Fort Worth

Tarrant property owners: Five things to know about filing a protest

Property Taxes 101: How can you protest the value of your home?

Think you're paying too much in property taxes? Engagement/opinion editor Shelley Kofler sits down with Jeff Law, chief appraiser for the Tarrant Appraisal District, to explain how to protest the value the county has assigned to your home.
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Think you're paying too much in property taxes? Engagement/opinion editor Shelley Kofler sits down with Jeff Law, chief appraiser for the Tarrant Appraisal District, to explain how to protest the value the county has assigned to your home.

With property values soaring across Tarrant County — tax bills will follow — many people are gathering ammo to protest their increases.

The Tarrant Appraisal District mailed out about 500,000 property notices this month to residents whose home values increased by $1,000 or more.

Anyone receiving a notice can protest their appraised value.

Last year, in part because of a glitch in TAD’s software, property values went up 5 percent, which resulted in about 65,000 protests. Because TAD values are up 14 percent this year, expect more protests.

Here are five things to know about filing a protest:

1. Purpose of the appraisal notice

The Notice of Appraised Value includes your home’s appraised value and the estimated taxes you will pay in 2016 based on this year’s value and tax rates set by your taxing entities.

You received a Notice of Appraised Value because your property values went up by $1,000 or more. The notice triggers a set of requirements that you must follow in order to protest the appraised value.

If the appraised value increased, the notice must show an estimate of how much tax you would have to pay based on the same tax rate your city, council school district and any special purpose district set the previous year.

On the back side of the notice is the protest form. Protest forms can also be found at the website for the Tarrant Appraisal District.

2. Timeline for filing a protest

You are encouraged to file your protest with the Appraisal Review Board within 30 days of the Notice of Appraised Value being mailed.

While residential property appraisals were mailed this year on April 1, state law allows you to file a protest by May 31.

The review board will notify you at least 15 days in advance of the date, time and place of your hearing. In certain circumstances, you may be entitled to a postponement of the hearing to a later date. You may request an evening or weekend hearing.

The board begins hearings around May 15 and generally completes them by July 20.

At least 14 days before your protest hearing, TAD will mail you a copy of review board procedures and general rules, and a notice that you may inspect and copy data, schedules, formulas and any other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing.

3. Preparing for a protest

It is important to obtain the evidence that TAD is expected to present at the hearing. You can look at the evidence at the appraisal district or ask for copies. The appraisal district is required to provide copies of documents you request, at a cost not to exceed $25 for all copies it makes for each property you protest or $15 for each residence.

Ask the appraisal district any questions about items you do not understand, but do not provide any other information at this time.

When you fill out the protest section of the form, you should pay particular attention to the reason for your protest. What you check as the reason for the protest influences the type of evidence you may present at your hearing.

In the case of a typical residential property, it is best to check both “over market value” and “unequal appraisal” in order to allow you to present the widest types of evidence and preserve your full appeal rights.

Also, it is important to become familiar with the procedures of the Appraisal Review Board, which is an impartial group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between property owners and the appraisal district. The board will hear evidence from both sides — the property owner and the appraisal district — and then make a determination similar to a court of law.

4. What happens at the hearing

After your hearing date is set, you will present your case in front of TAD appraisers and the ARB.

At or before the hearing, you and the appraisal district staff are required to exchange evidence. You can bring your evidence, including photographs, sales information and other documents to the hearing. You should bring an appropriate number of copies to your hearing so that each ARB member and the appraisal district representative receive one.

You get to go first in your presentation at the hearing. During your presentation, make sure you are well organized and speak in simple terms. Do not get emotional; that will not help your case.

After you speak, TAD’s representative will present his or her information.

In a dispute over the value of a home, a hearing is expected to take no more than 20 minutes.

After the hearing is closed, the board members will discuss in open the issues involving your appeal. The board will then make a decision and announce it. All hearings are open to the public.

After the hearing, the board will send you a determination of value by certified mail, win or lose.

If you do not get a favorable decision, you have two avenues of appeal. One option is to file a lawsuit. The other option is to seek an arbitration hearing that is coordinated by the Texas comptroller’s office. In that hearing, the state comptroller selects a state arbitrator from a list who will hear the case. You are required to pay an arbitration fee, but you can get a refund of your fee if you are successful in the arbitration hearing.

5. To use or not to use a tax agent

If your property values increased, you likely noticed an increase in the volume of mail you received from people wanting to represent you.

While most residential property owners are capable of representing themselves, if you do choose to use a tax agent, ask for references and check them. Your neighbors and others may be good resources for putting you in touch with capable tax agents and other specialists.

Look for an agent with experience and someone who is licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation as a property tax consultant.

A property tax agent may be helpful to you because that person may have access to local sales information and other information that is not available to the general public.

If you choose to use a tax agent, ask the agent to consider a flat rate or to base a fee on a contingency in which the agent is paid only if the hearing is decided in your favor.

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705, @yberard