With apologies to Ripley, the Texas property tax system is a big deal, believe it or not.

The state property tax system is unfair, confusing, and rotten to the core.

The Watchdog has collected stories from the 2021 tax season that prove my point. Unfortunately, such stories are not uncommon. It’s like a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! exhibit on injured taxpayers.

Denton County

Let’s start with news from the Denton Central Assessment District, where the Civil War broke out.

Beverly Henley, outgoing chair of the Denton County Assessment Review Board, which handles home value protests, filed a state complaint against Denton County Chief Assessor Hope McClure.

In his letter to state regulators, Henley, who is stepping down Jan. 1, dumped the dirt. She accused McClure of “presumption of fraud” harming both governments and taxpayers.

His main accusation is that McClure could not meet deadlines to complete reviews of the property, so McClure sent erroneous value notices to hundreds – and some say thousands – of owners. The reviews indicated an automatic 10% discount. Some of those owners then happily withdrew their protests.

But later, these owners received a corrected second notice, often much less than the 10% reduction of the first notice. With their values, and therefore taxes, suddenly higher, the owners were furious and confused.

McClure declined to comment on this, telling me, “The Denton Central Assessment District is completely separate from the Denton County ARB. I cannot respond to opinions or decisions made by the Denton Appraisal Review Board or its members. »

Collins County

If you miss your protest hearing at the Collin Assessment Review Board, you can file a “just cause request” for a second chance.

The application form for this is one of the most intrusive I have ever seen. It is designed to catch liars.

“If you weren’t in town…when did you leave?” To return to? Where have you been? Why were you there? Did you have access to a phone? … Do you have copies of plane tickets?

“If you or a member of your family were sick… who was it? When did the disease occur?

“If a member of your immediate family died, who died? What relationship with you? When did he/she die? When and where did the funeral take place? Do you have an obituary?

If you think I’m making it up, I’m not. It’s word for word.

Dallas County

A Dallas County taxpayer sent me a screenshot of his phone that showed he was on hold with the Dallas Central Assessing District for 3 hours and 18 minutes awaiting his protest hearing by phone.

He showed up on time. The hearing people did not.

Dallas CAD spokeswoman Cheryl Jordan said, “There’s usually no wait time for phone hearings because landlords call and we put them in line for their hearing or we remember them.”

A typical wait is 15 to 30 minutes, she said. Tell him that.

Missing numbers

Some discerning taxpayers have noticed that a key number is no longer given to owners.

This number is the estimated tax bill that appears on the original notice of value. This number helped people decide whether to protest the value of their property.

That number is gone, thanks to a new law that no longer requires assessment districts to provide estimates.

The assessment districts pushed state lawmakers to allow them to stop providing an estimated initial tax figure, saying the numbers were never ultimately accurate. In addition, a new system in which taxpayers in large counties are asked to visit websites to obtain their tax number is supposed to suffice.

The problem is that those numbers don’t come until later, so it’s very possible that people who might be protesting won’t have the information in time to know what to do.

Also, how many people are visiting the new sites? Each time I visited the number displayed was zero. Updates are slow. We miss the estimated tax number.

Rockwall County

It happened in Rockwall, but it could happen in any county. A man and his neighbor both held protest hearings on the same day at the same time. The two had the same strategy: each had a neighbor whose property was very similar, and the value of the neighbor was lower than that of the two protesters.

They requested that their values ​​drop to match the value of the next door neighbors. It usually works in a manifestation.

This time, however, it only worked for one of them. The loser was so upset he couldn’t sleep. His note for me arrived at 2 a.m.

“I’m stunned by how this ‘fair’ system works,” he said.

Welcome to the club, sir.

A spike in home sale prices is fueling a rise in average property taxes on single-family homes.
A spike in home sale prices is fueling a rise in average property taxes on single-family homes.(Amy Sancetta/AP)

Tarrant County

A Grapevine woman was unaware that her farm’s exemption had been mistakenly dropped by the Tarrant Assessment District, who then sent her a bill for five years of back taxes, which she paid .

The exemption should never have been abandoned. Yet his fight to correct this outrage lasted two years.

In the end, approximately $10,000 was refunded to the woman. In exchange, Chief Assessor Jeff Law instructed his property tax officer to withdraw two open-file applications to the assessment district.

In a note to me, Law did not admit his office’s clerical error in dropping his exemption.

“The only mistake I know of was the termination of the previous owner’s exemption,” he said.

Everyone files a protest

I will stick to my long-term recommendation that everyone lodge a protest. (Do you remember that my movement has its own flag?)

Of course, there are exceptions. But even seniors who can freeze much of their property taxes at age 65 may want to protest to keep values ​​low.

As I’ve learned, in this unpredictable system, the secret to keeping your property tax low is to be consistent in protesting market value.

Taking action to protest each spring can and often does impact your starting point with next year’s value. Lowering this year means a lower hurdle the following year, and so on.

That’s what I think. Believe it or not!

As property values ​​increase, property taxes also increase.  Texans are allowed to protest their values ​​every year.  Hundreds of thousands do.
As property values ​​increase, property taxes also increase. Texans are allowed to protest their values ​​every year. Hundreds of thousands do.

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