When Should You Pursue a Property Tax Appeal?
Let’s start with what a property tax appeal actually is. An appeal is a formal protest of your property’s appraisal district value or any other action taken by the appraisal review board in your area. Some circumstances that call for an appeal include:
- An appraisal value that seems excessive
- An appraisal that seems much higher in comparison to properties around yours
- Having your exemption application denied by the chief appraiser
- Not receiving notification about a significant change in your property’s value
If any of the above scenarios apply to you, consider filing a property tax protest.
You’ve decided to pursue a property tax protest. Now, how do you get ready for it? Before you start the process, understand that a strong argument is the best argument. Don’t go into an informal or formal hearing with your main point being, “My property tax bill is way too high.” If that is your main argument and you have nothing to back up that claim, you’re pretty much wasting time. Even though the first step in the process might be “informal,” it’s still critical. Prove your case here, and you might not need to have a formal hearing.
In preparing, first, review the appraisal statement and make sure any listed property information is accurate. Check for any errors regarding amenities, number of rooms and even the size of your property. These mistakes can help you make your case.
Next, gather anything that could prove the appraisal district arrived at a property value that was grossly inaccurate. This includes photos, blueprints, repair statements, property surveys, measurements and even engineering reports. Remember that the appraisal was determined on January 1. If any improvements were made, or the property incurred damage after that date, none of it will be weighed in your hearing. But, if you have anything that will help prove that the appraisal is not reasonable, including repair estimates from around the time of valuation, make sure you take it to your informal hearing and to your formal hearing if need be. You might even want to have your real estate agent provide specs for similar properties in the area or have a professional appraiser give their valuation of your property if third-party appraisals are admissible.
How to Appeal Your Property Tax Bill
If you want to dispute your property taxes, you must file a protest by May 15 or no later than 30 days after the date on your appraisal notice. Many appraisal districts send appraised value statements out in early April, so you’ll have a reasonable amount of time to file your property tax appeal. To get the process started, you’ll need to file a Form 50-132, Notice of Protest for a home or Rendition form 50-144 for a small business with your area’s Appraisal Review Board (ARB). Both forms can be found here.
Once the form is received, the ARB must send a hearing notice with the date, time and place of the hearing. They are required to accommodate full-time schedules, so they must offer evening or even weekend hearing times. Your hearing notice must also be postmarked at least 15 days before it’s scheduled to take place.
According to the Texas Office of the Comptroller, the ARB must send you the Comptroller’s publication, Property Taxpayer Remedies, which gives you an overview of your protest appeal rights and what is expected from the ARB, the protocol for protest hearings and a letter indicating that you can view and request copies of data, timelines and other information that will be used by the appraisal district at your hearing.
As an alternative to formal hearings, many appraisal districts are willing to review your property tax protest one-on-one. This is known as an informal hearing. During this meeting, a representative will try to resolve your dispute. If you are unable to come to an agreement, a formal hearing with the ARB is the next step.
Some Help from the Higher Ups
The Texas Office of the Comptroller has a PowerPoint presentation titled “How to Present Your Case at an Appraisal Review Board Hearing: A Homeowners Guide.” It is for informational purposes only and gives a better understanding of how things work. You can view it here. There is also a presentation for small business owners. You can find the video here.
What to Expect During a Formal Property Tax Hearing
During the ARB hearing, or formal hearing, you’ll meet with members of the board and have the opportunity to make your case. In most cases, the process is similar to going to small claims court. This hearing is very short in nature (about 15 minutes) and it’s critical that you present nothing but evidence to support your property tax protest.
In some counties, you might be in the room with members of the board, a staff appraiser and a hearing clerk. You’ll plead your case, as will representatives from the appraisal district. Once both sides are finished, the ARB will make a decision. If the judgment is in your favor, the amount you owe for your taxes could be reduced by a significant amount. If things go in the opposite direction and you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can request binding arbitration through the Comptroller’s Office.
While appealing your property tax delinquency is a viable option if it’s apparent that errors have been made by your appraisal district, it is not a surefire way to offset the financial strain of an outstanding tax bill. If you find that the appeal process isn’t for you and are looking for immediate Texas property tax relief, Tax Ease can help.