E-Filing Streamlines Property Tax Returns

July 27, 2020 by Meredith Trimble

E-Filing Streamlines Property Tax Returns

Property taxes fund safe neighborhoods, parks and recreational opportunities, quality education, public safety, road maintenance, and other essential community services. Because of their importance, the ability of cities and counties to ensure accurate, fair, and equitable valuation and taxation is paramount. In counties with larger populations, managing taxation and the reams of paperwork that accompanies personal property filings is a daunting task.

The Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office in Marietta, Georgia, creatively navigated equitable valuation for more than 830,000 residents and was a pioneer in the state in adopting electronic filing for individual returns.

The road to digital filing began when the Personal Property Division sought a way to streamline workflow, reduce costs, and increase efficiency in processing business returns. During filing time, staff used to handle approximately 15,000 paper forms, examining them for accuracy, consistency, and proper documentation. At times, that documentation reached several hundred pages for just one return. Appraisers marked forms for errors and omissions before manual data entry by administrative staff. The process was time-consuming and ripe for errors.

By leveraging e-filing through the office’s enterprise technology system, Cobb County was able to develop and offer online filing for property owners submitting business personal property returns. The electronic system allows users to file returns and upload supporting documents to verify accuracy and any exemption claims. Customers enjoy the convenience and efficiency; particularly as subsequent forms are already populated with information from previous filings. Staff, too, benefit from saved time. Manual data entry has been eliminated, freeing up administrative staff time and reducing the instances of human error.

The e-filing process has contributed to the overall efforts to reduce, and eventually eliminate, paper in the workplace. As return information is automatically updated and inclusive of attachments, staff members can access complete account information right from their computers. Paper files are a thing of the past, including the expense to maintain them.

Because the Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office was the first in Georgia to implement e-filing for personal property returns, it has served as an example to other large jurisdictions. Cobb County’s innovation also earned it a 2020 Tyler Excellence Award.

Learn more about Cobb County and the other 2020 Appraisal & Tax award winners.

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