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    FIGHT BACK!!!
    HERE'S HOW TO GET YOUR 2004 PROPERTY TAX
    INCREASE REDUCED (OR EVEN WIPED OUT) 

    Posted: April 23, 2004
     

    NOTE: The 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 deadline!  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 for. 

    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 enough?

    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 THEIR HEARING!

    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.

    BACKGROUND

    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 proposed increase.
        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!
     
    Q: Our 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.

    Worth Noting: 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 "comps.")

    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?

    BENJAMIN DOVER'S 7 STEPS TO
    LOWERING 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 door.

    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 three years.
     
    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 homeowner doesn't.
     
    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 those records.

    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. Negotiate!

    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.
     
    An example?  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 over-assessed.

    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 exemptions?

    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.
    Here's Your Sample Protest Letter
     

    !!! PROPERTY TAX INCREASE PROTEST NOTIFICATION!!!

    JANE DOE
    7734 BROKEN BUDGET WAY
    DALLAS, TX 75205

     

    May 1, 2004

    Dallas Central Appraisal District
    Residential Division
    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 this matter.


    Sincerely,

    (your signature)
     

    Jane Doe

     

     

     
     
    STATE OF TEXAS TAXPAYERS' RIGHTS,
    REMEDIES & RESPONSIBILITIES 
     
     
    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 independent appraisals.

    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 savings.
     
        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 PROTEST
     
    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 hearing.

    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.
     
    TAXPAYER'S RIGHTS REMEDIES
    & RESPONSIBILITIES
     
    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 hearings.
     
    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 payment.
     
    TAXPAYER'S RIGHTS REMEDIES &
    RESPONSIBILITIES
     
    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 offense.
     
    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 or.
        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 veteran's exemption.
     
    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 your yard.
        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 qualifying trust.
        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 both.
    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 the home.
     
    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 either:
        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 taxes.
     
    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 process.
     
    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 construction type.
     
    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 value.

    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 your rendition.
     
    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 a rendition.

    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.

     

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