speaking events. He often speaks to attorneys and business owners and was a featured as a speaker for Strafford Publications, the Perimeter Chambers Small Business Council Educational Series, Lorman Education Services, and SHRM-Atlanta.

About Hecht Walker, P.C. Attorneys at Law

When Aaron Chausmer joined Hecht Walker, P.C. he became part of a team of experienced attorneys that value hard and honest work. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the business law firm is home to some of the top business attorneys in the state. The attorneys on the Hecht Walker team have a combined century of experience in their specialized practices. The firm has a successful track record and solid reputation for representing their clients. Clients include individuals, small businesses, government bodies, and large corporations. No matter the size of the company or complexity of the case, the attorneys at Hecht Walker, P.C. aggressively and vigorously represent their clients and defend their legal rights.

Recently, the firm showed not just its expertise, but its charitable side. The first Annual Giving Challenge was established in 2017 to provide a matching grant of $10,000 to Children’s Rights, Inc. Children’s Rights protects children from neglect and abuse through legal work and advocacy. The Hecht Walker, P.C. team is proud to support their worthy cause.

Join with the Hecht Walker Family to Make a Difference in the Lives of Our Most Vulnerable Children

Greg and Cheri Hecht and the team at Hecht Walker, P.C. are happy to announce our first Annual Giving Challenge with a Matching Grant of $10,000 to Children’s Rights, Inc. a non-profit organization. Greg, Cheri, and Hecht Walker, P.C. will match every dollar donated to Children’s Rights, Inc. up to $10,000 between now and #GivingTuesday on November 28th.

Children’s Rights is setting up a Southeastern Headquarters in Atlanta to protect children from abuse and neglect through advocacy and legal work. All of us believe in making this country a place where all children – especially the most vulnerable among them – are safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, Inc. has helped protect over 100,000 children from abuse and neglect through its legal work. Children’s Rights enforces the Constitutional, State and Federal Rights of children, to be free from abuse and neglect, in state custody or supervision. Your contributions will go toward this work to protect Children in Georgia and throughout the South. We need your help to make this Southeastern office a vibrant center of protection for children in foster care and other state and federal oversight programs.

Many of you joined us a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta for a Conversation with Children’s Rights to hear the both horrible and heartwarming story of Edgar C. Edgar survived five years in a group home to make it out on a scholarship to Syracuse University. His younger brother was separated from him in the system and was traumatized through 40 different foster care placements and not surprisingly is now in prison. Unfortunately, less than 40% of children in foster care graduate high school, and the majority, suffer severe trauma and stress in the system.

Cheri and I are blessed to have adopted twin girls who started their lives in foster care, and we are so impressed with the compassion, commitment and great legal work of Children’s Rights to protect vulnerable children. Children’s Rights helps children in Atlanta, the Southeast and across the nation.  We invite you to join us in supporting the organization’s efforts in our region as we strive to transform the child welfare systems that care for America’s children. To double your donation, type or copy and paste “Matched by Hecht Walker” in the donation comments section as you make your donation.

All contributions made will allow CR to expand its work in the Southeast region.

DONATE HERE

Then, to help us spread the word, post and share that you have made a donation:

@childrensrights        #shinealight

Thank you and God bless you and your family. We are grateful for your teamwork and contribution to this important cause.

Property Tax Appeal Deadlines Are Fast Approaching

Higher tax assessments in Georgia have business owners and other property owners alarmed. There has been much confusion as to whether or not these recent tax hikes for property owners will stick.  According to a June 5th article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) some Fulton County residents have seen property tax increases this year of more than fifty percent. According to Hecht Walker Principal Greg Hecht,“tax assessments typically come out in spring and early summer across the state, so this issue is currently playing out all across Georgia,”

Business owners and homeowners need to review their tax assessments to find their individual deadlines for appealing a tax assessment. All property owners should be aware that deadlines are coming up fast.

While it appears that residential property owners may have a reprieve, that may not be the case for commercial property owners. In a June 19 article, the AJC quoted Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Assessors John Eaves as saying “commercial properties will be assessed at 2017 levels.”

Hecht Walker, P.C. works on behalf of many businesses and commercial enterprises to help them appeal tax assessments, if advisable.

Business owners are likely to have a better chance at a successful appeal with the guidance of an Atlanta commercial real estate attorney with experience.  The attorneys at Hecht Walker PC focus on business and commercial clients and have represented many such clients with successful outcomes.

BEFORE YOU PAY YOUR TAXES, FIND OUT YOUR OPTIONS FOR APPEAL

To read more about how tax appeals work please take a look at the page “Atlanta Property Tax and Appeal Attorney” on our website, or you may want to read an article published in our 2014 Newsletter by Hecht Walker’s Jon Jordan, Easing the Taxing Cost of Property Ownership.* Additionally, a recent news report by WXIA News featured an interview with Dwight Robinson, the chief tax appraiser for Fulton County; the story helps explain why property taxes jumped so dramatically in Fulton County this year.

Most Georgia counties have mailed out tax assessment notices to property owners already, and your time to appeal is approaching fast if it has not already passed. You should check the date on your tax assessment notice for the appeal date. If you disagree with the county’s assessment of your commercial property’s value, you can appeal the assessment. Please contact Greg Hecht, Mark Walker, Jon Jordan or Aaron Chausmer at Hecht Walker, PC –  (404)-949-0170 if you would like their guidance to determine if you have a good case to appeal your commercial property tax assessment.  Or you may reach our commercial real estate attorneys by completing the contact form on our website. Don’t delay – get the property tax advice and the legal help you need promptly.

*Please note that the law has changed since 2014, and you should contact our law firm or another law firm on your tax appeal matter before relying on the 2014 article.