- The deadline for protesting your property taxes is coming up very quickly.
- Its important to follow the deadlines and guidelines for protesting your taxes or you may lose your best chance to lower your assessed value.
- When presenting your argument to the appraisal district, you have to support it with facts and analysis.
You don’t need me to tell you what time of year it is. It seems to be pretty popular news these days. They even have faces for radio talking about it on television. But in case you have missed it – its property tax season again in Texas.
At our office, we have been bombarded by phone calls and emails since the Notices of Appraised Value came out. Its not hard to see why. The appraisal districts seem to have beaten all records in the amount of the increases this year. So if that is what you are seeing on your properties, we highly recommend you file a protest.
Indeed, we think all property owners should protest their appraised values every year. Obviously this is a little self-serving but its also in the owner’s best interest. This is especially true for commercial property owners. But if you are going to protest, you have to make sure that you follow the deadlines. Because if you miss a deadline, you can miss your chance to have your taxes lowered.
So that’s what we are going to talk about this week – the process of protesting your property taxes.
What are the Basics of Protesting Property Taxes in Texas?
Many of you may know this already, but I want to start by making it clear that when I write “protest your property taxes” what I mean is protesting the assessed value of your property. The local county appraisal districts will assess your property every year. And you can protest that they have assessed it too high. Once the assessed value is assigned, in the fall the tax rates will be determined. And then the amount you owe is the assessed value multiplied by the tax rate.
It is probably obvious but I timed this article for this week because the protest deadline is coming up. Usually it is on May 15 of each year. This year, May 15 falls on a Sunday. The deadline, therefore, is moved to May 16. Just to be safe, though, I recommend you make sure your protest is filed by Friday, May 13. The deadline is too important – if you miss it you will likely not be able to protest your taxes.
When you protest, it is VERY important that you check two boxes. The first is that the market value of the property is incorrect. The second is that the property is not equal with other similar properties. These should be the first two boxes on the protest form.* And they are both valuable to give you your best shot to have your taxes lowered.
Once you protest, you will have an informal hearing first. In some districts – especially Travis – this has gone largely online. The process is you submit your evidence through the county’s portal and then a week or two later, the appraisal district will email you back an offer. If you do not accept its offer, you will go to a formal hearing. There are some districts that still have in person informal hearings. In those districts, you will meet one on one with a county appraiser and try to reach a settlement.
If you go to the formal hearing, you will be in front of a panel of three people. You will present your case for why the value should be lowered, the appraisal district will present its case, and then the panel will decide what it thinks should be the appraised value. If you are unsatisfied with the Panel’s determination, you can then file a lawsuit against the local appraisal district.
The Information You Need to Have the Best Chance to Lower Your Assessed Value
As you have probably noticed, in the last five to ten years the appraisal districts have gotten much more aggressive. They have access to information they did not have before from companies like CoStar. And they are searching county records for deeds of trust.
As a result, if you are going to have any success protesting, you need to be prepared. And you need to be prepared WITH DATA. A narrative of why your appraised value should be lowered is probably not going to be successful. You need to have analysis that supports exactly how much lower the appraised value should be. That is by far the most influential way to get your taxes lowered.
This is a stressful time for property owners. Runaway taxes can sink a commercial real estate investment. If we can help at Bukowski Law Firm, please give me a call.
*Some counties may combine these two categories into one box to check.