How To Protest Your Rising Property Taxes
It's that time of year -- property tax appraisals are arriving in mailboxes and many homeowners are facing big increases. Last years tax rate reduction is being swallowed up by increased home valuations. It seems you just can't win. There are however things you can do to keep that appraisal value down. You do not need a tax consultant or attorney to prepare your protest or represent you at meetings or hearings. There is no cost to protest your property's value.
Step 1: Written Protest
File a written protest with the taxing entities to which your home belongs. If your home falls within the Harris County boundaries, you have the option to file your property value protest online. You can access the iFile system by visiting the Harris County Appraisal District online at http://www.hcad.org.
Value notices for 2007 have two unique numbers printed on the upper right hand corner of each notice. One of the number is the property account number, the other is an iFile code number unique to your particular property and good for this year only. After completing the iForm and clicking on the "Submit My Protest" button, you should receive an email acknowledgement indicating that your protest has been received and is awaiting scheduling. When your scheduling notice is sent, you will again be able to use the IFile system to review specific evidence HCAD has regarding your property's value.
For those who prefer the pen and paper route, HCAD has made protest forms available:
- Online at http://www.hcad.org
- By Telephone at 713.957.7800
- At HCAD offices located at 13013 Northwest Freeway
- At any Harris County Tax Office
Notices of protest must include:
- The property owner's name
- The address and/or legal description of the property that is the subject of the protest
- An indication of dissatisfaction with the appraisal made by HCAD
If you use the HCAD form:
- The box labeled "value is over market value" must be checked if you believe that HCAD appraised your property's value higher than its market value.
- The box labeled "unequal value" must be checked if you believe that your property's value is unequal to comparable properties in your neighborhood.
It is not necessary to give your estimate of appraised value when filing your protest.
May 31, 2007 is the deadline for filing a protest of proposed 2007 property values. Forms must be delivered in person at the HCAD office, 13013 Northwest Freeway, by 5:30 p.m. or postmarked by midnight May 31, 2007. Property owners who received appraisal notices after May 1 have 30 days from the date of notice to file a protest.
Step 2: Do Your Homework
Once you have filed your protest, you may request a copy of the evidence used to determine your protested property's appraisal value. The request must be made in writing at least 15 days prior to your protest hearing. Requests for protest evidence may be made in person at the address listed above or mailed to:
Harris County Appraisal District
Customer Service Department
P.O. Box 922004
Houston, Texas 77292
- Verify that measurements for your home and lot are correct.
- Gather photographs and statements from contractors if your property has hidden defects, such as a cracked foundation, or needs major repairs.
- You may want to obtain an appraisal of your property's value from an independent appraiser.
You may learn the value of your property compared with other properties in your area by visiting HCAD's Information and Assistance Center at 13013 Northwest Freeway or online at the district's Web site www.hcad.org. Search by "Range of Addresses."
Step 3: Important Documents to Bring to your Hearing
Bring four (4) copies of the following items to your appointment for a hearing:
- Your closing statement (if the property was purchased in the last year) or an appraisal report for the property
- The appraisal report from HCAD
- Evidence gathered about your property and other properties in your area, if applicable.
- Any other material you intend to use in your presentation.
Step 4: Exemptions
Ensure that you have taken all exemptions to which you qualify or are legally entitled:
- Homestead exemption
- Homeowners with disabilities exemption
- Over-65 exemption
- Disabled veteran
- Survivor exemption
Exemptions remove part of the value of your property from taxation and lower your taxes.
What To Expect At Your Hearing
Once you file your written protest or your Property Tax Notice of Protest form, your hearing will normally be scheduled a few weeks thereafter. At least 15 days before your scheduled hearing, you will receive a notice of appointment. Be sure to attend your scheduled hearing; HCAD is reluctant to reschedule your hearing without sufficient cause. It is important to bring your notice of appointment to your first hearing.
Informal Meeting With An Appraiser
Your first meeting will be with a staff appraiser who will review your evidence and the district's evidence in detail. The appraiser has the authority to settle the protest if the appraiser believes the evidence is sufficient to do so. If a settlement is not agreed upon, a hearing before an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) will be scheduled. Both meetings will usually occur on the same day, so plan to spend two to three hours during the peak summer months.
Hearing With Appraisal Review Board Panel
The law requires that you and the HCAD appraiser provide each other with copies of each other's written evidence to be introduced before the ARB panel. Be sure to have three additional copies of your materials for each of the three ARB panel members. Panel hearings are informal. You should indicate to the panel at the start of the hearing if an unequal appraisal is at issue. The ARB's panel will ask the HCAD appraiser to first present the district's evidence supporting its appraised value. Once the HCAD appraiser has finished, you will be allowed to ask questions and to present your evidence. The ARB will also have the opportunity to ask questions needed to clarify any matters when you complete your presentation. Most hearings are allotted 15 minutes. It is very important to prepare a simple, well-organized presentation. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ARB panel will determine if your property was over-appraised. The final decision of the ARB is issued in writing and will be mailed to you via certified mail. If you do not agree with the decision of the ARB, you have the right to appeal the decision to State District Court within forty-five (45) days of receiving the written order.