How long does a lien stay on a property in Georgia?

February 10, 2016 15:25 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

How long does a lien stay on a property in Georgia?

Consumer Ed says:  

There are several types of liens that can be attached to a person’s property.  Each has a different expiration date, and if successfully enforced, could result in the sale of your property to obtain the amount of the lien from the proceeds (with any remaining funds going to the property holder).  While this list is not exhaustive, the most common types of liens are: 

Tax Liens

A state tax lien occurs when taxes are due to the state, or to counties of the state, or other special tax districts of the state.  State tax liens don’t expire, and the only way to get rid of them is to pay the amount owed—otherwise, when you sell your home, the state will collect the amount owed from the proceeds of the sale.

A federal tax lien is one that the federal government can use when you fail to pay a tax debt.  A federal tax lien exists after the IRS puts your balance due on the books (assesses your liability), then sends you a bill that explains how much you owe (Notice and Demand for Payment) after you fail to fully pay the debt in time.  The lien continues until it is paid, or it expires.  Generally, the IRS has ten years to collect after it is assessed.  The IRS can extend the ten years under two different circumstances.  First, the statute of limitations can be extended if you enter into an installment agreement; this extends the expiration date to 89 days after the installment agreement expires.  The second is a release of levy with an agreement to extend the statute of limitations to a specific date, provided the extension date hasn’t passed.  A release of levy may be given if the lien is creating an immediate economic hardship.  This doesn’t mean you are excused from paying what is owed, only that you will be given some leeway to make the payments.  The IRS will generally work with you to establish a payment plan or other steps to help you pay off the balance.

Judgment Lien

A judgment  lien is created when a judgment is obtained in superior, magistrate, or other state courts.  This lien can become unenforceable after seven years, if the lien holder doesn’t seek to enforce the lien by providing public written notice of its efforts, and by including the names of the parties to the enforcement action, the nature of the action, and having it recorded in the court.  The lien holder is able to re-record the judgment every seven years to keep it enforceable; however, if the lien holder fails to re-record the lien within the seven year period, he or she has only three years after that expiration date to re-record it.  If the lien holder fails to re-record during the three years, he or she is barred from enforcing the judgment.

Laborer’s Lien

A laborer’s lien is a lien filed by a person who provides services under a contract for manual labor or physical work.  The lien can only be for the work performed, and cannot include any materials provided (but these would fall under a materialman’s lien, described below). The lienholder must go to court to obtain a judgment against you within twelve months, or the lien becomes unenforceable.

Mechanic’s or materialman’s lien

A mechanic’s or materialman’s lien is a type of lien that contractors, subcontractors, and others who have contributed services and/or materials to improve a new or existing home can file against a homeowner’s property if they do not get paid, even if the homeowner paid the general contractor.  Liens like this don’t go on your credit report, and expire within 12 months unless the subcontractor or contractor actually files a lawsuit to collect the money.  


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How long does a hospital have to bill a patient for an out-patient procedure?

March 10, 2015 16:07 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

How long does a hospital have to send me a bill for an out-patient procedure?  It has been four months since the procedure, and it is hard to know how to budget for this expense. In addition, it may be too late by the time I get the bill to claim it as part of my medical expenses on my taxes.

Consumer Ed says: 

First of all, it may be helpful to make sure you are actually an outpatient.  Your hospital status, i.e. whether the hospital considers you an “inpatient” or “outpatient,” affects how much you pay for hospital services (like X-rays, drugs, and lab tests).  For example,

  • You are an inpatient when you are formally admitted to a hospital with a doctor’s order. The day before you’re discharged is your last inpatient day.
  • You are an outpatient if you are getting emergency department services, observation services, outpatient surgery, lab tests, X-rays, or any other hospital services, and the doctor hasn’t written an order to admit you to a hospital as an inpatient. In these cases, you’re an outpatient even if you spend the night at the hospital.


Your hospital status also affects whether the law clearly mandates a timeline for hospitals to provide you with a bill.  If you were an inpatient, Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act requires a hospital or long-term care facility to provide you an itemized statement of all charges for which you are being billed within six business days after you have been released from its care. It does not contain a similar deadline for hospitals to issue a bill for outpatient services or procedures.  However, there are several steps you can take to speed up the process.

First, you should contact the hospital’s billing department and inquire into the status of your bill. Hospitals generally have specific billing timelines, and processes to follow. The Georgia Administrative Code mandates that hospitals should develop, implement and enforce policies and procedures to ensure that each patient is provided an itemized statement of all charges for which the patient is being billed.  Hospitals are also required to provide, upon your request, a written summary of hospital charge rates per service to allow the patients to assess the charges and make cost effective decisions in the purchase of hospital services.  The American Hospital Association issued similar guidelines to encourage hospitals to respond promptly to patients’ questions about their bills and to use a clear and patient-friendly billing process.

