majority of the information in this section has been compiled over the
last several years and the bottom line remains the same: Get
off your butt and challenge the taxing authority before the May 31st
Whining is not gonna cut it, so get to work.
You must read this
paragraph before going any further:
Since you're reading this information on-line right now, it means that you've
got the same resources at your disposal that I have. Which
means that if you can't find something in this section, you need to
spend the time to research and locate whatever it is you're looking
I'm not a nursemaid and
I'm not your parent here to raise you: If you're old
enough to own property, you're old enough to look for whatever it is
you're needing. If you can't find the website for your county's tax
assessor, if you can't find a phone number or an address, this means you
haven't looked hard enough.
Don't e-mail me with dumb
questions because I won't reply: If you have a
truly unique question or situation, then bring it on.
Don't give me your life's history:
Get to the point and do it in 50 words or less...or your e-mail will go
straight to the delete folder. Fair
Alrighty then! Let's get
your property taxes knocked down a few bucks....
Early feedback from listeners and viewers indicates that
the appraisal districts for Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties are
being bombarded by protest letters.
Early indications point to representatives of both counties making deals
over the phone WITHOUT THE TAXPAYER EVER HAVING TO ACTUALLY GO TO
This is a potentially stunning victory for
consumers/taxpayers if this trend holds true. File your
protest letters at once to make your particular deadline!!! And do not
"think" or "assume" you have a deal with your appraisal district unless
and until they send you a verification of this new appraisal/taxation
amount. Get it in writing; if you do not receive it by your date before
the review board, you'd better make your appointment or lose your chance
for another year!
Click here for more information about the
Dallas Central Appraisal District
policies, deadlines and guidelines, or check out the
Tarrant Appraisal District's
website for information on the west side of the Metroplex.
A couple of years ago I had my "day in court" so to speak, In front
of the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board and I did okay:
a. I got them to decrease their proposed
property value increase from $5,200 to only $900!
b. This amounts to a 90% cut in their
c. This amounts to cutting my tax increase
to only 1/10th of what they had proposed!
If consumers don't take control of any situation, they're handing it
over to someone else that might not have their best interests at
heart. And the longer you wait to challenge these increases, the
harder it is to get values backed down in the future.
Besides, over 60% of Texas
property owners are successful in gaining some relief when they
protest/challenge these increases!
property taxes escalated right through the ceiling this year. We're
on a fixed income and have no idea how we are going to pay them. Do
we have a right to protest them?
A: Not only do you have a right
to protest your property tax bill, if you do you'll join tens of
thousands of people across the country who are doing the same thing.
Your first step is to review your tax bill in two areas:
1. The assessed value of your land and,
2. The value of the improvements.
Often these are in error (such as the size of the lot), which can
cause the corresponding tax to be wrong as well.
If you've made any capital improvements to the property in the past
year, this could account for the rise in assessed value. Most assessors
only review properties every few years; so it's possible that the
remodeling or renovating you did previously is just now being taxed.
This is one reason why, when a buyer purchases a home, property taxes
usually rise in the next year or two since the assessor now has a sale
that can often be used to justify a higher assessed value (known as
Locate information about how your assessed
value and corresponding tax can be protested:
Either the information will be spelled out in detail on your
assessment notice or you will be advised to contact the assessor's
office for further information. Texas counties have a detailed procedure
you must follow in order for your protest to be filed and heard. This
includes a time deadline for filing the protest...and they will stick to
the letter of the law. You've got your "window of opportunity" and if
you don't react in time, tough.
Make sure you're well armed with information to
back up your protest: Do your homework! Visit the appropriate
county offices to research properties like yours; learn both what they
sold for and what their assessments are now. Take notes on comparable
homes with assessments lower than yours. Information is power when it
comes to fighting city hall.
Remember, everyone in the country is affected
by property tax: Owners of all types of real property
(residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural) are directly
affected because they receive tax bills annually. People who lease real
property are also affected because part of their monthly rent is
calculated on the amount of property tax the landlord must pay.
The big problem is, how do you know for
sure that you're not paying more than your fair share?
