Those giant gasping sounds you hear are hundreds of thousands of shocked homeowners across North Texas opening their 2015 property appraisal notices arriving in the mail. From what I can tell, taxes are going up in most places. It’s catch-up time after the recession beatdown. The market is better. That’s the only excuse they need to take more.
Remember this is the Great Deception of Texas. City, county and school politicians say, “We didn’t raise your tax rate.” That’s true. But taxes go up anyway because a county appraisal district increases the taxable value of homes.
It’s a tax increase, but oh no, it’s not.
Reminds me of Robin Hood’s line from the 2010 movie: “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” Your taxes are rising. Are you a lamb about it? Or do you want to do it my Watchdog Nation way and stand up for yourself using your rights granted under Texas law? Let me hear you roar! Louder! All right, then. Here we go. May is Property Tax Month in Watchdog Nation. My goal is to save you enough money to justify another year as an annual subscriber to The Dallas Morning News.
Here’s The Watchdog’s Guide to Your 2015 Tax Protest.
Become a lion
I’m stumped that only about 5 out of every 100 eligible homeowners use the new tool of protesting property taxes online at an appraisal district’s website. It’s easy, saves time and feels like gambling, for those who like that. You plug in your estimate and attach evidence showing your home’s value in the appraisal district’s software. If the software and a human agree, voila. You’re a tax cutter, like those politicians pretend to be.
If you’re rejected, you can go to a hearing and continue your protest. Or drop it and pay what they want.
The deadline to file your protest is June 1, but don’t wait until the final date. Computer problems gum up the works. So pretend the deadline is May 15. And remember, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
The 10 percent cap
If the taxable value — also called appraised value — of your house didn’t go up more than $1,000, you weren’t required to get an annual appraisal notice in the mail. Check the appraisal district’s website and see your numbers. Everyone can — and should — file a protest.
The two most important numbers are the 2015 appraised value and the 2015 market value. The appraised value is what is multiplied by the various taxing governments to get your actual tax bill. The market value is what the appraisal district believes your house is worth on today’s market in a straight sale. There’s a 10 percent cap on an annual increase of your house’s taxable appraised value — for those homeowners with a homestead exemption. That means the government cannot raise the taxable value of your house more than 10 percent of the previous year’s tax bill. God bless this cap.
Sometimes, the market value is higher than the taxable value. Pay attention to the market value, because if you believe it’s too high and don’t protest it, your taxes will jump the following year. Market value is not bound by a 10 percent cap. So it’s important to try to knock down the market value, too.
How to win
You could spend time learning the ins and outs by reading posts found through search engines. (No need to hire an outside company when you can do this yourself.) Here are some basic strategies.
First, know that appraisers are handicapped in two ways. The first is they don’t really know what houses sell for because in Texas that’s considered private. Bizarre, I know. So appraisers pick up what they can, but they have an incomplete picture. If you can prove that houses similar to yours in your neighborhood are valued less, you can win. Sometimes all you have to do is find a house model exactly like yours with a lower value and use that to show you’re overpaying. Ask your Realtor for the comps or comparables in your neighborhood.
The other way appraisers are handicapped is they don’t know what’s inside your home. So if you have major problems that lower your value, you must give evidence including photos. Let’s say you need a new roof. Present a roofer’s estimate for the cost of replacement along with photos of leaks or rot. Ask that your appraised and market values get lowered by that amount. Build your case to devalue your home.
You can’t win if you don’t try. Many don’t try. And now that it’s easier than ever to do it from your home via online, there’s no excuse.
Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.
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APPRAISAL DISTRICT WEBSITES
Most appraisal district websites provide information or links to protest appraisals on their home pages.
Dallas County: DallasCAD.org
Collin County: CollinCAD.org
Denton County: DentonCAD.com
Tarrant County: TAD.org
Rockwall County: RockwallCAD.com
Texans have a legal right to equal and uniform taxes. But the system is set up so the property owner must appeal to protest an assessed value. Online tax protests are new in Texas. The deadline to appeal is June 1, but don’t wait until then.
Appraisal notices are mailed in April and May. Not everyone receives one, so look yours up online or call the appraisal district.
Learn more at http://www.window.state. tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/