Under Georgia law, patients have the right to inquire as to the estimated charges for a routine office visit, routine treatments, and lab tests prior to receiving such treatment.  It’s still the patient’s responsibility to determine the insurance coverage, but you can always ask the hospital about the costs associated with routine office visits, routine treatments, and lab tests.

There may also be a timely filing requirement for hospitals, depending on what type of medical insurance plan you have:

  • If you have Medicare, the Medicare claims must be filed no later than 12 months (or 1 full calendar year) after the date when the services were provided.
  • If you have Medicaid, the provider must file the claim three months following the month the service is provided.  If you have Medicaid and a third-party insurance plan, in general, your provider will bill the third-party insurance plan first, and then to Medicaid for consideration of payment not to exceed the sum of the deductible, copayment, and coinsurance.  If you have Medicaid and a third-party insurance plan, effective July 1, 2011, Medicaid must receive the claim after the third-party insurance, but within 12 months of the date of the month of service.
  • If you have private health insurance, the insurance company may only accept claims submitted by health care professionals within a specific period of time.  For example, Cigna only considers in-network claims submitted within 3 months after the date of service.  This timeline may be longer if the treating physician is out-of-network.  You should read your insurance company’s Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to see if it has a similar timely filing requirement. You can also contact your insurance company to find out whether your hospital has already provided it with your medical bills.

Additional questions about this? Here’s who to contact:

  • What is covered by my insurance?   
    Contact the insurance company directly. For Medicare, go to www.Medicare.gov. For Medicaid, visit www.Medicaid.gov.
  • Claiming tax exemptions for medical expenses
    Contact the IRS - www.irs.gov
  • A Georgia hospital did not provide an itemized statement of the charges you are being billed for.
    Contact the Georgia Department of Community Health - www.dch.georgia.gov
  • A Georgia hospital or long-term care facility did not provide a detailed bill for in-patient hospital stay within 6 business days.
    Contact the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit – www.consumer.ga.gov
  • Filing a complaint against a health insurance provider   
    Contact the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner - www.oci.ga.gov

 

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As a Tennessee resident, do I have to pay GA sales tax on a car purchased in Georgia?

August 14, 2014 18:20 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I'm looking to buy a used car in Georgia, but I live in Tennessee. What is the law for collecting sales tax? I've been told Georgia dealers won't collect sales tax. I’ve also heard that if I pay cash, they won't collect sales tax, but if I finance it, they will collect my Tennessee tax and mail it to Tennessee. The Georgia Secretary of State said by law the dealer must collect Georgia sales tax and I may also have to pay Tennessee sales tax. Is it up to the dealer?

Consumer Ed says: 

The decision to collect Georgia taxes on the purchase of your vehicle is not in the dealer’s discretion. Instead, it depends on whether you apply for certificate of title in Georgia or another state (like Tennessee).  On March 1, 2013, Georgia’s motor vehicle tax rules changed:  as of that date, instead of the old sales tax, use tax, and annual ad valorem taxes being levied, any car purchased or leased and then titled in Georgia will instead be subject to a one-time tax called the Title Ad Valorem Tax fee (“TAVT”).  The TAVT is now the sole and exclusive method for taxing the purchase price of an automobile.  The TAVT is calculated by multiplying the Fair Market Value of the vehicle by the TAVT rate, which is currently set at 6.75% through the end of 2014.  The new law requires dealers to collect this TAVT from the customer, then submit the TAVT and the application for certificate of title to the particular county in Georgia where the vehicle will be registered.

But if you purchase a vehicle in Georgia and apply for certificate of title in another state, the dealer may not necessarily collect sales tax, use tax, or even TAVT on your behalf.  Instead, the dealer may have the purchaser execute a Nonresident Certificate of Exemption Purchase of Motor Vehicle (also referred to as Form ST-8), to allow for a “drive out” exemption.  This certificate is signed by both the purchaser and the dealer to affirm that the nonresident purchaser will immediately transport the vehicle out of Georgia and apply for title in his/her state of residence.  There are circumstances, however, particularly with financed transactions, where the dealer may collect and remit taxes on your behalf. Regardless, nonresidents won’t pay TAVT or Georgia sales tax, but will be subject to the taxing rules and policies of their home state when they apply for a certificate of title and register their vehicle in that state.

Keep in mind that if you later become a Georgia resident, you’ll be required to pay the TAVT on your vehicle.  This is because new residents moving into Georgia are required to register and title their motor vehicle in Georgia, which is when the TAVT is charged.  According to the new motor vehicle tax rules, new residents must pay 50% of the TAVT within 30 days of moving to the state, and the remaining 50% must be paid within the next 12 months.

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