property taxes

If You Want to Protest Property Taxes, Here's How

The deadlines vary for different counties but most are sometime this month

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Last month, homeowners across North Texas started to receive the dreaded letter in the mail. Now that the shock has worn off, it's time to take action. The clock is ticking if you want to protest your property tax appraisal. In most cases, you have 30 days from the date you received your appraisal to fight it.

It can be a process that requires time, effort and homework, so it's suggested to do it sooner, rather than later.

Deadlines

What is a property tax appraisal?

According to the Texas Comptroller's Office, the state requires taxable property to be appraised by Jan. 1 of every year. A county's appraisal district determines what the value is and bases it off of the Texas Property Tax Code.

Why does it matter?

It determines how much you'll pay in taxes every year. The property value multiplied by the tax rate explains how much you'll pay in property taxes.

How do I protest?

In Texas, everybody has the right to protest their property tax appraisal. This can be done online, by mail (post marked by the deadline) or drop off depending on your county.

“You have the right to protest as a property owner and what I ask people to do is, do your research, do a little bit of homework. I know the knee jerk reaction is to go 'Oh my gosh my value couldn’t be this high,' but if you actually go talk to realtors because the value has gone up since Jan 1. because that is what our market is just doing right now," said Cheryl Jordan, director of community relations at the Dallas Center Appraisal District.

In Dallas County for example, because of the pandemic, people either have to file electronically through the uFile system that's found through an individual's online account, mail it in or drop it off.

What do I put in the protest?

This is where you back up your argument on why you believe the value should be lowered. They don't see the inside of a home, which could have a very different story from the outside.

Taking pictures of floors, walls, foundation, windows, kitchen, bathrooms etc., that need repairs or renovations can help build ones as to why the value given doesn't match.

Some suggest getting estimates for how much it would cost to fix these issues and include that in the protest.

Upload all this documentation to your filling.

"I always advise people to stay on topic and the topic is unfortunately not taxes, the topic is value, that’s how you help yourself is to really discuss the appropriate value.” Suggested Will Wiggins, a consultant with North Texas Property Tax Service.

His phone has been ringing off the hook as he helps property owners navigate through this process.

“Whenever it comes to a protest, you’re actually protesting your market value and not your taxes, so when it comes to considering what your value should be, you’re looking at other appraisals and you want to look at other sales in the market and you want to make sure that you’re making and calculating the appropriate adjustments," he said.

Appraisal District Websites

What's the next step?

The appraiser will review the information submitted and will respond to the property owner.

For example, in Dallas County, there's an informal hearing that happens over the phone. If someone doesn't like the results, a traditional hearing can take place.

"Our goal is to try and get to them as soon as possible and settle off as much as we can informally, again online," said Jordan. "We'll send an email offer and say this is what we'll do, or we'll call you, we'll be calling people and contacting them and this worked very very well last year," said Jordan.

"If for whatever reason we're not able to resolve that informally, then you can go on to your formal hearing with the appraisal review board that has been scheduled," explained Jordan.

"If you're one of the few that insists on having a face-to-face hearing with the formal appraisal review board, we're going to allow that, just let us know when you protest on the form to tell us that information and we'll schedule you for a protest for you that way," said Jordan. She explained people will have to wait in their cars in the apartment and when it's time for the hearing, the person can go inside, but they'll have to have their temperature checked and wear a mask.

"We want to accommodate and get the right values, but we want to do so safely," said Jordan.

What if I didn't receive an appraisal letter?

It may be because the value didn't change, but it's still important to check online because you are able to still protest.

Homestead Exemption

This is a top way a homeowner can receive a tax exemption on their home. It puts a cap on how much a property's value can increase. It can't go above 10%. Now, if someone has multiple properties, it can only be used for the the principal residence, according to the state.

Damage from the winter storm in February? There's an exemption for that too

People can apply for a Temporary Exemption for Disaster Damage

The damage has to be at least 15 percent of the improvement value, to the structure, not the land.

"If you have a $200,000 home for instance and $100,000 is land and $100,000 is improvement, then you would have need to incurred $15,000 dollars worth of damage to qualify," explained Wiggins.

People have to apply by May 28th and that is through their county's appraisal district.

One Homeowner's Success Story

Diane Flores has lived in her Mesquite home for 26 years. At one point, her taxes were around $2,000 but they're now around $7,000.

"When I see the property taxes, I just know I'm not going to get scared, I try not to panic because I know I’m going to protest, I know I’m going to fight this," said Flores.

She protests every year and always encourages her neighbors to do the same.

"If you protest trust me, you will get some kind of reduction, I’ve always been successful," said Flores based on her experience. "There’s not one year that I can think of that they blew me off and said,’ No.”

While the area around her may be growing, her house hasn't and from the outside, her bricked two-story home gives one appearance, but on the inside repairs are needed.

"Our properties are being taxed assuming that we’ve updated all of our homes, assuming that I have a new ceiling that I have granite countertops, that I’ve updated my bathrooms and I don’t have brass doorknobs throughout the house. All of that needs to be taken into consideration," said Flores.

She documents every room in detail when she protests, but she said she doesn't release all of it at the same time.

"Right now my house needs foundation work so the limit when they’re giving you credit in your taxes is about $10,000, so if you have $30,000 worth of repairs, they’re only going to give you $10,000. They’re only going to take into account $10,000, so there’s no point in telling them everything that is necessary to repair," said Flores from her experience.

She said her roof still has popcorn ceilings, there are floors that need to be replaced, windows that are separating from the edge and creating moisture, and a long list of other renovations, that can't be taken care of all at once.

Flores recommends that when people protest to keep the emotions checked and to focus on the issues

“When you do have your hearing, you only have about 3 minutes to speak, you can’t keep going and going on," said Flores. “So what I do is I prepare a letter, and I summarize everything that way it gives me time to address what I'm going to address and I always have enough time for that.”

"You have to prove it you have to show pictures you have to let them know," said Flores.

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