How to Protest or Appeal Real Estate Property Taxes

Protect your little house
Protect your little house (Image: images property of the author)

Real property taxes in some areas of the country have managed to exceed inflation and home values, and many of the public offices, including the Appraisal District are looking for ways to keep their revenue up. For this reason, most taxing entities will not reduce real estate taxes once the deadline passes for contesting the tax.

Things You'll Need

  • Real estate, either your home or other real property
  • A computer
  • Some math ability
  • Reading skills

DECIDE if you want to protest your taxes. If you have received your tax appraisal notice, and your tax liability has increased over last year, you might want to protest your real estate taxes, because most real estate values have decreased, not increased. There will probably be information on the tax notice, or attached to it, that gives information for protesting the tax, and maybe even a form to work with.

SEND in the form. If you complete this form and send it in timely to your Tax Appraisal District, this usually gives you a meeting with the property appraiser who works that part of your city or county. At this meeting, your appraiser will explain why your value has increased. Write this down while he speaks. The appraiser may or may not decrease your taxes, since his decisions are partially controlled by the city, county or state and they often work on percentages.

GET satisfaction. If the appraiser does not reduce your taxes to what you feel is fair, you will need to appeal the decision to the next level. In Texas, that is a committee or board called the Appeal Board. This will require that you complete the form timely and give reasons for your appeal. There are usually just three or four reasons that are acceptable to the Appeal Board, so research this online and see what your city, county, or state allows. Usually there is one reason that relates to the comparison with other properties in the area, and another that is about city, county and state appreciation or depreciation rate. You probably want both of those on the form, because this is usually where you can make some points with the Appeal Board.

BE SURE you get the form in on time for the appeal. Once you have completed the form for appeal, you will be notified of a hearing date. You will need to obtain a list of the comparable properties (comps) that the appraiser used so you can research these online or at the local tax office. When you have that list in hand, your real work begins.

Go through each property they use as a comparable, and write out all the important information, such as the size of the lot, size of the house, age, outbuildings, and look at the appraisal value per square foot. Once you have information for all the properties, see how your property fits in. If you can use THEIR comps and make points with them, that is your best weapon. If you cannot use their comparables, start researching your subdivision or the area near you for lower appraisals per square foot. All this information is available to you either online or at the Tax Office.

BEGIN to work on your presentation for the Appraisal Board once you can draw some parallels. Remember what you wrote down as the reason the appraiser said your property was valued as it was, and work this in to your presentation. You will need to be prepared, because they listen to these all day on the days they meet, and THEY are prepared.

Give them examples of property that is appraised less than yours, and property that is appraised at less per square feet than yours. Show that these properties are not calculated with the same formula as yours. Make copies from the public tax records for each property you intend to use in your presentation.

Do some research on the appreciation or depreciation of real estate values in your area, in your state, in the country, for the year you are protesting. If your property has been appraised at a higher percentage than the state average, the county average, or the national average, give the figures. Make copies of where this information was obtained.

Prepare your talk with the Appeal Board or Appraisal Review Board, or whatever the appeal board is called where you live. Give information about your house at the outset. Give the percentage of increase of taxes over last year, over the last five years, over the last ten years. Then contrast and compare your property with others on your list. Make notes for your presentation, and copies of all of the comparables you use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ordinary citizens can appeal their property taxes. It does not take a genius, an attorney, or someone to represent you as an expert. Many do not appeal because they believe it will require an expert or an attorney. That is not true.
  • Another article will discuss your appearance before the Appraisal Review Board or Appeal Board.
  • Many believe that a high property tax appraisal will make the property value higher for resale. That is rarely the case, since a tax appraisal and an appraisal for sale are different.
  • Copyright 2009 Linda Richard
  • Make sure you read the instructions carefully, and do not miss any deadlines. If you miss the date for the original protest or for the appeal, you lose.
  • This article is prepared from knowledge gained from using this approach in Texas. Your state may have other procedures, so be sure to check carefully.
  • This is not legal advice, but the experience of an ordinary citizen who has successfully appealed a property tax appraisal.

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