Decoding Property Taxes: A Comprehensive GuideUnderstanding Property Taxes

Property taxes can seem like a maze of numbers and regulations, leaving homeowners bewildered and unsure of where their hard-earned money is going. But fear not, understanding the ins and outs of property taxes is within reach. Hang in there and let’s dive deeper into this complex yet essential aspect of homeownership.

What is property tax?

At its core, property tax is a levy imposed on property owners by local governments. This tax applies not only to real estate but also to certain personal properties like vehicles and boats. The amount of tax owed is typically determined by the assessed value of the property in question.

Assessed Value and Assessment Rate

Assessed value is a crucial concept in the realm of property taxes. It’s the value assigned to a property for taxation purposes, often based on its fair market value. This fair market value represents the price a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept. However, properties are not always assessed at 100% of their fair market value.

Enter the assessment rate, which is the percentage of a property’s fair market value that is subject to taxation. In many jurisdictions, including Georgia, properties are assessed at a certain percentage of their fair market value. For instance, in Georgia, properties are typically assessed at 40% of their fair market value unless specified otherwise by law.

Learn more about DeKalb County property assessments.

Understanding Millage Rates

Once the assessed value is determined, the next step is to apply the millage rate, also known as the mill levy. This is the rate at which properties are taxed by each jurisdiction within an area, such as a city, county, or school district. The millage rate is calculated based on the revenue needed to fund the budget for public services in each jurisdiction.

To calculate the millage rate, the total revenue needed for each jurisdiction is divided by the total assessed value of all properties within the area. This results in the millage rate for each jurisdiction, which is then combined to determine the total millage rate for the area.

  • Revenue needed for schools / Total property value in the area = school mill levy
  • Revenue needed for city / Total property value in the area = city mill levy
  • Revenue needed for county / Total property value in the area = county mill levy
  • School mill levy + City mill levy + County mill levy = Total mill levy

Calculating Property Taxes

For example, let’s say the school district needs $100 million in revenue, the county needs $10 million, and the city needs $50 million, and the total assessed value of all properties in the area is $1 billion, the millage rate for each jurisdiction would be calculated accordingly. These rates are then added together to obtain the total millage rate for the area.

  • For the school district:
    • Millage rate = $100,000,000 / $1,000,000,000 Millage rate = 0.1 or 10%
  • For the county:
    • Millage rate = $10,000,000 / $1,000,000,000 Millage rate = 0.01 or 1%
  • For the city:
    • Millage rate = $50,000,000 / $1,000,000,000 Millage rate = 0.05 or 5%
  • Total millage rate = 0.1 + 0.01 + 0.05 Total millage rate = 0.16 or 16%

Putting It All Together

Once the total millage rate is determined, homeowners can calculate their property tax liability by multiplying the assessed value of their property by the total millage rate. This amount represents the property tax owed for the year.

Continuing with the example above, let’s say your home’s fair market value (FMV) is $100,000 with the assessment rate currently sitting at forty percent. The percentage of your property’s fair market value that is subject to taxation would be $40,000. When you multiply that by the millage rate or mill levy, you could expect to pay $6,400 in property taxes.

  • $100,000 (FMV) x 40% (assessment rate) = $40,000 (assessed value)
  • $40,000 (assessed value) x 0.16 (mill levy) = $6,400 (property tax owed)

Click here to find out what your millage rate is in your county in Georgia.

It’s important to note that property tax assessments are typically conducted annually as of January 1st. Property owners are usually required to file tax returns between January 1st and April 1st, with tax payments due by a specified deadline, which can vary from county to county.


Understanding property taxes empowers homeowners to budget effectively and make informed decisions about their property investments. By demystifying this complex system, homeowners can navigate the world of property taxes with confidence and clarity.