In Avalon Hills, the taxpayer owned three parcels of land in Hall County. In January or February of 2009, the taxpayer’s representative hand-delivered property tax returns for the taxpayer’s three Hall County properties, along with letters to the county board of assessors stating that the taxpayer wished to appeal the assessments on the properties. The representative testified that he also held discussions with the assessors, during which it was abundantly clear that the taxpayer desired to appeal that year’s assessments. Then, in April of 2009—when Hall County issued notices of the assessments on the three properties to the taxpayer, assessing each of the properties at a value above that shown on the taxpayer’s returns—the taxpayer did not submit any written appeal, despite the prominent statement on each of the notices that “if you wish to file an appeal, you must do so in writing no later than 30 days” after the date of the notice.
In pursuing its appeal, the taxpayer claimed that in spite of its failure to file a written appeal within 30 days of the assessment notices, it had satisfied O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311(e)’s requirement by filing letters signifying its desire to appeal the assessments on the properties a few months before the county assessed the properties. Avalon Hills, 2010 WL 5394739, at *2. The county moved to dismiss the taxpayer’s appeals, but the trial court denied the motion, holding that the letters delivered in January/February put the county on notice that the taxpayer wished to appeal the assessments. Id. at *3.
The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the letters submitted to the county months before the mailing of the assessment notices did not excuse the taxpayer from complying with Section 48-5-311’s written appeal requirement. The court noted in particular that “to hold otherwise would place an unintended and impossible burden on the tax assessor’s office to interpret what might constitute an appeal of a future tax assessment.” Id. at *4 (punctuation omitted; emphasis in original). Therefore, because the taxpayer had not properly appealed the assessments, the court had no jurisdiction and dismissed the case.
The outcome of Avalon Hills comes as no surprise—the Court of Appeals simply upheld an unequivocal requirement from O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311(e). Nonetheless, the decision serves as an excellent reminder that a taxpayer must file a written appeal when it wishes to appeal from a property tax assessment, no matter what form of oral communications it has had with the assessor’s office and no matter what it has filed prior to the notice of assessment, including a property tax return. The best practice is to file a written statement identifying the property and its owner, any other identifying information regarding the property at issue, and to attach the notice of assessment at issue, along with a power-of-attorney (if applicable). Taking these steps will help attorneys and other representatives avoid having to make one of the most dreaded phone calls an attorney can make: telling your client that your case was dismissed because you failed to file the correct appeal procedure.
 That 30-day requirement—which comes from O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311(e)—has since been amended to 45 days as part of the property tax reform bill that passed in 2010. Please visit our blog entry from 12/30/10 for a summary of those changes.
 Furthermore, it made little sense for the taxpayer to state that it wished to “appeal the assessments of its properties” in early 2009, for it simultaneously filed returns stating its belief as to the fair market value of those properties. If the county had assessed the properties in line with the taxpayer’s returns, there would have been nothing to appeal.