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Texas Property Tax Protest Evidence and Process

Property Taxes 101

With Texas’ average effective property rate reaching an all-time high of 1.69%, everyone is looking for cheaper alternatives. In particular, property tax protests are becoming exceedingly common. They provide homeowners and property owners with an opportunity to show their dissent for any unfair spikes with detailed evidence and brute legal action. However, though useful, they do involve a series of misconceptions and puzzling processes that we attempt to clarify in this article.

So, if you’re looking to understand more about property tax protests, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to learn about the Texas property tax protest evidence and process.

Understanding Your Taxes

The first step to lowering your taxes is to understand what makes them so high, to begin with. Unfortunately, most property owners pay taxes while never understanding how they’re calculated. But who can blame them? Taxes are exceedingly complex, as they usually vary even for nearby towns.

To understand the Texas property tax protest evidence and process, you should know that they have two main aspects: the tax rate and your property’s current market value. Similarly, when it comes to property tax in Texas, different districts impose individual tax rates.

In general, Texas has an average tax rate of more than 1.83%. Compared to the country’s average range of 1.08% to 1.21%, it’s definitely substantial. Additionally, these rates usually vary depending on property type, jurisdiction, and the type of exceptions. Besides, some of these rates could change annually, whereas others could take more time – about once every five years.

As a result, we recommend checking out the official Texas Comptroller public accounts site for more detailed insights on your taxes.

H3: Related: Rising Inequality: Low-Income Homeowners Seek Property Tax Relief

Protesting Property Taxes

In Texas, every citizen has the right to protest on property tax appraisals. These could result in a partial or complete exemption as either a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the taxed property. These protests can be written and sent by either mail, online, or drop-off (depending on your region).

Similarly, when looking into the Texas property tax protest evidence and process, you get to work on those aspects of the property that could help you benefit from a lower property value. For example, since assessors don’t see the inside of homes, you could explain the need for renovations or repairs in writing. Likewise, you can even include pictures of the walls, foundations, floors, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.

Upon providing a detailed and evidential protest, you should hear from an assessor for a renewed value. In the event this does not happen, it would mean that the bill has not changed in your case. Although this could be a minor setback, the best part is that it wouldn’t make a difference as you can always try protesting again the following year.

Learn the Process

Texas offers various protests and numerous other processes that cover diverse appraisal ranges. These are all structured to follow the same process and approval timeframes. These steps include:

Step One: Filing the Protest

You can file a protest using a form provided by your respective appraisal district. These are often freely available online. And, in the case you can’t access one, you can always just send a letter to the chief appraiser of the state where you protest your property taxes. In the letter, you need to indicate the basis of the protest, which could be anything between taxes above the property’s market value or the need for a fairer appraisal.

Additionally, you should expect the deadline to protest to be about 30 days after you receive an assessed value. We recommend protesting annually, as it is a risk-free technique to lower your taxes.

Step Two: Researching Your Appraisal District’s Record Card

Every appraisal district keeps individual record cards for properties. These contain information on jurisdiction, amenities, property size, and much more.

For a more accurate protest, you’d want to go to your local district office to obtain this record for a nominal charge. You can then use this to discuss any information regarding your property and point out any errors.

Step Three: Determine an Appropriate Property Value

In Texas, appraisers use only one of three methods to determine the market value of a property. These include the Income Method, the Cost Method, or the Sale Evaluation Method. Each of these is discussed in detail next. 

Cost Method

This is arguably the simplest way to determine taxes. It implies that assessors evaluate the cost of a property and then charge the tax based on how much it would take to replace it. Using this method, assessors tend to consider the gradual depreciation of the property over time. For new properties, on the other hand, they tend to base estimates on the costs of construction and materials.

Income Method

With the income method of assessment, the property value will be determined on the basis of the income provided by rent or could be provided by rent. This allows assessors to include management expenses of the property, cost of maintenance, taxes, and insurance before arriving at an assessment.

After determining this market value, the property is then valued as a multiple of its active value and an assessment rate. Usually, this rate is uniform and can be any percentage below a hundred. The rate can vary based on jurisdiction and, upon calculation, the multiple indicates the property taxes due.

