The Common Law

Challenge your ever-increasing property taxes

My property taxes have gone up every year for the last five years. But this year, the taxes have increased enormously even though my property is unchanged from last year. I'm sick and tired of paying what seem like arbitrary increases in my property taxes. How can I challenge the increase? – P.T.E.

The first step to protesting your property value for property taxes is to file a written protest before the deadline (generally May 15, or 30 days after the appraisal district mailed a notice of appraised value). A written notice of protest will be considered valid if it identifies the owner, the property being protested, and clearly indicates that you disagree with the appraisal district's decision. Check your county's Central Appraisal District (CAD) website for more information and to see if you can file a protest online.

Once the written protest is filed, you will typically have an opportunity to informally resolve the dispute with a representative of the CAD. If that is unsuccessful, you can appear before the Appraisal Review Board, 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/taxpayer and the county's chief appraiser, and ultimately determines whether the appraisal district has acted properly.

The board bases its decision on evidence, so stick to relevant facts, bring documents to support your claims, and keep your presentation straightforward. According to the Texas comptroller's office, the types of evidence the Appraisal Review Board may consider persuasive include the following:

• Defects not mentioned in the district's analysis (cracked foundation, bad roof, etc.)

• Incorrect measurements (lot size, structure square footage, etc.)

• Comparison properties (the appraised value of a similar home in your area)

The board should provide at least 15 days' notice of the hearing date, and you should 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.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.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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