Archive for the ‘Protest’ Category

Last day to protest property taxes: May 31

Published by Research Editor on May 20th, 2015 - in Protest, Taxes

May 31 is the last day to protest your taxes for your non-single-family residence property. If your taxes are too high, you have a right to protest.

To get your protest started, review our protest series, which will take you through the four steps of protest:

  1. Filing notice
  2. Preparing for your hearing
  3. The hearing
  4. Dissatisfied? Next steps.

If your property taxes are fair, but you’re not in a position to pay them, consider a property tax loan.

Last day to protest taxes: April 30

Published by Research Editor on April 15th, 2015 - in Protest, Taxes

Last Day to Protest Property Taxes

 

Have a single-family residence? April 30 is the last day to protest your property taxes. If your taxes are too high, you have a constitutional right to protest.

To get your protest started, review our protest series, which will take you through the four steps of protest:

  1. Filing notice
  2. Preparing for your hearing
  3. The hearing
  4. Dissatisfied? Next steps.

If your property taxes are fair, but you’re not in a position to pay them, consider a property tax loan.

4 ways to lower your property tax bill

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1. Claim your exemptions!

Exemptions exist to lower your tax bill. Take as many as you qualify for.

  • Homestead exemption. This significantly lowers your bill.
  • 100% disabled veteran’s exemption
  • Partially disabled veteran’s exemption

2. Set a tax ceiling on your taxes.

Property tax ceilings are for residents 65 or older and limit your taxes.

3. Look for errors.

We’re all human, and mistakes do happen. Look over your tax bill carefully to ensure it is correct.

4. Protest if your assessment is incorrect.

The Texas constitution guarantees your right to equal and uniform property taxes. Your property taxes can’t be significantly higher than a similar property with similar characteristics. However, appraisers don’t appraise your specific house every single year, so their assessment might be off.

If your house has been appraised incorrectly, follow our outline to protest the appraisal. The lower your appraisal, the lower your property taxes will be.

Everything you need to know about appraisal districts

Published by Research Editor on January 26th, 2013 - in Protest, Taxes, The Basics

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What is an appraisal district?

The appraisal district sets the value of your property each year. Namely, they appraise your property and decide how valuable it is.

The chief appraiser is the head honcho and operates the appraisal office.

What is the appraisal review board (ARB)?

This is a board of citizens that listens to disagreements between property owners and the appraisal district regarding the property’s value.

Is a taxing district the same thing as an appraisal district?

Not at all. The taxing district–like your city or school district–will set the rates of your taxes. The appraisal district decides how much your home is worth.

For example, let’s say your home and property are worth $150,000 and you pay 2% taxes to the school district and 0.5% taxes to your city. The appraisal district was the one to determine that your house was worth $150,000. The taxing district determined (and will use) the 2% or 0.5% taxes.

Can I protest the appraisal district’s decisions?

Yes, of course! If your house has been appraised incorrectly, you should definitely protest. Visit our Protesting Property Taxes Series for an outline on how to proceed.

How to lower your property taxes

Published by Research Editor on November 10th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes, The Basics

lowering property taxes

 

Property taxes: we all have to pay them. But there is never a need to pay excessive taxes. These two options will ensure you do not pay beyond your share in property taxes: homestead exemptions and protesting your home’s value.

Homestead Exemption

Be sure you’ve claimed your homestead exemption. Claim it once, and it’s yours for the rest of the time you live in that house or your status does not change. Also look at the other available exemptions to see if you qualify.

What if I’m not sure if I’ve claimed the exemption?

Look your property up. Run an internet search on “[Your county] property tax search.” The result will likely be a .gov site or have the intials “CAD” in the name, like hcad.org, for Harris County. The site you find should have an option to search through properties in your county, and the results will tell you if you’ve claimed the homestead exemption.

Is it too late to claim the exemption for last year’s taxes?

You have until one year after the delinquency date for taxes on your home. File the application for homestead exemption now.

Protest your home’s value

Every citizen has a right to equal and uniform taxation. The craziness in the economy combined with the fact that properties are not appraised every single year makes it likely that your property might be overvalued.

If you think your property is taxed above its value, look at our series on protesting property taxes.

If you’re interested in a property tax loan, apply now.

Dissatisfied with the ARB’s decision? You have options.

