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The Common Law: Can I Win My Property Tax Protest?

How to appeal to the Appraisal Review Board

By Luke Ellis, Fri., July 4, 2014

My property taxes skyrocketed this year so I filed a protest. What are some of the arguments that give me the best chance to reduce the assessed value?

Unhappy with your property taxes? Trust me, you aren't alone. The first step to protesting your property value for property taxes is to file a written protest before the deadline (generally May 31, or 30 days after the appraisal district mailed a notice of appraised value). Check out last month's column for more details on filing a written protest.

Once the written protest is filed, the property owner typically has a chance to informally resolve the dispute with a representative of the Travis County Appraisal District. If that is unsuccessful, you will have the opportunity to go before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), which is a group of citizens appointed by the appraisal district's board of directors who are authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district. The board listens to evidence from both the property owner or taxpayer and the county's chief appraiser and ultimately determines whether the appraisal district has acted properly.

Be organized, stick to relevant facts, and keep your presentation simple and straightforward during the hearing. The board is charged to base its decisions on evidence. According to the Texas comptroller's office, the type of evidence the Appraisal Review Board may consider persuasive includes the following:

• Defects not mentioned in the district's survey (cracked foundation, inadequate plumbing, etc.). Take photos and/or get supporting statements from builders, contractors, or appraisers to support your position.

• Incorrect measurements (lot size, square footage, etc.). Locate deed records, surveys, or blueprints, and take photos to prove the inaccuracy.

• Comparison properties. Is there a big difference between the appraised value of your home and others like it in your area? If so, legitimate comparison sales may demonstrate that your property was not treated equally.

• Hire professionals. A property owner may want to consider hiring a property tax protest company, independent appraiser, or attorney if the amount in dispute is significant.

The board should provide at least 15 days' notice of the hearing date (most hearings are conducted between mid-May and late July). The taxpayer should also receive a copy of board procedures and "Texas Property Taxes: Taxpayers' Rights, Remedies and Responsibilities," which will explain the hearing process in more detail.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Dawson, Sodd, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.dawsonsodd.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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