28 May 2008 at 10:44:48 PM
I've been getting a lot of letters and phone calls from irate homeowners that their property taxes have shot-up again, so I'm going to post this one that I do every year after I update it.
Property Tax Time Again: Hunting Season Opens on Homeowners
What Homeowners Can Do Legally To Get Proposed Appraisal Values Decreased!
These days you can't afford a home if you are not wealthy.
It's that time of the year again when Texas homeowners receive their annual proposed appraisal value increases on their homes and properties (structure, land, etc.).
Generally, the new values proposed by County Appraisal Districts will try to increase home/land values anywhere from 3 to 6 percent, but the proposed increase may be as high as 10 percent by law. The appraisal district send out the new statement near that 10% maximum.
It's done this way EVERY year.
Homeowners need to know they have rights and options. Unfortunately, most homeowners don't know what their rights and options are and/or don't know how to fight the abusive property tax system.
Now, I'm going to preface this article by saying that I'm not advocating that any homeowner do anything illegal or fraudulent in their dealings with their local appraisal or tax offices, but there are things every homeowner can do to decrease the proposed tax increase determined by the county appraiser. The amount of value increases are not "carved in stone."
By the way, if you're over 65 years of age and own a home, you qualify for a county tax freeze and should contact your appraisal district immediately to apply for it.
If you are legally disabled, you may qualify for a school tax freeze and one or more exemptions. Every homeowner qualifies for a homestead exemption. Last year the legislature and voters approved a complete tax exemption for 100% Disabled Veterans.
During the past seven years, property taxes in some districts have risen to a total of more than 500 percent. [That may sound crazy and illegal, but it's happened to some, including myself. I won't go into how this may occur because it doesn't happen to most homeowners. If you need advice on this issue, contact me via email.]
During that time period many homeowners have lost their property to foreclosures or had to sell their unaffordable homes more quickly for a lot less money than the real market value.
So, what can you do to lower the proposed appraisal increase?
What smart homeowners can do
Of the total number of homeowners very few formally protest their proposed value increases, which is very unfortunate because it permits County Appraisal Districts to continue this absurd and oppressive system of annually increasing our property taxes.
As homeowners receive the new proposed tax increase they IMMEDIATELY need to file a FORMAL protest with their Appraisal District. The application for a formal protest is included with the proposed value increase. Note the deadline for filing.
Upon receiving the request for formal protest, the Appraisal District will schedule an appointment for the homeowner to appear before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), usually within two weeks and it will inform the homeowner of the date and time via mail.
Generally along with its written response will be the name of an appraiser for the homeowner to contact to try to resolve the value issue BEFORE the scheduled appearance before the ARB. It really is a benefit to the homeowner AND the district that homeowners try to resolve the value issue INFORMALLY.
If enough homeowners formally protest the proposed values EVERY YEAR with the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), most would get some sort of decrease in the proposed value INFORMALLY with an appraiser.
Consequently, it's worth it to almost EVERY homeowner to file a formal protest with the Appraisal District. You only lose, if you snooze on the issue. No one has to pay the first proposed value increase requested by the Appraisal District.
Those homeowners who don't protest the proposed increase in value are doomed to pay the full amount of proposed value increase. It doesn't cost homeowners anything to file a formal protest and/or to be heard before the ARB, or to meet FIRST informally with an appraiser. This is every homeowner's right under the law.
The Appraisal System
The members of the ARB are appointed by the Appraisal Districts' Board of Directors. In turn, the Directors are appointed by the Taxing Entities, which are comprised of the county, city, school district, etc. A possible conflict of interest could occur because a Director also may be an elected official, like a mayor or councilman. The Board of Directors has some authority to regulate appraisal policy and also has "influence" regarding community property values as the board works with the Chief Appraiser.
How to Present the Protest
What has occurred currently and more frequently is that once a homeowner finally goes before the ARB, the board generally will NOT provide any decrease of property value. Therefore, a deal generally may be more forthcoming working informally with an appraiser than actually making your presentation before the ARB. If you make a satisfactory agreement informally with the appraiser, you then may fill out the form to cancel the formal protest. If not happy with the agreement, you may go before the ARB as scheduled.