Here's a common example: Suppose you went to the local
supermarket and bought $75.00 worth of groceries. At the check-out line
you gave the cashier a hundred dollar bill and the cashier gave you back
some money. Would you count your change to be certain that you got back
the right amount? Of course you would, because that is the prudent and
intelligent thing to do. Then why shouldn't you do the same thing on a
costly household expense like your annual property tax? Why should you
assume that the government is correct and has treated you fairly?
DOVER'S 7 STEPS TO
YOUR PROPERTY TAXES
GET YOUR PROTEST LETTER IN A.S.A.P!
You snooze, you will lose. Follow the simple format (sample
attached) and get it in to your local taxing authority within the
time limit outlined on your letter. You have only 30 days from the
date they mailed it, so get after it!
DEFINE COMPARABLE WORTH: It's
simple to get started...Go to the assessor's office and examine your
property record card for errors. The card will contain a description
of the house and grounds, along with the assessed value and the math
by which it was arrived at.
Errors are notoriously common. You're down for four bedrooms
when you have three. Your lot is 70 by 180, not 170 by 180. Your
attic is not finished. The pool was filled in years ago. The big
plus of fixing a record error is that the resulting tax reduction
lasts forever. And it's easy. Just tell the assessor, who will
usually fix it on your word without a formal hearing. You're out the
CONSIDER HIRING AN EXPERT TO ASSIST:
Assuming the records are correct, you may well choose to hire an
expert if you're convinced your house would not sell for anywhere
near the value placed on it by the assessor. To challenge an
assessment, you must demonstrate that comparable homes in your
neighborhood are selling for less than your appraised value. Get a
quick sense of this by talking to your local real estate agent. For
free or for a small fee, most are happy to comb their listings to
see what homes like yours are selling for and tell you what yours
might bring. You want to get data on three comparable homes that
have recently sold and three that are now on the market. Or you
might use the services of a real estate appraiser. Many will do a
partial appraisal for clients considering an appeal for a third or
less of a full report...as little as $75.
If it turns out that the market value of
your home is within several thousand dollars of the assessment, stop
here: Your next step, in most states, is to appear before
a tax panel, and experts say boards dislike dickering over small
differences. Some jurisdictions won't hear your appeal unless your
over-assessment exceeds 10%.
If you are substantially
over-assessed, you might want to go ahead with the formal appeal.
You have two choices: Do it yourself or hire an
expert. Going it alone became popular in the late 1980s, in the wake
of the real estate turndown. Self-help books abound, but that route
is time-consuming, and it's easy to lose if you don't understand the
process. Your worst mistake is to go
in with a chip on your shoulder!
The art of winning an appeal depends on
those houses you're comparing with yours: Remember that
the houses are similar, but they're not exactly alike, so the
expert's job is to adjust for the differences, adding for this and
subtracting for that, to reach the true market value of your house.
House A has two fireplaces to your one, but your house is newer by
House B is 25 square feet smaller, but it's on a larger lot.
House C has a finished attic but also a soggy basement. Each asset
or defect has a numerical value attached to it. This is where it
gets complicated and is what the appraiser knows how to do and the
Appraisers and consultants such as Johnson have another advantage:
extensive databases of area home sales, including details on
interior conditions and improvements. The county doesn't have all
Appraisers who are licensed have a special standing before boards as
sort of expert witnesses. If they present an appraisal, boards
usually side with their findings. A full appraisal can run to $300
or more, so whether it's worth it depends on how much it saves you
and by how often the jurisdiction reassesses.
Get A Referral: Another approach
is to hire a property tax consultant. They charge on a contingency
basis, so if they appeal your assessment and lose, you'll wind up
paying nothing. In theory, at least, property tax consultants won't
take on cases unless they're convinced they can win them. But as
advocates, they don't have the credibility of appraisers before
boards. In many areas, anyone can hang out a consultant's shingle.
They can bungle your case and waste your time.
And never deal with any of these so-called "tax reduction
consultants" that want any up-front fees.
Legitimate consultants make their real money in commercial and
industrial appeals and are generally reluctant to take on
residential clients. Be aware that a reasonable fee is one-third of
the tax savings for the first year, but some may try to charge as
much as 50% for each year the reduction remains in effect.
Appraisers and property tax consultants are listed separately in the
Yellow Pages, but the best way to locate one is probably through a
referral from a real estate agent or a lawyer. Fighting the country
tax assessor/collector was never designed to be easy, but with the
right professional and knowledge, it can be a lot less taxing.
