Property taxes are one of the largest line item costs incurred by apartment owners. However, many owners do not appeal effectively. Even though owners realize that property taxes can be managed and reduced through an appeal, some view taxes as an arbitrary estimate provided by the government which can’t effectively be appealed. It tends to boil down to the old adage, “You can’t fight city hall”.
Fortunately, the property tax appeal process in Texas provides owners multiple opportunities to appeal. Handled either directly by the owner or by a property tax consultant, this process should involve an intense effort to annually appeal and minimize property taxes. Reducing the largest line item expense has a significant effect in reducing the owner’s overall operating expenses. While it is not possible to entirely escape the burden of paying property taxes, it is possible to reduce taxes sharply, often by 25% to 50%.
Why some owners don’t appeal
Some property owners don’t appeal because they either don’t understand property the process, or don’t understand that there is a good probability of achieving meaningful reductions in property taxes. Some owners believe that since the market value of their property exceeds the assessed value, then it is not possible to appeal and reduce the property taxes. Although appeals on unequal appraisal are relatively new, there is a clear-cut way to appeal property taxes at the administrative hearing level based on unequal appraisal. Unequal appraisal occurs when property is assessed inconsistently with neighboring properties or comparable properties. Also, some owners are reluctant to hire a property tax consultant, even though many consultants will work on a contingent fee basis, in which there is no cost to the owner unless property taxes for the current year are reduced.
Overview of appeal process
The following are the primary steps in the annual process for appealing property taxes:
· Request notice of accessed value
· File an appeal
· Prepare for hearing
. Review records
. Review market value appeal
. Review unequal appraisal appeal
· Set negotiating perimeters
· Administrative hearings
· Decide whether binding arbitration or judicial appeals are warranted
· Pay taxes timely
Requesting a notice of assessed value
Property owners have the option of requesting a notice of assessed value for their property annually. Section 25.19g of the Texas Property Tax Code provides the owner the option to request a written notice of the assessed value from the chief appraiser. Owners benefit from requesting and receiving a written notice of assessed value for each property because it ensures they have an opportunity to review the assessed value. This notice should be sent on an annual basis. The appraisal district does not have to send a notice of assessed value if the value increases by less than $1,000. However, if an owner was not satisfied with a prior year’s value and the value remained the same, the appraisal district probably will not send a notice of the assessed value for the current year. In this situation, the owner might forget to protest since a notice of assessed value for the property was not received.
How to file and appeal
On or before May 31st of each year, the property owner should file an appeal for each property. However, while many owners are comfortable with an assessed value, in many cases there is a basis for appealing. Two options for appealing include:
1. unequal appraisal, and
2. market value based on data the appraisal district provides to the owner before the hearing.
You can appeal by completing the protest form provided by the appraisal district and indicating both excessive value (market value) and unequal appraisal as the basis for appeal. In addition, the property owner can simply send a notice that identifies the property, and indicates dissatisfaction with some determination of the appraisal office. The notice does not need to be on an official form, although the comptroller does provide a form for the convenience of property owners. (You can access the protest form at http://www.cutmytaxes.com .)
House Bill 201 – helpful information
House Bill 201 is the industry jargon for a property owner’s option to request information the appraisal district will use at the hearing, and to receive a copy 14 days before the hearing. The name House Bill 201 is derived from the bill used to enact the law. The details for House Bill 201 are located in sections 41.461 and 41.67d of the Texas Property Tax Code. When filing a protest, the property owner should additionally request in writing that the appraisal district provide a copy of any information the appraisal district plans to introduce at the hearing. The appraisal district will typically require the property owner to come to the appraisal district office to pick up the information and charge a nominal fee, typically $0.10 per page. While the cost for House Bill 201 requests are quite low (typically $0.50 to $2.00 per property for residential and commercial) the information is invaluable in preparing for the hearing. In addition, filing a House Bill 201 request is important because it limits the information the appraisal district can present at the hearing to what was provided to the property owner two weeks before the hearing.