Sale Evaluation Method

The last technique, the sale evaluation method, evaluates property values based on property sales within the area. This includes factors such as location, improvements or renovations, the current state of the property, and the overall marketable condition. The assessor would then accordingly make adjustments to account for changes such as renovations or new additions.

Step 4: Legal Action

Upon having a new estimated price for your property, you may need to turn to legal avenues next to ensure that this price is granted. The following are a few ways you can resolve appraisals through legal action.

Informal Hearings

When filing a protest, you may be expected to testify in a hearing. Usually, this consists of a brief 15-minute meeting with the staff appraiser in the appraisal district office. The reason for this meeting is to conclude whether the office can grant your property a lower assessment or not.

In Texas, practically all appraisal disputes are settled in informal hearings. And, if it makes you more comfortable, you can even have a lawyer to represent your case in these meetings.

Formal Hearings

Formal hearings, also known as Appraisal Review Board Hearings, are meetings held with the staff appraiser, a hearing clerk (in some regions), and three members from an appraisal review board. In these meetings, you or a representative would present detailed evidence supporting the new market value and unfair appraisal. The appraisal board would then announce a unanimous and non-negotiable conclusion. 

However, the most notable difference between informal and formal hearings is that you can protest further after formal hearings. By filing a lawsuit afterward, you’d be able to appeal for more affordable property taxes.

Litigation

If you choose to oppose a decision made in a formal hearing through a lawsuit, it counts as litigation. Statistically, it’s a much more successful way to appeal property taxes than initial hearings. And, practically, the majority of judicial appeals are accepted.

Nevertheless, you need to consider the additional burden the litigation may bring. Though it can result in thousands of potential tax savings in the future, litigation costs tens of thousands in legal and expert witness charges.

Related: Texas Property Tax Protest Steps

Appealing

If you’re unsuccessful in lowering appraisals through Texas property tax protest evidence and process, we recommend filing for an appeal. Hiring and consulting with a lawyer means that you have someone else review your request with a professional lens.

Relatively, it’s much simpler as well, as your lawyer would do most of the work for you. You simply need to provide them with information regarding your property and the reason for appeal, with supported images for context. The board will then look into the information provided and take past assessments and tax bills into account before making a decision. The approval process could be instant or take up to a couple of months.

However, it’s worth noting that, upon having your appeal approved, the assessment would only bring property value down; it wouldn’t automatically affect your tax rate. Although, the lower value can influence a reduction in your tax bill if you proactively apply for it.

Similarly, you should understand that appeals aren’t always guaranteed either. In most cases, they result in the bill being the same. Or, in unique instances, they can even result in an increase if a reviewer feels the assessment is inadequately low.

Consider Moving

As stated earlier, property taxes would always be evaluated differently depending on your state and/or district. In Texas, there’s no state tax, and rates are only determined by local governments. As a result, taxes could vary immensely for minuscule discrepancies. Protesting, though occasionally successful, doesn’t always provide reliable results.

With the vast number of properties needed to be assessed, the government can’t accurately determine fair values for all of them. So, most states, especially Texas, rely on the average property value or spot-checking. This results in property value being assessed more than the actual cost of your house.

With the changes brought about by the pandemic breakout, most Texas homeowners have started to feel the economic burden of unfair tax spikes. These, together with the rise in oil prices, economic downturn, and Texas generally having the highest property taxes in the country, make most homeowners look for different options and states as cheaper alternatives.

Nevertheless, we recommend that you do thorough research on the state you are moving to. For example, though not currently noticeable, regions such as San Antonio or Austin are often considered hotspots due to an expected rise in property values. As a result, you’d ideally look for regions that provide mid-range housing with affordable forecasted changes.

 Call in the Experts

With all being said, Texas definitely offers many opportunities to homeowners to lower their property taxes. However, a successful outcome depends upon rigorous protest processes, tax evidence, as well as thorough market research. You could even be looking at 12-16 hours per day with 2-3 months of effort. Overall, it can be exhaustingly time-consuming and overwhelming for most homeowners.

It’s important to understand the Texas property tax protest evidence and process, but if you’re looking for an easier way to lower your tax rates, hiring property tax experts may be your way to go. At Home Tax Shield, our tax professionals represent you at hearings year after year, ensuring only the most affordable tax rates for your property.

You are only one call away from lowering your property tax rates. Call Home Tax Shield and get free tax consultation today!

Dec 2nd 2021

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