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27 October 2013

The Ferdinand Fix: Tax Commissioner Uses Special Tax Break to Pay Lower Taxes Than His Neighbors

Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand is Georgia's highest paid elected official.

According to a 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, Ferdinand collected a $347,064 paycheck. That salary is more than the earnings of both Governor Nathan Deal ($139,339) and Chief Justice of the Georgia state Supreme Court Carol Hunstein ($167,210).

With an annual salary in six-figures, one would think Tax Commissioner Ferdinand could afford to, as Barack Obama likes to say, pay his fair share without getting special tax breaks.

Georgia Unfiltered has learned, however, that Arthur Ferdinand is paying just over $1,000 on land he owns in Fulton County, valued at more than $440,000.

Fulton County tax records show that Arthur Ferdinand and his wife own about 68 acres of land along Hutcheson Ferry Road in south Fulton County. The fair market value of the land is $446,800. Ferdinand only pays taxes on $26,610 of his property's value.

In 2013, Ferdinand's property tax bill at 10995 Hutcheson Ferry Road came in at $1,066.81.

By comparison, the land nearby at 10979 Hutcheson Ferry Road is valued at $210,300. The owner of that property received a tax bill for $3,372.46 in 2013; more than double Arthur Ferdinand's tax bill.

How does Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand do it? How does Ferdinand pay less in taxes on property that is worth more than his neighbor's?

It's called the Ferdinand Fix.

Arthur Ferdinand is using a little known law to "fix" his property taxes so that he doesn't have to pay his fair share.

The little known law, called the Conservation Use Assessment, allows Arthur Ferdinand to save thousands of dollars each year just by doing nothing except letting his land sit there and grow grass.

Is the Ferdinand Fix illegal? No. But just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethical.

And there is something unethical about Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand, Georgia's highest paid elected official, using the law to pay less in taxes than his neighbors.

The Ferdinand Fix just doesn't feel right.