Property Tax Basics
Property taxes are local taxes. Your local officials value your property, set your tax rates and collect your taxes. However, state law governs how the process works. You can play an effective role in the process if you know your rights, understand the remedies available to you and fulfill your responsibilities.
Your most important right as a taxpayer is your right to protest to the appraisal review board (ARB). You may protest if you disagree with any of the appraisal district’s actions concerning your property. You may discuss your objections about your property value, exemptions and special appraisal in a hearing with the ARB, an impartial panel of your fellow citizens. Most appraisal districts will informally review your protest with you to try to resolve your concerns. Check with your district for details.
Be sure to file your notice of protest by May 15 or no later than 30 days after the appraisal district mailed a notice of appraised value to you, whichever date is later. Note that it is 30 days after mailing the notice, not its receipt. If you are an off-shore worker or on full-time military duty, you may be entitled to file a late protest.
There are three levels to the property tax appeal process: the informal hearing, typically with an appraiser in a cubicle, the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), then appealing to the state district court.
An ARB is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district. The appraisal district’s board of directors appoints ARB members. The ARB also decides issues that a taxing unit may challenge about the appraisal district’s actions. In taxpayer protests, it listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. The ARB determines if the appraisal district has acted properly, nevertheless, they often side with the appraisal district.
Once the ARB rules on your protest, it will send you a written order by certified mail. If you are dissatisfied with the ARB’s findings, you have the right to appeal its decision to the state district court in the county in which your property is located. You should consult with an attorney to determine if you have a case. Within 45 days of receiving the written order (when you sign for the certified mail, in other words), you must file a petition for review with the district court.
As an alternative to filing an appeal in state district court, a property owner is entitled to appeal through binding arbitration an appraisal review board order determining a protest concerning the appraised or market value of real property if:
- the appraised or market value, as applicable, of the property as determined by the order is $1 million or less; and
- the appeal does not involve any matter in dispute other than the determination of the appraised or market value of the property.
To apply for binding arbitration, you must file a request within 45 days, just as with filing a lawsuit.
Due to the arbitrary and inconsistent nature of the property tax appeal process, it’s best to protest annually. A study performed by O’Connor & Associates of 43,000 clients in Harris County that had protested 5 or more consecutive years with us, generated on average a 13% reduction in property taxes each year. The average savings was $653 per year.
If you would like to find out if your property is over-assessed, visit the Free Fairness Checker . You only need to enter your property address and you will find out if you are being taxed fairly or not. If you aren’t happy with the results, go ahead and file an appeal yourself or sign-up online so we can protest your property taxes for you.
Questions? Call us at 800.270.2720.