IF YOU'VE RECENTLY BOUGHT A HOUSE:
When buying a house, remember that the property taxes listed on
the real estate fact-sheet could be incorrect as it is sometimes
obtained from the vendor's memory or old records. To get an accurate
amount, you can check the property taxes at City Hall. Just ask to
see the Assessment Role. This is also a good time to check that the
taxes accurately reflect the house.
It's entirely possible that a past owner removed an amenity but
didn't notify the assessment office. As a result, the house could be
Obvious causes for reassessment are the removal of a feature that
added value to the property. Perhaps a swimming pool has been filled
in, or a utility building has been torn down. These changes should
be reflected in the assessed value of your home and thus should
result in lower taxes.
OTHER TAX REDUCTION STRATEGIES:
Another strategy that can improve your chances of a tax reduction is
to find something recent that is a legitimate cause for reduced
property values. It should be recent, otherwise, your appeal could
be refused on the grounds that the cause of lower value is already
reflected in the taxes.
Some possible changes could be re-zoning or
redevelopment that raises noise and traffic levels in your
neighborhood. In such situations, you can get your neighbors to join
you in an appeal. The group effort will carry more weight than an
individual "cry in the wilderness".
Justify a reduction with clear reductions in value
such as the removal of an amenity.
Justify a reduction with recent changes in your
neighborhood that downgrade property values.
Get your neighbors to join you in a group appeal.
OTHER TAXING THOUGHTS: "I've
heard that the Assessor might have errors on my home's property
data. How can the Assessor make mistakes?"
Gee. Let's see. They're overworked, under paid, and under staffed!
You might have some very good people in your county assessor's
office, but they have a bunch of work to do. They simply don't have
the time to give each and every parcel the consideration it
deserves, and errors occur. The "computer generated" assessments can
introduce even further distortion into the results.
Are there "loopholes" or
Sure are.. and most home owners know little about them. The most
common exemptions are Senior Citizens and handicap exemptions. This
is one of your first check-offs in your preparation. These
exemptions are worth lots of cash to you. For our more deserving
veterans and senior citizens, such exemptions are very helpful.
Sample Protest Letter
!!! PROPERTY TAX
INCREASE PROTEST NOTIFICATION!!!
7734 BROKEN BUDGET WAY
DALLAS, TX 75205
May 1, 2004
Dallas Central Appraisal District
PO Box 560348
Dallas, TX 75356-0348
REF: Account number R 00000 123456 000000
To Whom It May Concern:
Please let this letter serve as my official, written
Notice of Protest for the property referenced above,
through my address as well as the account number. My reason,
as checked in the form I'm also returning herewith, is that
you have over-valued the property. Please let me know how
and when I can review this matter for re-valuation with the
proper authorities. Thank you for your prompt attention to
STATE OF TEXAS
HOW TO APPEAL: The right to
protest to the appraisal review board is the most important right
you have as a taxpayer. You may protest if you disagree with any of
the actions the appraisal district has taken on your property. You
may discuss your concerns about your property value, exemptions and
special appraisal in an informal session with an impartial panel of
your fellow citizens.
Most appraisal districts informally review your protest with you to
try to solve problems. Check with your district for details.
If you lease property and must pay the owner's property taxes
(required by lease contract), then you may appeal the property's
value to the ARB. You may appeal the property's proposed value only
if the property owner does not appeal. This appeal right includes
leasing land, buildings or personal property. The appraisal district
will send the notice of appraised value to the property owner, who
is required to send a copy to you. If you appeal, the ARB will send
any notices to you.
What is an appraisal review board?
An ARB is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between
taxpayers and the appraisal district. ARB members are appointed by
the appraisal district' s board of directors. An individual must be
a resident of the appraisal district for at least two years to serve
on the ARB. Officers and employees of the appraisal district, the
local taxing units or the State Comptroller's office can't serve on
the ARB. ARB members also must comply with special conflict of
interest laws. The ARB determines taxpayer protests and taxing unit
challenges. In taxpayer protests, it listens to both the taxpayer
and the chief appraiser.
The ARB determines if the chief appraiser has granted or denied
exemptions and agricultural appraisals properly. The ARB's decisions
are binding only for the year in question. The ARB begins work
around May 15 and finishes by July 20.
