Our Tax Bills Gave Us Heartburn!

heartburnThis year, the taxing authorities really seem to have it out for property owners!

If your appraised value increased unfairly, don’t miss the deadline to protest your tax appraisal. You have to file your protest by May 31, 2016 (or 30 days after you received the notice of the appraised value, whichever is later). You should have received your appraisal from your taxing jurisdiction (generally the appraisal district for the county in which your property is located–Travis County Appraisal District, Williamson County Appraisal District, etc.). If you don’t remember getting it, check your appraisal district’s website to see what your 2016 tax valuation is.

Why protest? Because your taxes are based on the appraised value. In setting a new value, an appraisal district often looks at the prior year’s value. And when you sell a property that is overvalued, the purchaser is “stuck” with the inflated value until the next year, which — if your property is significantly overvalued — can make it harder to sell. So, if you believe your property is being valued at more than it is worth, then it is in your best interest to protest.

To protest, you have to have owned your home on January 1, 2016. If you did not, then you have no standing to protest.

If you bought your property in 2015 and paid less than your appraised value, your protest is generally an easy one. You file your protest and use the HUD form that includes your purchase price (if you can’t find it, let us know) as backup. The district will nearly always lower the appraised value to the purchase price. (Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a tax appraisal that is less than you paid, you may want to stay quiet this year.)

If you bought your property before 2015 and think your appraisal is too high, you have a few options:

1. File a protest yourself.  Check your appraisal district’s website for online/in person instructions.   Be sure to request the information that the Appraiser has used to value your property. Depending on the volume of protests, the taxing authority may schedule an informal hearing, where you can talk to someone and they may offer you a settlement. If you don’t accept a settlement at the informal hearing, you can schedule a formal hearing.  If the district is busy, they may skip the informal part and go right to the formal.  If you protest yourself, you must explain why your property isn’t worth what they say it is (condition, lot issues etc.) or isn’t worth what the properties the appraisal district is using as comparables.

2. Use a tax protest service or hire a flat-fee protest service. The services do all of the leg work and go to the hearings on your behalf. Some services charge a percentage of the tax savings (not the change in appraised value); if you don’t save on your taxes, you will not be charged! The flat-fee services are just that–you pay the fee regardless of the outcome (it can be lower than the percentage approach or higher, but is always certain). Mishell always uses a service because, honestly, she finds protesting to be a pain and very time consuming.  Many good services are out there.  Mishell uses Five Stone Tax Advisers .  But other folks have used Texas Pro Tax and Mueller 2020 .

Forms and information for most of Moxie’s client appraisal districts are here:

Travis County Appraisal District
Williamson County Appraisal District
Hays County Appraisal District
Bastrop County Appraisal District
Caldwell County Appraisal District 

Also, the deadline to file your homestead exemption if you live in your property and have not yet filed is April 30, 2016.

As always, if you have questions or need help, the Moxie Ladies are here for you!