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2011-04-28

Deadline for appealing property tax appraisals nears

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff writer

The deadline for appealing local property tax appraisals is rapidly nearing. Those who intend to appeal must file notices of appeal by Tuesday, May 31.

A recent study has found that about 70 percent of property tax appeals are successful. Unfortunately, only about 7 percent of homeowners appeal each year.

According to Pat O'Connor, MAI, with O'Connor and Associates, there are five primary reasons that homeowners do not appeal:

• The process seems overwhelming and they do not know how to proceed.

• They do not think they will be successful.

• They think their home is assessed below market value and there is no basis for appealing.

• They do not understand they can appeal an unequal appraisal.

• They are busy and assume "you can't fight city hall."

O'Connor advises homeowners to appeal their appraisals annually. The first step is to send a written notice to the appraisal review board (ARB) for the county in which your home is located. Even if you have not received a notice of assessed value from the appraisal district, file your notice of appeal by May 31 because notices can be lost in the mail and a notice is not required unless your assessed value increases by more than $1,000.

The letter to the ARB needs to identify the property being appealed and the basis for the appeal.

Homeowner's are advised always to appeal on both market value and unequal appraisal. At the same time, send a "House Bill 201" request to the chief appraiser at the appraisal district. This request will provide you a volume of information at a modest price.

House Bill 201 describes provision 41.461 or the Texas Property Tax Code which states: "at least 14 days before hearing on a protest, the chief appraiser shall... inform the property owner that the owner or the agent of the owner may inspect and may obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas, and all other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at the hearing to establish any matter at issue."

The tax code also gives the chief appraiser the right to charge up to $15 for each residence, and up to $25 for each commercial property owned for this information.

Using HB 201 to obtain the information the appraisal district will use in the hearing is an effective way to obtain information regarding both market value and unequal appraisal for your property tax appeal for a nominal cost. Making the request limits what information the district can present at the hearing.

If you do not request the information prior to the hearing, they can use any information available to them at the hearing. If the district does not provide you with the information on market value or unequal appraisal in the HB 201 request, you win by default at the ARB hearing. In many cases, the appraisal district HB 201 information clearly supports a lower value.

When you receive the HB 201 information from the appraisal district, said O'Connor, check to see that the year built is correct and that the qualities and amenities are correct.

If the appraisal district has overstated the size of your house by more than five to 10 percent, even if you did not file a property tax appeal in prior years, you should consider filing a 2525c appeal. This will allow you to reduce the assessed value of your property for the current year and for prior years.

The address of the Bandera County Appraisal District is 1206 Main Street, PO Box 1119, Bandera 78003.

Acting chief appraiser is Wendy M. Grams.