Published by Research Editor on August 17th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

balance scales with text 'dissatisfied with ARB's decision?'

So you’ve gone through the ARB hearing, presented your evidence, made your case. Eagerly, you awaited the ARB’s decision to arrive by certified mail.

But it was disappointing. Dissatisfying.

Is that it? Since you’ve already gone through the hearing, is this really the final word on it?

No. You have options: a binding arbitration, an appeal to a state district court, or an appeal to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. First consult with an attorney to determine if you have a case.

Binding Arbitration

If your property is worth $1 million or less (or is a residential homestead, regardless of value), and you are disputing the decision on market or appraised value, you can appeal the ARB’s decision through binding arbitration. Disputes on unequal appraisal determinations cannot be appealed in a binding arbitration.

Fill out the form quickly–the deadline is 45 days after you get the ARB’s order in certified mail. Along with the form, pay a deposit of $500 in money order or a cashier’s check, made payable to the Comptroller. If the arbitrator ends up setting the value of your property closer to your opinion of value than the ARB’s, you’ll get $450 back.

Alternatively, you can pay $250 for expedited arbitration–which limits you to one hour of argument. It also limits the appraisal district to one hour.

Once your form is processed, the Comptroller’s office will send you a website to choose an independent arbitrator. You and the appraisal district must agree on who the arbitrator will be. If you cannot agree, the Comptroller’s office will chose for you.

State District Court

File for a petition for review no later than 60 days after the ARB’s order comes to you in certified mail. You may ask to have your appeal resolved through arbitration, by a jury or a judge.

State Office of Administrative Hearings

If your property is worth more than $1 million and is in Bexar, Cameron, El Paso, Harris, Tarrant, or Travis county, you can appeal to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) in a special pilot program. The SOAH is limited to 3,000 appeals and runs through 2012.

Fill out the form and submit it to the chief appraiser of your appraisal district by 30 days after the certified mail with the ARB’s decision arrived, along with a $300 filing fee payable to SOAH. “What form should I fill out,” you ask? The chief administrative law judge will prescribe the form.

Don’t Forget the Taxes

No matter what type of appeal you choose, remember that you must pay your taxes before the delinquency date. Usually, you can make a partial payment of taxes–the amount that is not in dispute. For example, if your property is, in your opinion, worth $100,000, but the ARB determined it was worth $200,000, you must pay the property taxes on the $100,000 worth of property before the delinquency date while you pursue arbitration or appeals.

If you are unable to pay the undisputed property taxes, consider a property tax loan.

Protesting Property Taxes, Step 3: The Hearing

Published by Research Editor on August 12th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

Each appraisal review board (ARB) has its own procedures, but this is generally how your hearing will go:

Entry

Come prepared. Bring your copies of evidence, including:

  • Pictures of your property
  • Receipts of repairs
  • Sales price documentation
  • Appraisal district records of appraisal and appraisal cards
  • Graphs
  • Diagrams
  • Sworn statements
  • Witness lists with copies of witness-submitted testimony
  • Mathematical calculations
  • Enough copies for everyone present (the board, the appraisal representative, and yourself)

Know what you are going to say. If you have outlines or notecards, bring them.

Be on time.

Be as respectful as you would in a court proceeding.

Sign in and take a seat in the waiting room.

When your name is called, enter the hearing room.

The Hearing

The ARB, sitting at a table facing you, will explain how the process will work.

The appraisal district representative will probably review the basic information on your home, including:

  • Name of owner
  • Address and legal description
  • Year built
  • Size of home and land
  • Amenities
  • Market value

You and the appraisal district representative take an oath to tell the truth.

You exchange documentary evidence with the appraisal district representative and give evidence to the ARB (all those copies you made earlier!).

You usually get to present your evidence and argument first.

  • Be persuasive, not emotional.
  • Use your organized notes, an outline or notecards you may have prepared.
  • Refer to your evidence.
  • Keep it simple. Do not confuse the board or yourself.

The ARB reviews your evidence and asks you questions.

The appraisal district representative may ask you questions.

The representative presents their report of the value of your home.

  • Note any errors or discrepancies you notice.
  • The representative will probably show a list of home sales that were used to determine the market value of your home and explain why these are similar to your neighborhood’s homes.