Since we are speaking of increased VALUE, it's up to the homeowner to prove the actual value of the home and/or property is less than the proposed value. Sounds difficult, but it really isn't.
Often the appraiser determines the value on comparable properties in the homeowner's area. Homeowner immediately may request from the appraiser AT LEAST three such comparable properties. Once received, the protesting homeowner must prove that the comparables are of higher value than his/her house and/or property.
Homeowners should document a list in writing of the legitimate reasons (not emotional ones) why the home and/or land values are NOT comparable to those provided by the appraiser. In addition, it's a good idea to bring along photos that prove any sort of devaluation of the property in question, e.g., photos of mold infestation, a rotting roof, foundation problems, need for external painting --- virtually anything that can show a devaluation. If the district did not use comparables, which it must, the same method of list and photos should be used in presenting why the homeowner protests the proposed increase in value.
With such documentation and photo proof, the appraiser would be hard-pressed not to decrease the proposed value of the home and/or land.
There is an old saying --- "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" It is especially true of the property tax appraisal system. It would benefit most EVERY homeowner to protest the Appraisal District's proposed property value increase. To do nothing is to ensure that you continually will pay top dollar property tax increases EVERY year.
What about YOUR County Appraisal System?
Lastly, if you are unhappy with how your district works with you/homeowners, since most of those working at top level positions for the Appraisal District are appointed it is paramount that district residents vote-out (incumbents) elected county and district officials. After the new officials are elected and placed into office, they will appoint other individuals to be part of the County Appraisal District.
Another option for voters is to write and phone state officials and demand that they repair the broken county appraisal district system. It's an infantilizing and oppressive method for taxing homeowners and it needs to be changed.
Homeowners have been overtaxed by local districts at least for the past 7 years.
Homeowners do NOT have to accept the first value increase.
The best thing to do is to phone and/or meet with your district's appraiser to discuss the proposed increase. When meeting with the appraiser bring to the meeting ANY documents, photos, etc., to show why your home/property is NOT valued at the proposed increase.
If you can't work things out to your satisfaction, you have the right to file a formal protest with the ARB. Be aware that you must file the formal protest WITHIN 2 WEEKS OF RECEIVING YOUR PROPOSED INCREASE STATEMENT.
Along with the district's statement mailed out each year is a copy of your rights and the steps you need to take to work out an agreement.
Lastly, speak to your district office without anger or emotions. Provide ONLY the facts, documentation, photos, and at least one good reason why your property value should be less than the one proposed.
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You! Leave a Comment! You Know you Want To!
1 - menopausal mick
29 May 2008 @ 8:40:23 AM
We pay an outrageous amount in property taxes. Four thousand dollars a year! whooo boy. The funny thing is...our small Bandera county doesn't even provide services on a par with that sort of taxation. There is't even garbage pick-up. Our fire department is volunteer. The police department is the county sheriff's office.
A big problem in our county are the landowners who raise a few goats in order to claim ag exemption. Anyone not having an ag exemption picks up the slack in county revenues by paying huge property taxes. I'm all for ag exemption status for people actually making their living raising stock but the rich getting a pass because they allow a few goats to roam around makes it even more expensive for those who don't have that advantage.
You can fight the appraisal district to a certain extent as you state. All tax payers should at least try.
2 - pstern
29 May 2008 @ 10:35:40 AM
Yes, Mick, it has little to do with the majority of "services" you are provided with. In Hays County I own a well, pay for private trash pickup, and de-weed and mow my own area in front of my property line (which the state or the county IS supposed to do).
Thanks for posting your comments.
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3 - salon
29 May 2008 @ 1:01:10 PM
Same thing for Somervell County-private trash pickup, volunteer fire department, etc. We do have an ag exemption on our property and have poultry and cows. I can't speak for anyone that abuses that system but I believe that people who want to make money and are small operators, instead of corporate ag, ought to get concessions to do it. And people do have to prove that they are entitled to have ag exemptions. Course we also pay for school with our property taxes, and, while I think it may be disproportionate, at least at this time I don't want to see public education and quality teachers kicked out because of underfunding. That said, I'm with you that people should contest their property taxes. Every time.
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