Posts Tagged ‘protest’

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.

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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Rollback Rate: Your Chance to Limit Taxes

Published by Research Editor on August 2nd, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes
The rollback rate is last year’s tax revenue spent, plus 8%. Why should you care about it?If your taxing unit wants to raise taxes above the rollback rate, you have the power to stop them.

You, in other words, have the power to limit the rise of the tax rate on your property taxes.

First, create a petition. It must include specific legal wording that your attorney will be able to help you with. It must be signed by 7-10% of the registered voters (the specific percent depends on how many dollars are collected in taxes).

Next, present the petition to the taxing unit’s governing body within 90 days of adopting the higher tax rate.

Last, If the petition is valid, an election will be held where voters can choose the rollback rate or the higher tax rate. Should the rollback rate be chosen, that rate will be put in place immediately.

I can only imagine a few, rare, extraordinary situations where the people would choose a higher tax rate. The hardest part of this whole scenario is getting the 7-10% of voters to sign the petition. But remember, this is only 7-10% of registered voters. It’s estimated that only about 70% of the adult population is registered. When all is said and done, this works out to about 5 of every 100 adults in your area that need to sign the petition.

You will know when the governing body is trying to raise the taxes above the rollback rate because they are required by law to inform the public by at least a ¼ page in the local newspaper.

Keep your eye out, stay informed, and take action if your governing body is trying to raise your property tax rates.

What Mass Appraisal Means for You

Published by Research Editor on July 28th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes

Does your property tax seem too high? In all likelihood, the appraisers didn’t look at your property specifically as they assessed taxes.

In an appraisal method called mass appraisal, the district gathers detailed information on the property, then puts it in a group with similar properties, based on factors like size, use, and type. Computer programs help with categorizing properties.

The appraiser takes a typical property from that group of similar properties and then figures out the value–and thereby the property tax. How your property compares to the typical property in age or location then determines your property’s value.

Whenever you deal with stereotypes and the “typical” anything, there’s always room for unique situations. If your property is overvalued, it may be inadvertently caused by mass appraisal. Consider protesting the overvalue to lower your property taxes. In the meantime, a property tax loan might help you.

Property Appraisal: the Basics

Published by Research Editor on July 28th, 2011 - in Protest, The Basics

Before your county or taxing authority can tax your property, they must know how much your property is worth. Appraisal is the process of determining your property’s value.

You have the right to have your property correctly appraised: your property cannot be taxed significantly differently from similar properties in your area.

But how does this appraisal process work? Should you be watching out for some Man From the Government in a black suit and bowler hat slinking around your backyard?

Three Methods

No, our tax money does not pay for mysterious government agents to visit every single piece of property. Instead, three common methods to value property are:

  • Market Data Comparison
  • Income
  • Cost

Market Data Comparison

This is by far the most common method of appraisal for residential property. The tax authority looks at the selling prices of properties similar to yours. Did your neighbor just sell his home for $100,000? Same with the other people in your neighborhood who recently sold homes? If their homes are about the same as yours, your home will be valued at $100,000.

This gives you a good opportunity if you feel like you’re taxed too much. When protesting your appraisal rate, look at the market value of the properties around you.

To compare your home’s appraisal to others, look for homes similar in location, lot size, improvements, age, condition, access, amenities, views, easements, deed restrictions, and legal burdens affecting a property’s ability to be sold.

Income

For properties that make money–like offices, hotels, or retail stores–the income approach to appraisal looks at how much money an investor would be willing to pay for this property as he or she anticipates future income from the property.

In other words, for an office that generates $1 million in income each year, how much would an investor pay to own that office? That amount is the appraised value.

Cost

Some properties are not sold frequently or–like new buildings–are still under construction and therefore have no data on anticipated income or market comparison. For these, the cost method of appraisal is used. The appraiser calculates how much it would cost to replace this property with one equally useful.

Protesting Appraisal

Over-appraisal (making your property taxes higher) is forbidden by law, so you have the right to protest.

To protest your appraisal, look at our post series on how to protest your property’s value.

The 12 Rights of Property Taxpayers

Published by Research Editor on July 28th, 2011 - in Protest, Taxes, The Basics

 

As a property taxpayer, you have a dozen rights to protect you.

Uniform Taxation

You have the right to equal and uniform taxation.
You do not have to pay more than your fair share of taxes.

Uniform Appraisal

You have the right to ensure that your property is appraised uniformly with similar property in your county.
Your property taxes cannot be significantly higher than a similar property.

Appraisal Techniques

You have the right to have your property appraised according to generally accepted appraisal techniques and other requirements of law.
Accepted appraisal techniques include market value (most common), mass appraisal, cost approach, and income approach.

Exemptions

You have the right to receive exemptions or other tax relief for which you qualify and apply timely.
Exemptions, like a homestead exemption, 65 or older/disabled exemption, veteran’s exemption, or charitable organization exemption, lower–or eliminate–your property taxes.

Notice

You have the right to notice of property value increases, exemption changes and estimated tax amounts.
By the end of May, you will get a notice if the value of your property is higher than last year, if the value is higher than your rendition, or if your property wasn’t on the records last year.

Inspect Appraisal Information

You have the right to inspect non-confidential information used to appraise your property.

Protest

You have the right to protest your property’s value and other appraisal matters to an appraisal review board composed of an impartial group of citizens in your community.

Appeal

You have the right to appeal the appraisal review board’s decision to district court in the county where the property is located.

Fair Treatment

You have the right to fair treatment by the appraisal district, the appraisal review board and the tax assessor-collector.

Voice

You have the right to voice your opinions at open public meetings about proposed tax rates and to ask questions of the governing body responsible for setting tax rates.

Petition

You have the right to petition a local government to call an election to limit a tax increase in certain circumstances.

Free Pamphlet

You have the right to receive a free copy of the pamphlet entitled Property Taxpayer Remedies published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

You can access this pamphlet online.

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