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Protesting an exorbitant home value appraisal could lower your property tax bill

Property tax appraisal protests

It didn't take much to convince the hubby and me to put on some going-out-in-public clothes today and head out to vote early. A couple of property tax reduction questions were on our local ballot.

Sure, we would have done our civic duty anyway, but those proposals that would help reduce homeowners' real estate taxes definitely are a get-out-the-vote driver.

More valuable homes, bigger tax bills: Here in Texas, as in many other places across the United States, home values have skyrocketed. We learned just how much when we got our latest notice a couple of weeks ago from the Travis County tax appraiser.

In short, we freaked. Then, as I'm wont to do, I started complaining. To the hubby, to equally distraught friends and neighbors, and, of course, on social media.


Filing a formal protest: Now I've moved to the next phase, officially complaining to people who can do something about it. Yes, we are protesting the current appraisal.

Actually, we've enlisted a firm that specializes in property tax protests, but if you're so inclined, you can do it yourself.

Here in Texas, the state comptroller even spells out the process:

   If the appraisal district appraises your property at a higher amount than in the previous year, Tax Code Section 25.19 requires the appraisal district to send a notice by May 1, or by April 1 if your property is a residence homestead, or as soon as practical thereafter.

   If you are dissatisfied with your appraised value or if errors exist in the appraisal records regarding your property, you should file a Form 50-132, Notice of Protest (PDF) with the ARB [appraisal review board]. In most cases, you have until May 15 or 30 days from the date the appraisal district notice is delivered — whichever date is later.

   After filing your protest, you will receive written notice of the date, time, place and subject matter for a formal hearing with 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. Most appraisal districts, however, will informally review your protest with you to try to resolve your concerns prior to a hearing. Check with your appraisal district for details. The ARB's decisions are binding only for the tax year in question.

…'ing past some leased property instructions…

   Once the ARB rules on a protest, it sends a written order by email or certified mail. A property owner must request email delivery in writing and provide a valid email address to receive appraisal district notices electronically. If you are dissatisfied with the ARB's findings, you have the right to appeal its decision to district court in the county where the property is located. Alternatively, you may appeal the ARB's determination to binding arbitration or to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) provided certain criteria are met.

See why we hired someone to deal with this?

Locating the correct office: A good place to start is with your state's chief financial officer. Many state tax departments have information on or links to this position, which is variously titled, as here in the Lone Star State, a comptroller or as chief tax collector, accountant, revenue estimator, or treasurer.

You also should touch base with the more local taxing jurisdiction — here it's the county — about any real estate tax protest requirements. For my fellow Texans, the state comptroller has put together this directory of local property appraisal and tax information.

The key is gathering the required data, then filing your protest in time. Again, why I'm relying on a pro to take care of this.

Tax appeal overload could benefit protestors: While the increased values and potential higher real estate tax bills are the bad news for many, there also might be some good news, at least here in Texas.

The folks at Y'all-itics, WFAA-TV in Dallas' self-proclaimed unofficial political podcast of Texas, says that if you were ever going to fight your property taxes, this is the year to do it.

"Your odds of winning this year are higher than ever before just because they're trying to churn through the numbers," Chandler Crouch, the founder and principal broker of Chandler Crouch Realtors, told Y'all-itics. "They want to make you happy and get you out of their office so that they can go to the next person."

Of course, obtaining a lower property value decision, which results in a smaller tax bill, isn't guaranteed.

But if you don't at least try to convince your tax assessor/collector that your personal real estate's value should be reduced, then you definitely will be stuck with the higher tax bill.

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