ARB meetings are open to the public. Notices of the date, time and
place of each meeting must be posted at least 72 hours in advance at
the appraisal district office and at the county clerk's office.
The ARB's hearing procedures must be posted in a prominent place in
the room in which hearings are held. For cost savings, the ARB
typically meets at the appraisal office. It does not usually have
its own staff or office.
Should you protest?
The ARB must base its decisions on evidence. It hears evidence from
both sides-the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. Following is a list
of protest issues that an ARB can consider and suggestions on
evidence you may want to gather:
Is the proposed value of your property too high? Ask one of the
district's appraisers to explain the appraisal. Be sure the property
description is correct. Are the measurements for your home or
business and lot correct? Gather blueprints, deed records,
photographs, a survey or your own measurements.
Are there any hidden defects, such as a cracked foundation or
inadequate plumbing? Get photographs, statements from builders or
Ask the appraisal district for the appraisal records on similar
properties in your area. Is there a big difference in the values?
This comparison may show that your property wasn't treated equally.
Collect evidence on recent sales of properties similar to yours from
neighbors or real estate professionals. Ask the appraisal district
for the sales that it used. Consider using an independent appraisal
by a real estate appraiser. Insurance records also may be helpful.
If you do decide to use sales information
to support your protest, you should:
1. Get documents or sworn statements from
the person providing the sales information.
2. Use sales of properties that are similar
to yours in size, age, location and type of construction.
3. Justify a reduction with recent changes
in your neighborhood that downgrade property values.
4. Use recent sales. Sales that occurred
closest to January 1 are best.
5. Weigh the costs of preparing a protest
against the potential tax savings. Preparing a protest may not be
worth the time and expense if it results in only a small tax
6. If you protest the agricultural value of
your farm or ranch, find out how the appraisal district calculated
your value. Compare its information with that of local experts on
agriculture, such as the county extension agent, the Agricultural
Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Soil Conservation
Service, the Texas Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture or the agriculture department of a nearby
university. The Comptroller's Manual for the Appraisal of
Agricultural Land may be helpful.
Is your property valued unequally
compared with other property in the appraisal district? See
if the value of your property is closer to market value than other
similar properties. For example, your property may be appraised at
100 percent of market value, while your neighbors' properties may be
appraised at 90 percent of market value. A protest based on the
level of appraisal may require more evidence. For more information
about appealing an unequal appraisal or evidence to gather for such
an appeal, see the Comptroller's Appraisal Review Board Manual or
call the Comptroller's property tax hotline at 1-800-252-9121.
Did the chief appraiser deny you an
exemption? First, find out why the chief appraiser
denied your exemption. If the chief appraiser denied your homestead
exemption, get evidence that you owned your home on January 1 and
used the home as your principal residence on that date.
If the chief appraiser denied a homestead exemption for part of the
land around your home, show how much land is used as a yard.
If the chief appraiser denied you an over-65, a disabled person's or
a veteran's exemption, read about these exemptions on pages 2-3.
Do the appraisal records show an
incorrect owner? Provide records of deeds or deed
transfers to show ownership. If you acquired the property after
January 1, you may protest the property's value until the ARB
approves the records. The law recognizes the new owner's interest in
the taxes on the property.
Is your property being taxed by the
wrong taxing units? An error of this sort is often
simply a clerical error. For example, the appraisal records show
your property is located in one school district when it actually is
located in another school district.
Is your property incorrectly included on
the appraisal records? Some kinds of taxable
personal property move from place to place quite regularly. Property
is taxed at only one location in Texas. You can protest the
inclusion of your property on the appraisal records if it should be
taxed at another location in Texas.
Did the chief appraiser or ARB fail to
send you a notice that the law requires them to send?
You have the right to protest if the chief appraiser or ARB
failed to give you a required notice. But unless you disagree with
your appraisal, there is no point in protesting failure to give a
notice. Be sure that the appraisal district has your correct name
and address. You can't protest failure to give notice if the taxes
on your property become delinquent.
By the way: A notice
is presumed delivered if sent by first-class mail with a correct
name and address. Your failure to receive a properly mailed notice
does not give you the right to a late hearing. (Nice try.)
