By Mary Belan Doggett
Paying property taxes is on no one’s list of fun things to do. However, critical emergency services, school systems, and roadways across Texas are maintained in large part thanks to those tax revenues and the lion’s share of funds come from property owners.
While property taxes are a fact of life in Texas, it’s possible you’re paying more than your fair share. A little homework now could reduce your bill significantly. For starters, here are a couple of things you can do:
Apply for all eligible exemptions with your Central Appraisal District. Texas offers a variety of exemptions including those for Residence Homesteads, Age 65 or Older or Disabled Persons, Veterans, and Charitable Organizations. Exemptions effectively reduce the taxable value of your property in much the same way income tax exemptions reduce your taxable income. The end result? A lower tax obligation.
Take a look at the full list of exemptions available to Texans online at the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts page. Qualifications and application procedures vary by county. Check with your Central Appraisal District (CAD) for details.
Protest your appraised property value. The CAD in each county appraises the value of your property each year. Appraisal Districts occasionally miss the mark and most homeowners don’t bother to check.
There are two ways to protest your valuation:
1) Market value method. This is when the appraised value is excessive and your property would not sell for the amount determined by the Appraisal District. With the help of a Texas licensed realtor, gather actual sales data from recently sold properties (similar in location, age, size, and amenities) to justify a lower market value.
While you are at it, make sure the description of your property is accurate. If the appraiser thinks you have more bedrooms, bathrooms, or square footage than you have – or if anything else is wrong – let the appraiser know.
2) Equal and Uniform method. This is when your property is unequally appraised compared to a representative sample of comparable properties (even if the appraised value is at or below market value). Use the information provided on the CAD website to create a list of comparable properties with different taxable (CAD) values. For example, there are five homes on your block that are similar in age, size, and amenities. CAD taxable values are as follows: #1 $110,000; #2 $115,000; #3 $117,000; #4 $125,000; #5 $130,000. Use the “equal and uniform” method to justify that your taxable value be reduced to the median (or middle) amount of $117,000.
Now that you have some evidence, initiate the protest process according to your county’s published procedures. You can file a Notice of Protest (Form 50-132) with the CAD and request a hearing with the Appraisal Review Board (ARB).
A word of caution: Be aware of the protest deadlines. The usual deadline for filing your Notice of Protest is May 31st. Contact the CAD for your specific protest filing deadlines.
Alternatively, you may want to contact a Licensed Property Tax Consultant who can help protest your property valuation. There is usually a cost associated with using their services but you’ll be able to tap into more tools to help support your claim. Please visit www.tdlr.texas.gov to find a Licensed Property Tax Consultant near you.
What if you don’t receive a notice of appraised value? File a protest anyway. Protesting your property value is up to you, regardless of whether the mailed notice of appraised value ever makes it to your mailbox.
Lastly, be sure to pay the undisputed amount of your tax bill before it becomes delinquent (typically Feb 1). If you miss that payment deadline, you lose the right to continue your protest and appeal. Make sure you understand your county’s payment requirements.
Mary Belan Doggett is Vice President/Division General Counsel at San Antonio-based Propel Financial Services, which provides property tax lien financing solutions to property owners throughout Texas.