After the evidence is presented, you may rebut the evidence provided by the appraisal district representative by showing evidence that discredits, explains away, or counters the representative’s evidence.

Closing statements

  • Note the representative’s errors.
  • Re-emphasize your own argument and evidence by summarizing the key points.
  • Indicate the value you think they should place on your home.
  • Thank the ARB for listening to your case.

ARB makes a decision

  • The board evaluates the value of your home based on the evidence presented.
  • The ARB gives you its opinion of your home’s value
  • The board sends you a written order by certified mail.
  • If the hearing was held by a panel of the ARB, the decision is not final until approved by the full ARB.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof lies with the appraisal district. This means that if they cannot provide more convincing evidence, the ARB must rule in your favor.

Rules and rights

You have several rights in your hearing. You have the right to disprove the appraisal district representative’s evidence, to cross examine witnesses, and to ask questions of the appraisal district representative through the ARB. Likewise, the appraisal district representative has the same rights towards you.

Just like in a courtroom, do not ask questions of the ARB.

When the ARB asks questions, respond directly, but cordially.

Never get into a heated argument.

This article is the third in a series on protesting property taxes. If you are dissatisfied when the ARB’s decision comes through certified mail, read the next article in this series, Dissatisfied with the Decision?

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Protesting Property Taxes, Step 2: Prepare for Your Hearing

Published by Research Editor on August 12th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

Preparation is the key to a successful hearing. With preparation, you will have the evidence and organization necessary to make a good case.

Collect information

    1. Understand the hearing procedures, including: how long you will have to present your evidence, how may people are on the review board, and what you can expect at the hearing. The hearing procedures will be sent to you at least 14 days before the hearing.

 

    1. Talk to the appraisal district staff. Ask them questions about anything you’re unsure of or do not understand. Look at the appraisal district’s website, which should have a lot of information for you.

 

    1. From the appraisal district staff, get a copy of the information the appraisal district plans to introduce at the hearing.

 

    1. Go to the appraisal district’s website and get the appraisal card on your property. Check to see it has the right number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and garages. If there are any discrepancies, use them as evidence in your hearing.

 

    1. Check anything in your home that will negatively affect its value. For example, a foundation problem like a cracked slab. Prepare photos, reports, and repair estimates. Include anything that happened before January 1 (the date of your appraisal), including improvements or damage. (Do not include anything that happened after January 1–that will count toward next year’s appraisal.)

 

    1. Measure your home from the outside to ensure it has the same square footage as on the appraisal district’s records.

 

    1. Because home sales are considered the best indication of market value, review the sales the appraisal district used to determine your property’s value. Make a list of the sales, dates of sales, size of the homes, size of the lots, whether a home is on a corner lot, the year the home was built, the location, the zoning, the amenities in the home, etc–anything that adds (or takes away) value to the home. Compare these to your home.

 

    1. Look at your neighborhood as a whole. is there anything that brings down the value of homes, like being too close to the freeway or railroad? Is there anything about your home that makes it not typical of the homes in your neighborhood?
      For example, do the homes the appraisal district used in mass appraisal all have pools or hardwood floors or something else that increases their value? That would overvalue your home if your property does not have those improvements.

 

    1. If there are sales that the appraisal district should not have used in appraising your home’s value, because your property is too different for a comparison, mark them. At the hearing, point out why they should not have used those particular sales.

 

Remember

The point of the hearing is to establish the correct value of your home. The ARB is not an all-knowing entity and does not know every detail about your home or your neighborhood. You know your home and neighborhood far better than the appraisal district can. Bring the evidence that shows your value is correct.

Evidence does not include your personal financial situation. Property taxes can only be based on the value of the home, not how much money you make (or aren’t making).

Organize your information

Prepare wisely for the limited time you will have in the hearing.

Organize your information clearly. Don’t hop from the fire report to the sales data and back to the picture of the cracked foundation. Keep the reports and information on your house together and the sales data together. Listing your information in an outline with categories helps most people.

Consider marking your evidence with exhibit numbers as a form of organization. “Turn to exhibit 1,” you’ll say, and everyone will be looking at the picture of your house after the tornado. It’s much more organized and effective than having everyone flip through unnumbered and disorganized papers until they find the picture you’ve described.