Is there any other action the appraisal
district or ARB took that affects you? You have the
right to protest any appraisal district action that affects you and
your property. For instance, the chief appraiser may claim your
property wasn't taxed in a previous year, and you disagree.
You may protest only actions that affect your property.
HOW TO FILE A
File a written protest: The
appraisal district has protest forms available, but you need not use
an official form (use my sample letter). A notice of protest is
sufficient if it identifies the owner, the property that is the
subject of the protest and indicates that you are dissatisfied with
a decision made by the appraisal district.
File your notice of protest by May 31 or no
later than 30 days after the appraisal district delivers a notice of
appraised value to you, whichever date is later: If the
ARB ordered a change in your property's records, you must file your
notice of protest within 30 days of the date on which the ARB
delivered you a notice of the change.
If you file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the
appraisal records, you are entitled to a hearing if the ARB decides
that you had good reason for failing to meet the deadline. If you
don't file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the appraisal
records, you lose your right to protest. You also lose the right to
file a lawsuit about the taxable value of your property. However, if
your protest is late because the chief appraiser or ARB failed to
mail your notice of appraised value or denial of exemption or
agricultural appraisal, you may file your protest any time before
the taxes on your property become delinquent. You must pay your
taxes before the delinquency date to be entitled to this type of
In some cases, you may file with the ARB to correct an error even
after these deadlines. Contact your appraisal district or the
Comptroller's office if you have questions about clerical errors,
substantial value errors, double taxing or other areas.
HOW SHOULD YOU PROTEST? The ARB
will notify you at least 15 days in advance of the date, time and
place of your hearing. Try to discuss your protest issue with the
appraisal office in advance. You may work out a satisfactory
solution without appearing before the ARB.
At least 14 days before your protest
hearing, the appraisal district will send you:
A copy of a pamphlet describing your rights;
A copy of the ARB procedures; and
A statement that you have the right to inspect and obtain a copy
of the data, schedules, formulas and any other information that the
chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing.
The appraisal district may charge for copies of materials you
request. However, the charge may not exceed $15 on a residential
property or $25 on a non-residential property.
When you present your protest to the ARB, you may appear in person,
send someone to present the protest for you or send a sworn
affidavit containing the evidence to support your protest.
Be on time and prepared for your hearing:
The ARB may adopt a policy to place a time limit on
Stick to the facts of your presentation:
The ARB has no control over the appraisal district's
operations or budget, tax rates for the local taxing units,
inflation or local politics. Including these topics in your
presentation isn't helpful to you.
Present a simple and well organized
protest: Stress key facts and figures. Write them down in
logical order and give copies to each ARB member.
Recognize that the ARB acts as an
independent judge: The ARB listens to both the taxpayer
and the chief appraiser before making a decision. It is not a case
of the taxpayer against the ARB and the chief appraiser.
The ARB will ask you to take an oath (either by swearing or by
affirming) before you present evidence. Should you refuse to take
the oath, the ARB will note this fact and may take it into account
as the ARB weighs the evidence. The ARB may decide to end the
hearing. Appraisal district staff must take an oath.
You also are required to make a partial
payment of taxes-usually the amount of taxes that aren't in
dispute-before the delinquency date: You may ask the
court to excuse you from prepaying your taxes. You must file an oath
of "inability to pay" the taxes in question and argue that prepaying
the taxes restrains your right to go to court on your protest. The
court will hold a hearing and decide the terms or conditions of your
RIGHTS REMEDIES &
SAVINGS ON HOME TAXES: An
exemption removes part of the value of your property from taxation
and lowers your taxes. For example, if your home is valued at
$50,000 and you qualify for a $5,000 exemption, you pay taxes on
your home as if it was worth only $45,000. Other than exemptions for
disabled veterans or survivors, these exemptions apply only for your
homestead. They do not apply to other property you own.
How to File for an Exemption. Get an
application form at your local appraisal district office:
Fill out only one application. There is a separate application for
the disabled veteran's exemption.
Return the form to the appraisal district
office after January 1, but no later than April 30:
Making false statements on your exemption application is a criminal
Provide necessary information:
For example, if your home is a mobile home, you must have a copy of
the title to the home or a verified copy of the purchase contract.
