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Property taxes can be a significant expense for Texas homeowners. In our current economy, one more price increase could be the difference between living comfortably and financial distress. Fortunately, Texas homeowners have the right to protest their property tax appraisal for a potentially lower tax bill.
But what does that mean, exactly? How do you submit a protest? And what does a protest consist of? In this blog, we’ll provide deeper insight into a property tax protest and give you tips on how to navigate the process.
What Is a Property Tax Protest?
A property tax protest is an administrative process by which a property owner can challenge the appraised value of their property. To do so, they must gather evidence to support the claim that the appraised value is too high and submit the claim to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB).
During the process, property owners attempt to resolve the dispute through an informal meeting with a staff appraiser and, if necessary, attend a formal hearing with the ARB. Based on the evidence presented, the ARB will make an official ruling on the property’s appraised value.
A property tax protest is a lengthy process that can take months to complete—and a considerable amount of a homeowner’s time. Hearings typically begin on May 1, with the ARB hearing most of the cases by July 20. The deadline can be later in larger Texas counties.
Understanding the Appraisal Review Board
The ARB hears all taxpayer protests, listens to both the taxpayer’s and chief appraiser’s sides of the case, and comes to a binding ruling that is effective only for the tax year in question.
The board consists of an appointed group of local citizens authorized to resolve disputes among taxpayers and their designated appraisal districts. Board members are appointed by administrative district judges in the appraisal districts’ counties. The only requirement to serve is that ARB members must have lived in the appraisal district they rule over for at least two years.
The Steps of a Property Tax Protest
Before you can effectively protest your property tax appraisal, it’s important to understand what the steps of the process are and what you are expected to do at each one.
The process begins when you receive your property tax notice from the appraisal district. This notice will contain your property’s assessed value, which the appraisal district uses to calculate your new property tax bill. If you believe that the appraised value is too high, take the following steps:
First, gather evidence to support your argument that the assessed value is too high. Evidence can include recent home sales or home appraisals in your area, photographs of any damage to your property that could lower its value, and other information that is relevant to the claim.
File Your Protest
You can file your protest online, by mail, or in person. Ensure you include all the evidence you have gathered to support your case.
Attend the Informal Meeting
Most appraisal districts allow you to meet with a staff appraiser in an effort to settle the dispute without attending a formal hearing with the ARB. Many protests are settled during this meeting.
Attend the Hearing
If you are not able to reach an agreement on value in the informal meeting, you can attend a formal hearing with the ARB. This is where you can present your evidence and argue why you believe the assessed value of your property is too high. You must bring all your evidence to the hearing and be prepared to answer any questions from the ARB.
Await the Decision
The ARB will issue a decision on your protest immediately after the hearing. If they agree with you and lower the assessed value of your property, you’ll receive a new property tax bill with a lower amount. If the ARB denies your protest, you can appeal the decision to the district court or file for binding arbitration.
Tips for a Successful Property Tax Protest
Now that you understand the process better, here are some things you can try to avoid having to go deeper into your pockets on your property tax bill:
- Learn all the filing deadlines for your area by checking with your local appraisal district’s office or website. In most cases, the deadline to file a protest is May 15.
- Make sure the property description and measurements of your property are correct.
- Research market values of your property and comparable properties in your area.
- Build a strong case with clear evidence to support your claim.
- Be respectful and concise at your hearing, sticking to the facts and avoiding emotional or confrontational behavior.
- Hire professionals to do the legwork for you, like SWBC’s Ad Valorem Tax Services, who have a track record of successfully lowering property tax bills for Texas residents.
Protesting your property tax appraisal can be a daunting process, but with the right preparation—and perhaps the guidance of residential property tax experts—you’ll be better equipped to navigate your property tax protest and potentially lower your tax bill.
Gary Rivas is a Texas licensed Senior Property Tax Consultant experienced in providing Industrial, Commercial, and Residential property tax reduction advisory services for real and personal property in Texas and multiple states across the country. He has 31 years of experience in the Property Tax Profession with 27 years as a Property Tax Consultant, and 34 years as a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent.