How to dispute your property taxes

Your property tax appraisal arrived in the mail. You opened it up, and nearly passed out. Texas home values are going up, but how could your property value have increased so much? This might be great for the economy, but you’re a homeowner. Is it the best thing for you? One of your most important rights as a taxpayer is your right to protest to the appraisal review board (ARB). You may protest if you disagree with the appraisal district value or any of the appraisal district’s actions concerning your property.

You need a simple plan that will protect your homeowner rights and lower your Texas property taxes.

Step 1 – Find Out Your Home’s Current Value
The first thing you need to know is the current value of your home. If homes similar to and in close proximity to yours are selling for 250K and your appraisal value is at or less than 250K then you may not be able to make a strong case that your property value should be lowered.

To find out current value there are a couple options:
You can get an appraisal from a licensed appraiser, but this will have a cost associated with it. Price will vary based on location and size of property but be thinking in the $300-$500 range.

You could get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) from a competent REALTOR. It includes the same basic information as the appraisal but doesn’t always carry the same weight before the appraisal review board. It’s normal to compensate the REALTOR for their time if you choose to go that route. If your home’s current tax appraisal is at or below its current appraised value then you probably would not win an appeal based on value. There may be an exception if your home has some major defect that negatively impacts its value, such as a foundation that needs to be repaired or a roof that needs to be replaced.

Step 2 – File Written Notice of Your Protest
You will find many how-to videos online about protesting your property’s assessment. Along with these videos, you will also find many companies that will do it for you. Some of these companies require a small upfront fee to get the paperwork started — others will do the paperwork for free with no upfront cost at all. At the end, they get most of their money by taking a cut of the money you saved if they are successful in getting your assessment lowered, which in turn will reduce your tax bill due in January. Some realtors offer this service as well. If they fail at lowering your property tax bill, you don’t have to pay them — just read the fine print. Property owners and lessees may appoint someone to represent them in handling hearings concerning their property. Form 50-162, Appointment of Agent for Property Tax Matters, should be filed if you elect to designate someone to represent you for the protest hearing.

You can personally file and represent yourself to the Appraisal Review Board if you would prefer. The following steps will outline how to do so.
You must file a written protest with your local appraisal district by April 30 to appear before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). The safest way to send your protest is by filing Form 50-132, Notice of Protest, with your county’s appraisal office via mail and/or many Texas counties will let you file online. If you are looking for information on your appraisal district click this link and find your county or contact your County Appraisal District for more info.

While I recommend using the official forms, they aren’t required. Any written notice is sufficient if it includes the following:

Property owner’s name
Address of property subject to protest
Statement of dissatisfaction with a decision by the appraisal district
Once your notice is filed the ARB will notify you within 15 days of the date, time, and place of your hearing.
Filing online allows for easy access of the documents and communication with your district.
Homestead exemptions are key
Make sure your primary home has a homestead exemption on file — it is essentially free money. A discount on your home’s property taxes, in short. Click here to learn more about the Homestead Exemption process.

After filing your protest, you will receive written notice of the date, time, place and subject matter for a formal hearing with the ARB. You may request an informal conference with the appraisal district to try to resolve your protest before the ARB hearing. If you are not able to resolve your protest informally, you can continue your protest to the ARB. At the formal hearing, the ARB listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. You may discuss your objections about your property value, exemptions and special appraisal in a hearing with the ARB. The ARB’s decisions are binding only for the tax year in question.

After filing you will receive an initial response from the appraisal district, this can sometimes include a settlement amount. If this amount satisfies you, you can accept it at that time without going to the formal hearing. If you are dissatisfied with that amount you will continue with your protest and go to the formal hearing.

Step 3 – Appear before Appraisal Review Board
At least 14 days before your protest hearing you will receive a packet of information that includes a description of the ARB’s procedures. Read and follow them carefully. Arrive early for your hearing. And when it’s your turn stick to the facts.
You can appear at the ARB hearing in person, by telephone conference call, videoconference or by filing a written affidavit. The ARB hearing procedures may tell you how many hard copies of evidence you may need for the ARB or panel members or what electronic devices may be acceptable for presenting your evidence electronically. You should become thoroughly familiar with your counties ARB procedures and adhere to them.
You, or your designated agent, and the appraisal district representatives will have an opportunity to present evidence, examine witnesses and state an opinion of the property value (if applicable). You may elect whether to present evidence first or after the appraisal district representatives present evidence.

Tips and Tricks when protesting:
Be on time for your hearing and be prepared. ARBs try to conduct hearings as informally as possible, but they should be treated with the respect you would have for a court proceeding. Confirm the date, time and place of your hearing and arrive on time, or earlier if possible. Counties with populations greater than 120,000 will deliver an electronic reminder of the date, time and place of your protest hearing if you submit a written request and provide an email address or telephone number where a text message can be sent.

Let the appraisal district representatives present their evidence first
Take anything that will help make your case. It is up to you to have what you need to prove your case. You cannot go to the hearing and just tell the appraisal district that they are wrong. You should gather all information about your property that may be relevant in considering the true value of your home such as:

-Photographs of property (yours and comparables)
-Receipts or estimates for repairs
-Sales price documentation, such as listings, closing statements and other information
-Calculations of median level of appraisal, if equal and uniform appraisal is protested
-Affidavits, if needed
-Newspaper articles
-Architectural drawings or blueprints
-Engineering reports
-Property surveys
-Deed records

Make your presentation clear and to the point. Only present the facts and not your opinions. The only thing ARB members can consider is the valuation of your property. The following have no bearing on your case:
-Tax rate
-How tax money is spent
-Your thoughts on the legality of the process

Don’t waste the limited time you have before the board talking about how you think the process should work, how you feel about laws pertaining to taxation or anything that you feel emotionally driven to discuss. Be prepared in advance with facts, figures, and examples. This is where the information provided to you in the appraisal, or the Comparative Market Analysis becomes valuable. Print them out and make a copy available to each member. Then calmly and clearly state your case before the board and answer any questions they have.

Remember the tax appraiser will be there presenting their case as well and has access to the same information the appraiser and REALTOR have. So don’t think you can just use the lower comparable sales that support your position and ignore the higher ones. If you are excluding data from your presentation you need to be able to explain why.

After the ARB rules on your protest, a written order is sent to you by email or certified mail. If you disagree with the ARB’s decision, you can appeal to district court, to binding arbitration, or to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Summary
As Texas’ exploding real estate market dramatically drives up home values, homeowners are getting sticker shock after receiving notice of their properties’ new appraised values — which help determine how much they pay in property taxes.
Property tax collections have risen more than 20% since 2017, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office. Texans paid an estimated $73.2 billion in property taxes in 2021, which went to school districts, cities, counties and other taxing entities that then use the revenue to fund everything from public schools and police departments to road maintenance.

There are many reasons to appear before the ARB than just the value of your home. I hope this information empowers you to make every effort to negotiate a reduction for yourself at a hearing. Have real estate questions? Waco First Home Buyers serves Texas. Our experienced team can answer any real estate related questions you have and guide you through the process. We look forward to hearing from you!

Links within article:
https://comptroller.texas.gov/
https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/protests/
https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/county-directory/

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