Texas Tax Code section 41.66 (titled hearing procedures) has long provided clear rules for the hearings. It includes the right to obtain testimony from witnesses and to cross examine witnesses. However, within the last year, Harris County Appraisal Review Board members have ignored the statute.

This change in the law requires the Texas Comptroller to develop model hearing procedures – http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/arb/Info_Guide_to_Model_Hearing_Procedures_for_ARBs.pdf

The Texas Comptroller makes clear that each party may present evidence, witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. However, it also makes clear that the appraisal review board can implement time limits.

Since the appraisal review board is by statute impartial, you would think they would be interested in cross-examination related to the credibility or accuracy of the other parties evidence. However, in practice, they are interested in completing hearings as quickly as possible.

During numerous hearings at the Harris County Appraisal Review Board during 2013, they either denied the right to cross examine the appraisal district about their evidence or expressed their frustration at cross examining the Harris County Appraisal District appraisal regarding the quality of their evidence.

The culture at the Harris County Appraisal Review Board is generally to complete the maximum number of hearings daily. They are generally much more interested in the number of hearings than the efficacy of the hearing result. Further, many of them have decided how they are going to vote prior to the evidence being presented.

The clarity of the Texas Comptroller’s rules combined with the requirement for annual training and the administrative law judge (or an appraisal review board commissioner panel) should produce hearing more consistent with the Texas Tax Code.