As Austin’s home prices keep increasing, so too do its property taxes. If this year’s property assessment notice shocks you, you should consider challenging the decision. Here’s a brief overview and best practices for disputing your property tax assessment:
Appraisal > Notices Sent > Protest Form > Informal Meeting > Hearing (if necessary) > Arbitration
The best practices described below are not tips on how to argue value but instead are ways to put you in the best possible position to get the most out of your protest. If you think you would like to protest your taxes, please feel free to contact either Todd Sherman or Kim Sherman so we can research the comparable sales data from the MLS for you. You will be arguing the value of the property as of December 31, 2017 so the most relevant sales data will come from the 4th quarter of last year. Please feel free to share this with anyone that has some interest in protesting their property taxes.
Now, let's dive into the specifics:
The appraised value for the year is determined by the home’s condition and market value - on this particular date (based on current market conditions, etc.).
Late March/Early April
The appraisal district sends you a form telling you the value of your home for tax purposes. Be sure to look at this form carefully to ensure there are no errors. If you find any errors (i.e., if your property was described incorrectly) or if the value appears WAY TOO HIGH, you now have the opportunity to protest the value. If you do not receive this notice, you should contact your respective county Tax Assessor's office as they may not have the correct mailing address on file.
File a “Notice of Protest” Form by May 15 (Travis County)
May 15 is now the deadline for filing a “Notice of Protest” of your appraised value by mail or in-person in Travis County.* If this date falls on a weekend, you have until the next business day (the Monday after the weekend) to file. How can you file? You have a couple of options here. One, you can use the form on the back of the “Notice of Appraised Value” form that you receive from the appraisal district. Two, you can file your protest online: Hays or Travis County. Once on your respective website, click on “Online Protests” and follow the directions. When filling out the form, pay special attention to the section where you check the box stating the reason for your protest. Why? Your choice here will affect the kind of evidence you can present. At "step 3," check the two boxes where it states the following: "Value is over Market" and "Value is unequal compared with other properties." Without going into great explanation, this gives you two separate and distinct arguments and two ways of prevailing. At "step 4," write these magic words: "Request Taxpayer Information Packet." Do not write anything else on the Notice (other than your signature and date). When you make this request, the appraisal district is required to give you a packet that provides you with all the evidence that they will present at your hearing. They are not allowed to bring forth additional evidence.
Mail the form by Certified Mail as close to the deadline as possible. You can also hand deliver the Notice and take a copy with you so they can date-stamp it. You do this because you want to have your hearing as late in the year as possible; the hearings are scheduled as the notices are presented. History reflects that the later in the year the hearing is set, the better chance of prevailing.
A new option available to those of you in Travis County is to efile your protest. This option is available until May 8th. For more information on how this works, refer to traviscad.org/eservices.
*For those of you in other counties, please confirm your protest deadline.
Trick of the Trade
Once you have a scheduled hearing, you are entitled to one free re-set if you have not already hired an agent to protest on your behalf. You should always take advantage of the free re-set so you can schedule your hearing as late in the year as possible.
Meet with the Appraiser by June 1
Once you’ve filed your “Notice of Protest,” the Central Appraisal District will send you a letter with two dates: an informal meeting with an appraisal staffer and your formal hearing date with the ARB. During the informal meeting, the staffer will review the numbers with you. Make sure to bring all the documentation you have compiled: information on comparable homes (you can find this information on the appraisal district’s website), perhaps an independent appraisal if you recently refinanced your house, or photos, repair estimates and other records showing damage that may reduce the value of your home. Once you and a staffer have talked things out, the district may offer to reduce your value by a certain amount. If you’re satisfied, you can accept it. If not, you can keep your date with the ARB.
The Formal Hearing
The formal hearing takes around 15 to 30 minutes. During that time, you are placed under oath and given a chance to present any evidence or witnesses supporting your case. The hearing concludes when you state the figure you believe your property is worth. The three-member panel will discuss the case and reach a recommended value. You’ll get a certified letter in the mail with the decision.
Do you have any questions regarding disputing your property taxes? We would be happy to provide guidance and comparable properties for your dispute. Give Todd Sherman or Kim Sherman a call anytime.