If your property is valued by more than one
appraisal district, you must file an application with each appraisal
district office: This occurs when your property is
located in a taxing unit that is also in a neighboring county.
Contact the appraisal district in your county if you aren't sure.
You may file a homestead exemption up to
one year after:
a. The date you paid the taxes on the home
b. The date the taxes became delinquent,
whichever date is earlier.
You will receive a new tax bill with a lower amount or a refund if
you already paid. Late filing does not apply to the disabled
If the chief appraiser asks you for more
information: You will have at least 30 days to reply.
If the chief appraiser denies or modifies
your exemption: He or she must tell you in writing within
five days. This notice explain how you can protest before the
appraisal review board.
Once you receive a homestead exemption or a
disabled veteran's exemption: You don't have to apply
again unless the chief appraiser asks you to apply or unless your
qualifications change. If you move to a new home, you will have to
file out a new application. If you have your 65th birthday or become
disabled on or before January 1st, you should file a new application
so that you can receive additional homestead exemptions.
The chief appraiser may require a new
application: By sending you a written notice and an
application form. if you don't return the new application, you can
lose your exemption.
Does your home qualify for exemptions?
You must own your home on January 1.
Your homestead can be a separate structure, condominium or a
mobile home located on leased land, as long as you own it.
Your homestead can include up to 20 acres if the land is used as
A residence may be owned by an individual through an interest in
a qualifying beneficial trust and may be occupied by a trustor of a
You must use the home as your principal residence on January 1.
If you have more than one house, you can only get exemptions for
your main or principal residence.
If you temporarily move away from your home, you can still get
an exemption if you don't establish another principal residence and
you intend to return. For instance, if you enter a nursing home,
your home still qualifies as your homestead if you intend to return.
Renting part of your home or using part of it for a business
doesn't disqualify the rest of your home for the exemption.
Note: Texas has two distinct
laws for designating a homestead. The Texas Tax Code offers
homeowners a way to apply for homestead exemptions to reduce local
property taxes. The Texas Property Code allows homeowners to
designate their homesteads to protect them from a forced sale to
satisfy creditors. This law doesn't protect homeowners from tax
foreclosure sales of their homes for delinquent taxes.
What home exemptions are there?
School taxes-all homeowners: You
will qualify for a $5,000 homestead exemption on your home's value
for school taxes.
County taxes-all homeowners: If
your county collects a special tax for farm-to- market roads or
flood control, you will receive a $3,000 exemption for this tax. If
you qualify for local-option exemptions for age 65 or older
homeowners or disabled homeowners (next section), you will receive
only the local-option exemptions.
Optional exemptions-all homeowners:
Any taxing unit, including a school district, city, county or
special district, may offer an exemption for up to 20 percent of
your home's value. The amount of an optional exemption can't be less
than $5,000, no matter what the percentage is. For example, if your
home is valued at $20,000 and your city offers a 20-percent
exemption, your exemption is $5,000, even though 20 percent of
$20,000 is just $4,000. Each taxing unit decides whether it will
offer the exemption and at what percentage. This percentage
exemption is added to any other home exemption for which you
qualify. The taxing unit must decide before May 1 of the tax year to
offer this exemption.
Age 65 or older homeowners: If
you are age 65 or older on January 1, your residence homestead will
qualify for more exemptions.
You will qualify for a $10,000 homestead exemption for the
school taxes on your home's value, in addition to the $5,000
exemption for all homeowners.
If you qualify for both the $10,000 exemption for over-65
homeowners and the $10,000 exemption for disabled homeowners, you
must choose one or the other for school taxes. You cannot receive
In addition to the $10,000 exemption for school taxes, any taxing
unit...including a school district...can offer an additional
exemption of at least $3,000 for taxpayers age 65 or older.
Once you receive an over-65 homestead exemption, you get a tax
ceiling for that home on your total school taxes. The school taxes
on your home cannot increase as long as you own and live in that
home. The tax ceiling is the amount you pay in the year that you
qualify for the over-65 homeowner exemption. The school taxes on
your home may go below the ceiling, but the school taxes will not be
more than the amount of your ceiling.
However, your tax ceiling can go up if you improve your home (other
than normal repairs or maintenance).
