How to Protest Your Property Taxes
On Tuesday April 9, 2019, Grass Roots America: We The People hosted a seminar on the Steps To Protest Your Property Taxes. Timely topic, as property taxes are a major issue of discussion in Texas right now. For example, the Texas legislature has made lowering property taxes a main focus of this year’s session. See HB2 and SB2.
There are two ways our property tax can increase from year to year. The first of course, is an increase in the tax rate. The second, has to do with the assessed value of our land. If the assessed value of our land increases, then our property taxes increase. This is true, even if the tax rate does not increase.
The evening’s topic was presented by Collin County Commissioner Darrell Hale and Brian Newman of Collin Strong. According to their website, “Collin Strong is a grassroots organization launched in one of the most influential counties in Texas. We reach over 40 tax districts across Collin County to bring the message of conservative values and importantly to drive impact at the local and state levels.” Their mission is to “Educate the Public, Activate a Grassroots Network, & Promote Candidates and Causes”.
For the purposes of taxes, you want to see your property undervalued. If it is overvalued, then you will pay more tax than you need to. Undervalued in the assessor’s books will not affect the sale value of your land.
If you plan on filing a protest, you will need to start a notebook and gather information. Your objective is to make a case for lowering the assessed value of your home. To do that, you need to be organized and very prepared. Below is the information you want to collect, and the tips and tricks for a shot at success.
Carefully Review your Notice of appraised Value once it arrives
It is important to carefully look over your assessment when it arrives as you only have 30 days to file a protest. You can file a protest every year if you need to. It is your right. In addition, you can go on your County Appraisal District’s (CAD) website and look up the value of your property. A quick google search of your county name and ‘appraisal district’ will bring up the website. You should see a button that says search. This will bring you to a search page where you can search for your property information in a variety of ways.
Check that the appraisal district has accurately described your property improvements and amenities. Extra amenities drive up the value on your home and assessors don’t know any changes you make. How is the part of your property that is not usable due to easements, assessed?
Make sure your exemptions are correct (AG, homestead, over 65, disabled) You will find this under classification on the notice.
Compare your property to similar homes in your immediate vicinity
For this approach to work, you will need a sampling of three homes in the same neighborhood. If you home is in the country, try for as close as possible; both in distance and in property characteristics. This goes into your notebook.
Check recent sales prices of comparable property with a similar home
Use homes that have sold within a month, either before or after, January 1st. Having a Texas Licensed real estate broker prepare a Broker Price Opinion or Comparable Market Analysis is very valuable. This goes in your notebook.
Request from CAD, the comparable sales data that they used in determining their assessment of your property.
Use satellite to look at the homes to which they have compared yours. Do they have amenities you do not have? Such as a pool, well, pond?
If you live in the country and houses are not up for sale, ask CAD for the basis on which they have assessed your property.
Bring attention to repairs needed were the house to go on the market. This is not maintenance. These are factors that can depreciate your house. Get quotes for the repairs. Include pictures. Put all of this in your notebook.
If anything is disputable, file a “Property Appraisal – Notice of Protest”
Prior to filing the form, bring in your notebook and make your case. Be sure to have them show you their comps before you show them yours. Dress well, be polite and all business.
The assessor you are talking to may want to horse trade there and then. Especially if you go in to the CAD office a day or so before the 30-day deadline for filing is due to expire. Be prepared to wait as others will use this tactic as well.
CAD also has a deadline. They must process every Notice of Protest by a set date. That date gives the taxing entities (school, county, city, etc) time to decide if they need to raise taxes for the next year. If CAD has received a lot of Notices, they may be stressed to meet their deadline, and want to resolve cases without a hearing. Maybe.
If they don’t settle there and then, fill out the form. On the form, only check the box that states: “Value is over market value” and/or “Value is unequal compared to other properties.”
IMPORTANT: Do not give them your opinion of the value of your property.
You will receive a notice of hearing. The date is usually mid-June.
If you have not requested or receive comps from the CAD, you must do so at least 14 days prior to the scheduled hearing.
Make sure all requests are in writing and well documented. You may need proof if you’ve not had cooperation from the assessor.
Formal Hearing before the Appraisal Review Board
This is far more formal. You are sworn-in. Roberts Rules of Order are followed. The board is made up of 4-5 citizens with different skill sets. For example, real estate professionals and appraisers.
The board members are not employed by CAD. However, there is still concern in regard to the relationship between the two entities. As such, there is legislation currently being considered to further separate the board from CAD. There are sections in SB2 and HB2 Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief act of 2019, to address such issues.
In this hearing, you get to present your evidence, then the CAD representative gets to present theirs to the board. You are allowed to rebut one time.
After you and CAD have made your presentations, the hearing closes and the board discusses the evidence. They make their decision right there and then.
As a last resort, if you are dissatisfied with the board’s decision, you have the right to appeal.
Your appeal will be heard by either: (1) The State District Court in the county in which your property is located, (2) binding arbitration, (3) State Office of Administrative Hearings.
This last step is time consuming and expensive. Usually those that take this step are either big business or large ranches.
Susan Skommesa is a freelance investigative reporter and editor with The Northeast Texan. In addition, she flips houses and remodels homes with her husband, Steve. Her many interests include research, public speaking, studying Biblical and Paleo-Hebrew, all things health and nutrition, knitting, homesteading, and teaching and writing on topics of faith, gardening, pets, chickens, and human interest.