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How to Protest Your Property Taxes

With the tax protest deadline drawing near, a refresher on how to protest your property assessed value is definitely in order. First and foremost there are few things any homeowner wishing to protest their taxes should be aware of before proceeding with a property tax protest.

Texas is a non-disclosure state when it comes to real estate sold information. When a home is listed with a real estate agent and the property is entered into a multiple listing service (MLS), the specifics of the actual sale such as sold price and terms are never disclosed to the county appraisal district. The only reason the appraisal district has market values on file is because a homeowner provided it to the county. So, NEVER bring the copy appraisal completed to purchase your home to your tax protest hearing.

Just because you live in a subdivision with many of the same floor plans doesn’t mean every home is equal to yours in the appraisal districts eyes.

Market Value should always be higher than the County Assessed Value. The market value was determined between buyers and seller negotiations and a full walk through appraisal by third party appraisal company who pulled recently sold market data to compare cost. County Assessed Value Appraisal is determined by a driving through the neighborhood by a county appraiser. The county appraiser also takes into consideration recent construction permit records filed at the county clerks office.

Because you purchased a short sale or a foreclosed home at a deep discount, doesn’t entitle you to a reduction in assessed value.

10 Step Process: How to Protest your County Property Tax Value

STEP 1: Determine your tax protest deadline – for example: In Travis County, the deadline is determined by when the preliminary tax information was mailed to you, but most homeowners should have a May 15th deadline. If the 15th would fall on a holiday or a weekend, the deadline is normally pushed to the following business day. Check the bottom or back of your preliminary assessed value statement for deadline details or call your county appraisal district to be 100% sure of when your deadline is.

STEP 2: Locate and complete a property tax protest form. It can obtained by visiting your county appraisal district office, by flipping over your preliminary property tax statement or by visiting the county appraisal district website.

STEP 3: Hand deliver or send via certified return receipt the tax protest form to your county appraisal district. I recommend hand delivering due to STEP 4. Additionally, it is always best to file a property tax protest either the last day to file a protest or a few days before due to STEP 8.

STEP 4: When delivering the tax protest form, request an evidence/sale packet (this could be have another name at your county appraisal district). This package shows the homes the county is comparing your home in order to calculate the assessed value. This document can either be mailed or picked up after the package is completed, which takes anywhere from two to three business days or up to 10 business days (depending on the county and the time of your request), but this document can only be requested when filing a property tax protest. At this time the county will arrange an informal hearing date – DO NOT MISS THIS DATE!

STEP 5: Once you have received the evidence or sale packet, locate the homes that best compare to your home. In order to ensure you are comparing apples to apples consider using this criteria for your search – address of home (the closest to you the better), age of home (closest to the age of your home), square footage of home (recommend no more than 200 square feet above and below your square footage), number of stories (if you live in a one story, search for only one stories) and class assigned to your home (this is the building class assigned by the county). Complete a spreadsheet showing the above criteria and enter the homes on the list that best compare to yours.

STEP 6: Go to your county appraisal district website and locate the property tax records section. Locate homes on your street and neighboring streets with the same approximate age, square footage, number of stories that are not listed on the evidence or sale packet. Input these homes into your spreadsheet and you should only be missing the class the county has assigned the home.

STEP 7: Take photos of every home that is included in your spreadsheet, but sure to include the house number if located on the house or mailbox in your photo.

STEP 8: Two to three days prior to your informal hearing, take a few hours out of your day to visit the county appraisal district office. Each county appraisal district has public computers with county appraisal district data that can only be obtain by visiting the county appraisal office. Remember to bring a copy of your spreadsheet. The computers will help you determine if any homeowner on your list already been through an informal or even a formal hearing and what their outcome was. Was their property value raised, decreased or was it left untouched?  If any homeowner has had any adjustments to their value, document this within your spreadsheet. Also, you will want to complete your spreadsheet by obtaining the class of the homes you found in your neighborhood that were not listed in the evidence or sale package.

STEP 9: Attend your informal hearing NO MATTER WHAT is going on in your life. If you do not show up at your informal hearing, but show up at your formal hearing the odds are stacked against you regardless of how much information you have to present. Bring your spreadsheet, with photos (preferably labeled with the street address including house number). NEVER, ever bring a recent appraisal. It is possible to be successful with obtaining a reduction of assessed value/decreasing your property tax bill at the informal hearing. It all depends on the amount of effort you put into your presentation.

STEP 10: If you are not successful at your informal hearing, you have a right to be heard in a formal hearing. Don’t be shy! Ask the appraiser you are meeting with at the informal hearing if there is anything you were missing in your presentation that didn’t warrant you a successful tax protest hearing. Take any knowledge gained at the informal hearing, make tweaks to it as necessary and do not miss your formal hearing.

After reading through these steps, you are probably thinking that is a ton of work. I’ll agree with you! The first time you prepare for a protest it may seem as if it a never ending task or your new part time job, but just as any project you completed in middle school – the more quality effort put into the project the higher grade you would be awarded. Consider your tax protest your adult middle school project. Once this experience is behind you and you have successfully negotiated a lower assessed value, you’ll be hungry to complete the process again next year or so exhausted from the process you will hire a third party negotiator to negotiate a lower property tax value on your behalf.

If you are getting the shakes thinking the above process is daunting, feel free to hire one of the companies listed below to help you navigate the process locally.  These companies have years of experience navigating the county appraisal district protest process and come highly recommended from our past clients.

Austin area:  FiveStone Tax Advisers or Texas Protax

Dallas/Fort Worth area: O’Connor and Associates

Houston area:  Ad Valorem Tax or O’Connor and Associates