For example, if you add a garage or a game room to your home, your
tax ceiling can go up. Also, your tax ceiling will change if you
move to a new home.
When a homeowner who has been receiving the tax ceiling on school
taxes dies, the ceiling transfers to the surviving spouse if the
survivor is 55 or older and has ownership in the home. The survivor
should apply to the appraisal district for the tax ceiling to
transfer. The ceiling remains in effect for as long as the spouse
lives in the home.
A tax ceiling does not expire when the owner conveys the interest in
the home o a trust, provided the owner-trustor is entitled to occupy
When homeowners who have been receiving the age-65-or-older
exemptions die, the exemptions transfer to their surviving spouses,
beginning with 1996 taxes. The surviving spouses must be 55 or older
at their spouse' s death and must live and have ownership in the
home. The survivors should apply to the appraisal district to
transfer the exemptions. The exemptions remain in effect for as long
as the survivors own and live in the homes.
Homeowners age 65 or older who apply for the exemptions may also pay
their home taxes in installments.
If you are a homeowner age 65 or older, you may defer or postpone
paying any delinquent property taxes on your home for as long as you
own and live in it. To postpone your tax payments, file a tax
deferral affidavit with your appraisal district.
You may suspend any lawsuit by filing an affidavit with the court.
The deferral is for all delinquent property taxes of the taxing
units that tax your home. A tax deferral only postpones paying your
taxes. It doesn't cancel them. Interest is added at the rate of 8
percent a year. Once you no longer own your home or live in it, past
taxes and interest become due. Any penalty and interest that was due
on the tax bill for the home before the tax deferral will remain on
the property and also become due when the tax deferral ends.
Homeowners with disabilities: A
person with a disability also may get exemptions. "Disabled' means
1. You can't engage in gainful work because of physical or
mental disability or
2. You are 55 years old and blind and can't engage in your
previous work because of your blindness.
If you receive disability benefits under the federal Old Age,
Survivors and Disability Insurance Program administered by the
Social Security Administration, you will qualify.
Disability benefits from any other program do not automatically
qualify you for this exemption. You may need information on
disability ratings from the civil service, retirement programs or
from insurance documents, military records or a doctor's statement.
If disabled, you will qualify for a $10,000 exemption for school
taxes, inaddition to the $5,000 exemption for all homeowners.
And, any taxing unit can offer an exemption of at least $3,000 from
the home value of taxpayers with disabilities. Homeowners who are
disabled and apply for homestead exemptions also may pay their home
taxes in installments.
Are you a disabled veteran or survivor:
You may qualify for a property tax exemption if you are either
1. A veteran who was disabled while serving with the U.S.
armed forces or,
2. The surviving spouse or child (under 18 years of age
and unmarried) of a disabled veteran or of a member of the armed
forces who was killed while on active duty.
You must be a Texas resident.
You must have documents from either the Veterans'
Administration or the branch of the armed forces that show the
percentage of your service-related disability.
Your disability rating must be at least 10 percent.
If you are a surviving spouse or child, you must have the
veteran's disability records. You may need other documents such as
proof of marriage or age. This exemption ranges from $5,000 to
$12,000, depending on the extent of the disability.
This exemption is not only for a
home...you can apply it to any property you own on
January 1st. However, you may pick only one property to receive this
exemption for the taxing units that tax the property.
The disabled veteran's exemption is different from a disabled
homeowner's exemption. Contact your appraisal district about any
other exemptions available.
What should new homeowners do?
Before you buy a home, you or your mortgage company should get a tax
certificate for the home from all taxing units that tax it. The tax
certificate will show if delinquent taxes are owed. You can't get
clear title to the property until you have paid all delinquent
Your mortgage company may pay property taxes on your home out of an
escrow account. If this is the case, make sure the tax collectors
send the original tax bills to the mortgage company. You may want to
request a receipt to see if the mortgage company pays the taxes on
time and for federal income tax purposes.
Apply to the appraisal district for a residence homestead and any
other exemptions. You must apply in each appraisal district that
appraises your home.
If you sold your previous home in Texas, make sure it's listed under
the new owner's name and address.
If your home is new, you should receive a notice of appraised value
from the appraisal district in April or May. Contact the appraisal
district if you don't receive this notice.