Create counter arguments

Look at the evidence the appraisal district will use and prepare arguments against that data. For example, why the sales data of your neighbors’ homes is not a good comparison to your home.

Practice your presentation

Time yourself to ensure you stay within the time limit. The hearing procedures will tell you how much time you have to present your case. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes, which means you need to be exceedingly organized and concise to present all your information in the limited time.

Make copies

Make enough copies of your evidence (reports, pictures, lists, descriptions, etc.) for each member of the ARB panel (usually 3 people), the appraisal district, and yourself. The exact number of people on the ARB panel is in the hearing procedures.

Congratulate yourself on all your hard work!

This article is the second in a series on protesting property taxes. Read the next article in this series, Protesting, Step 3: The Hearing, for details on how the hearing will proceed.

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Protesting Property Taxes, Step 1: File a Notice of Protest

Published by Research Editor on August 12th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

If your property taxes are higher than last year’s, the district will send you a notice of the increase by April 1, if your property is a residential homestead, or May 1 if it is not.

The notice of increased taxes also includes the date and place the appraisal review board (ARB) will begin hearing protests.

Step 1: File a Notice of Protest with the ARB.

This form identifies you, describes the property you’re protesting, the reasons you’re protesting, and the facts that may help resolve your case.

form for protesting property taxes in Texas

Click here to get the form from tx.us, the official site

 

The deadline for filing the notice is midnight of May 31, unless:

  • your notice of appraised value was delivered to you after May 2,
  • the ARB did not send you a notice about the property as required by law, or
  • a few other exceptions, as indicated on the form.

The checkboxes of reasons for protesting include:

  • Value is over market value.
  • Value is unequal compared with other properties.
  • Failure to send required notice.
  • Other.

File this Notice of Protest through your ARB. To find out how, search for “file notice of protest [YOUR] county. The page that comes up will likely have the address to mail the protest to or the website where you can electronically file the protest.

Informal Resolution

Some appraisal district will review your concerns and informally try to resolve your objections. However, file a Notice of Protest before the deadline, even if you expect to resolve your concerns at the informal review. This preserves your right for a formal resolution, should the informal means not work out.

After your protest is filed

If the informal resolution didn’t work out, or didn’t happen, the ARB will notify you 15 days before of the date, time, and place of your protest hearing. The hearings will usually be between May 15 and July 20.

The ARB will also send you a copy of the Property Taxpayer Remedies pamphlet, a copy of ARB procedures, and a statement that you can inspect and get a copy of the information the chief appraiser plans to use at your hearing.

This article is the first in a series on protesting property taxes. To prepare for your hearing, look at our next article, Step 2: Prepare for Your Hearing.

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Your Right to Uniform Appraisal: the Benefits

Published by Research Editor on August 2nd, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

You have an undeniable right to uniform appraisal of your property. In other words, your property cannot be valued at a significantly higher rate than a similar property. Additionally, the appraisal of your property should never exceed market value.

If your house is appraised higher than you could sell your house for under normal circumstances (neither buyer nor seller is in a rush or in an extreme situation), then you can protest your property tax rate and get it lowered.

During a protest, the appraisal district must provide evidence that your property was appraised equally. If they can’t, then you win the protest, even if the appraisal district’s value of your property was correct.

For example, let’s say you protest your property taxes, believing your house is worth $90,000 when the appraisers said it was worth $100,000. Even if evidence shows that your house really is worth $100,000, your property must be taxed at a value of $90,000 if the appraisers can’t prove that they used appraisal methods that were equal and uniform.

Equal and uniform appraisal is that important.

The website for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts gives another example of the ways you can lower your property taxes if there has been violations of your right to uniform appraisal:

As an example, suppose that both unequal and excessive appraisal protests are brought on the same property. The issues must be determined separately at the protest hearing. The property is appraised at $105,000, and evidence indicates that the market value is $100,000. The ARB should lower the market value to $100,000 because the appraisal is excessive. Next, the unequal appraisal protest must be considered. If the appraisal district’s evidence is not more convincing than the property owner’s evidence and the property owner’s evidence shows that the median level of appraisal is 0.85, the value should be reduced to $85,000. The ARB order should reflect the unequal appraisal protest determination, in addition to the appraised or market value determination.

If your property is not appraised in a uniform manner, protest it now.

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