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Dickey v. Fulton County Board of Assessors

Court of Appeals of Georgia

May 27, 2015

DICKEY
v.
FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF ASSESSORS

Reconsideration denied July 21, 2015.

Taxation. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Lagrua.

Hillis, Robison & Coffelt, Lindsey W. Hillis, Eric A. Coffelt, for appellant.

Cheryl M. Ringer, Frank M. Gaither, Jr., for appellee.

RAY, Judge. Barnes, P. J., and McMillian, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 481

Ray, Judge.

Patricia Dickey (" taxpayer" ) appeals from the superior court's order finding that it was without jurisdiction to consider her untimely appeal from the Fulton County Board of Equalization's decision regarding her ad valorem tax appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm.

This is a residential property tax appeal for tax year 2011 for property located at Tuxedo Road in Atlanta. The taxpayer appealed the 2011 tax assessment for the property to the Fulton County Board of Assessors. The Board of Equalization heard the tax appeal on March 5, 2012. The Board of Equalization then sent its decision letter to the taxpayer via certified mail on March 14, 2012. Instructions for how to appeal to the superior court were included with the Board of Equalization's decision letter, which informed the taxpayer that " a written Notice of Appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the date of this notice[.]" The taxpayer's appeal was not filed until April 16, 2012, which was 33 days after the notice of the Board's decision [333 Ga.App. 347] had been mailed to her. The superior court granted the Fulton County Board of Assessors' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because the appeal was not timely filed.

1. The taxpayer contends that the " time period for filing a notice of appeal is merely directory." This argument is without merit. The " statutory limitation on the period of time in which an appeal from a judicial decision may be taken is jurisdictional." (Citation omitted.) Webb v. Bd. of Tax Assessors of Madison County, 142 Ga.App. 784, 784 (236 S.E.2d 925) (1977). The version of OCGA § 48-5-311 (g) (2) in effect at the time of the trial court's decision[1] provides that the taxpayer's notice of appeal " shall be mailed or filed within thirty (30) days from the date on which the decision of the county board of equalization or hearing officer is mailed [to the taxpayer]." Failure to file an appeal within the statutory 30 days bars any further right of appeal. See Hall County Bd. of Tax Assessors v. Avalon Hills Partners, 307 Ga.App. 520, 522, n. 7 (705 S.E.2d 674) (2010). Accord Webb, supra (right of appeal barred when notice of appeal filed one day late); Camden County Bd. of Tax Assessors v. Proctor, 155 Ga.App. 650, 650 (271 S.E.2d 902) (1980) (taxpayer lost the right to appeal when the taxpayer's notice of appeal was mailed on the last day for filing an appeal under the statutory provision, but was not received until two days after expiration of appeal period). The taxpayer's appeal, filed three days late, bars her right to appeal from the Board of Equalization's decision.

2. Further, contrary to the taxpayer's contention, the evidence shows that the Board of Equalization sent notice according to the statutory requirements. OCGA § 48-5-311 (e) (6) (D) (i) provides that " [n]otice of the [Board of Equalization] decision shall be given to each party by sending a copy of the decision by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to the appellant and by filing the original copy of the decision with the county board of tax assessors." However, " [w]hen a taxpayer authorizes an attorney in writing to act on the taxpayer's behalf, all notices required to be provided to the taxpayer regarding hearing times, dates, certifications, or official actions shall instead be provided to such attorney." (Emphasis supplied.) OCGA § 48-5-311 (o).

The taxpayer argues throughout her brief that Property Tax Advisers, LLC (" PTA" ) should have been served notice of the Board's decision under OCGA § 48-5-311 (o) because it was her " attorney-in-fact," despite the fact that it is not a law firm and there is no evidence [333 Ga.App. 348] that any of its members are licensed attorneys. This argument is without merit. Here, the taxpayer hired PTA, a business that assists taxpayers in appealing

Page 482

their county tax valuations and assessments, to assist in her appeal. Peter Curnin, the managing member of PTA, filed a notice of appeal to the Board on that taxpayer's behalf, and such notice stated that PTA had " been retained and authorized to act on behalf of" the taxpayer and requested that " [a]ll correspondence, notices or other writings related to this appeal should be ...


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