Valuing Property: The
appraisal district determines the value of all taxable property in
the county. Before the appraisal can begin, the appraisal district
compiles a list of the taxable property. The listing for each
property contains a description of the property and the name and
address of the owner.
State law requires chief appraisers who appraise the same properties
for different taxing units to exchange information on the
properties' ownership, description and other data. To the extent
possible, the appraisers work together to appraise each property at
the same value in each appraisal district. When filing information,
property owners with property in more than one appraisal district
must file with each appraisal district office. The chief appraisers
will mail these owners a notice each year advising them of this
How is your property valued?
The appraisal district must repeat the appraisal process
for property in the county at least once every three years.
To save time and money, the appraisal district uses mass appraisal
to appraise large numbers of properties. In a mass appraisal, the
appraisal district first collects detailed descriptions of each
taxable property in the district. It then classifies properties
according to a variety of factors, such as size, use and
Using data from recent property sales, the district appraises the
value of typical properties in each class. Taking into account
differences such as age or location, the district uses the typical
property values to appraise all the properties in the class.
For individual properties, the appraisal district may use three
common methods to value property: market, income and cost approach.
The market approach is most often used and simply asks, "What
are properties similar to this property selling for?"
The value of your home is an estimate of the price your home would
sell for on January 1. The appraisal district compares your home to
similar homes that have sold recently and determines your home's
The district uses the other methods to appraise types of properties
that don't often sell, such as utility companies and oil leases. The
income approach asks, "What would an investor pay in anticipation of
future income from the property?" The cost approach asks, "How much
would it cost to replace the property with one of equal utility?"
What if your property value rises?
A notice of appraised value tells you if the appraisal district
intends to increase the value of your property. Chief appraisers
send two kinds of notices of appraised value. A detailed notice
contains a description of your property, its value, the exemptions
and an estimate of taxes that might be owed. This notice is sent
under three circumstances:
If the value of your property is higher than it was in the
previous year (the appraisal district' s board of directors can
decide that the district will send detailed notices only if a
property' s value increased by more than $1,000);
If the value of your property is higher than the value you gave
on a rendition (see next section); or
If your property wasn't on the appraisal district's records in
the previous year.
The chief appraiser will send a short notice without the estimate of
taxes if your property was reappraised or changed hands or upon the
request of you or your agent.
The chief appraiser must send you the notice of appraised value by
May 15 or as soon thereafter as possible. If you disagree with the
value, you have until May 31 or 30 days from the date the notice is
delivered (whichever is later) to a file a protest with the
appraisal review board.
The notice of appraised value explains how you can file a protest
with the review board if you disagree with the district's actions.
What is a rendition? A
rendition is a form you may use to report the taxable property you
own on January 1 to the appraisal district. The rendition
identifies, describes and gives the location of your taxable
property. You also may give your opinion of your property's value on
the rendition form, but it isn't required. Business owners must
report a rendition of their personal property. Other property owners
may submit a rendition, if they choose.
If the total taxable value of your personal property is less than
$500 in any one taxing unit, then the property is exempt in that
taxing unit. For example, if your office equipment is worth $300,
then you will not pay city property taxes on that equipment.
However, if the total taxable value of all equipment you own within
the school district or county boundaries is $500 or more, then you
will pay school and county property taxes on that equipment. You may
render your property to the appraisal district to claim a property
value under $500.
Advantages? If you file a
rendition, you are in a better position to exercise your rights as a
taxpayer. Your correct mailing address is on record so taxing units
will send your tax bills to the right address. Your opinion of your
property's value is on record with the appraisal district. The chief
appraiser must send you a notice of appraised value if the appraiser
puts a higher value on your property than the value you listed on
Deadline? File your rendition
with the appraisal district after January 1 and no later than April
14. The chief appraiser may extend the deadline to April 30 if you
can show good cause for needing an extension.
Requirements: If you own
tangible personal property that is used to produce income, you must
report this property on a rendition form every year. Businesses, for
instance, must report their inventories, equipment and machinery on
If your property is appraised by more than one appraisal district,
you need to file a rendition in each appraisal district office. This
can occur when your property is located in a taxing unit that is
also in a neighboring county. If you have questions, contact the
appraisal district in your county.
Renditions and any income and expense information that you file
about your property are kept confidential by the appraisal district.