Austin/Central Texas Real Estate

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Tax appraisals are here! Now what?

If you own real property in Texas, you have probably received your 2017 Notice of Appraised Value.  If you haven’t, it won’t be long.

Question:  What does that Notice tell you?

Answer:  The appraisal district’s estimate of the market value of your property as of January 1, 2017.  If you have exemptions, it will also tell you the taxable value, which will be lower than the appraised value.

So now what?

First, you can just file the Notice, wait for 2017 property tax rates to be decided in October/November, and for the resulting tax bill to be sent.

Or … you can inform the appraisal district that you wish to appeal the new valuation of your property.  You should have received a Notice of Protest form (Texas Comptroller Form 50-132) with your Notice of Appraised Value.  In most situations, you will have until midnight on May 31, 2017 to file your protest, but read the form you received and follow those instructions.

There are a number of valid reasons for a protest, but the most likely for residential properties are (a) you believe the appraised (market) value is incorrect, and/or (b) you believe your property is not valued fairly (equally) with similar properties nearby.  You’ll see those and other possibilities listed on the protest form.

After receiving your Notice of Protest, the appraisal district will respond with a date for your “informal” hearing — a meeting at the appraisal district, possibly with the appraiser who is responsible for property valuations in your neighborhood.  You’ll have an opportunity to explain the reasons for your protest, present supporting data, and to persuade the appraiser to reduce the proposed valuation.  If you are satisfied with the results of that meeting, then you’re done.

If you’re not happy with the outcome of the informal hearing, and wish to continue your protest, then you’ll be scheduled for a “formal” hearing with members of the Appraisal Review Board.  At that hearing you will sworn in and the proceedings will be recorded.  You will again be allowed to present your evidence and your reasons for the protest.  When the ARB renders its decision, it is final, and it supersedes any decision from your informal hearing.  There’s no way back to that decision if it turns out that you prefer it to the outcome of the formal hearing.

But … if you’re determined, there is one more step you can take:  Binding Arbitration.  You won’t be surprised to learn there’s another form involved, .  You must complete the formal and informal hearings, and then submit the Request for Binding Arbitration to the appraisal district, along with a cashiers check or money order for the required deposit.  If the arbitrator decides that the proper valuation of your property is closer to your estimate than to the appraisal district’s estimate, then the deposit will be refunded to you (minus an administrative fee charged by the Texas Comptroller).  If the arbitrator decides in favor of the appraisal district, then the deposit will be used to pay the arbitrator’s fee and the Comptroller’s administrative fee.

As the popular saying goes, taxes are one of very few certainties in life, and there is no way to get away from property taxes for most of us.  There are ways to reduce your property tax burden, though.  Your individual circumstances should determine whether you will invest the time and effort to pursue a protest.  I’ll comment on property tax exemptions in another post.