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Big Real Estate Tax Scandal 

By Paul Bolster and Julian Bene

Think. What could Atlanta do with $500 million of additional revenue per year? What could Fulton County do with $200 million of additional annual property tax revenue? All without an increase in the millage rate. Could they make a big dent in the shortage of affordable housing? Maybe they could roll back the City’s recent tax increase on single family homes or avoid the proposed County increase to improve the conditions at the jail. Maybe they could improve the parks. Maybe Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton Board public schools could attack the performance disparities between schools. Maybe they could make a dent in poverty. But from where would all that new revenue come? It’s already here.

We’ve experienced recent massive commercial development. It’s just not appraised as demanded by the Georgia Constitution. It’s not taxed like our residential property. The skyline of our city grows but tax assessment data shows much of this new real estate wealth is going untaxed. At best those magnificent towers are taxed on a little over 50% of their value.

Here are a few examples of trophy towers not paying their fair share. Hard to believe.

725 Ponce – the Black Rock & McKinsey offices on top of the Beltline Kroger – sold for $300M in 2021. It paid just $4,000 in property taxes in 2021 and 2022. You read that right. It paid less than you likely paid on your home. It should be paying close to $5M a year on a $300M property. The tower is appraised at $107M, or about one-third of its true value. 

Ponce City Market – It benefited from an Historic Rehab Freeze that effectively meant the property with an estimated value of $1 Billion paid no property taxes in its first 8 ½ years of rehabilitated life. When the Historic Rehab Tax Credit finally ran out in 2022, the assessors appraised it at $500M. After an owner appeal, assessors caved in at $330M – or a third of its likely market value. That costs local government – about $11M per year.

1180 Peachtree – King & Spalding and Bain offices are in a premium Midtown location. This sold in 2022 for $465M but was appraised for $270M less than that. The underappraisal costs $4M per year.

200 26th Street – luxury apartments – sold for $161M in 2022 but were appraised at just 52% of that. Most Midtown and Buckhead luxury high-rises are drastically under-appraised.

On average, the 300 high-value commercial properties in Atlanta sell for almost twice appraised value. 

Our County Commissioners are directly responsible for the Board of Assessors’ mishandling of commercial assessments. Ask our Commissioner Natalie Hall or Fulton Commission Chair Rob Pitts what they plan to do about it. Our other local elected officials need to hear our rage and do a little raging of their own.

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