The Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019, also known as the SB2 (Senate Bill 2), was recently approved. The main goal of the controversial bill is to help ease the tax burden on Texas property owners.

SB2 introduces numerous amendments to the Tax Code. These amendments include ones that put caps on some property tax increases, introduce new ways to assist taxpayers, and improve the collection of property taxes in Texas and the process of property appraisal. SB2 also amends some details about the Appraisal Review Board, particularly its special panels.

What is an Appraisal Review Board?

The local administrative district judge appoints the Appraisal Review Board consisting of private residents. ARB members must have lived in the appraisal district for at least two years and must meet specific eligibility requirements before they can serve in the Appraisal Review Board. All applicants go through background checks.

The ARB is an independent entity and functions separately from the appraisal district. Its main role is to resolve disputes about property appraisals, property values, tax exemptions, appraisal rolls, and other taxing issues between property owners and the appraisal district.

The ARB does not have a role in property appraisal or in the everyday operations of the appraisal district. It can only act on protests filed with it.

Assisting in the resolution of property owner protests is what the Appraisal Review Board does most often. When a property owner files a protest, a hearing with the Appraisal Review Board is set.

During the hearing, the property owner and the appraisal district representative both get a chance to present evidence before the three-person ARB panel. After all the evidence has been taken into consideration, the ARB will determine if the protest is valid. The decision of the Appraisal Review Board is only valid for that tax year.

Members of the Appraisal Review Board are required to be unbiased and to comply with the Texas Property Tax Code. They are also banned from talking about property tax protests outside the protest hearing. The law is strict about communication between members of the ARB and employees of the appraisal district or the Chief Appraiser.

ARB members serve staggered two-year terms with a limit of three consecutive terms. The Board meets monthly to carry out supplemental duties. Most of the meetings of the Appraisal Review Board are open to the public.

What are ARB special panels?

Amendments to the Tax Code define what an Appraisal Review Board special panel is and what it does. According to those amendments, an Appraisal Review Board shall create special panels to handle protest hearings on properties that

1. Have an appraised value equal to or greater than the minimum eligibility amount for the current tax year

[The Comptroller determines the amount by February 1 and publishes it in the Texas Register. For each succeeding tax year, this amount is equal to the minimum eligibility amount of the previous tax year as adjusted for inflation. For the 2020 tax year, the minimum eligibility amount is $50 million.]

2. Fall under one of the following categories:

commercial real and personal property
real and personal property of utilities
multifamily residential real property
industrial and manufacturing real and personal property

A special panel is made up of three Appraisal Review Board members who are appointed by the ARB chairman to serve on the special panel.

Aside from conducting appraisal protest hearings on the properties described above, an Appraisal Review Board special panel may also conduct protest hearings on properties that do not fall under the aforementioned description but were assigned by the ARB chairman to the panel.

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