How To Protest Property Tax in Austin
The new tax assessed property values were mailed to homeowners throughout Texas recently and people in Austin and surrounding areas are experiencing sticker shock to find their values have gone up tens of thousands of dollars in just one year. I took a class this week so I could learn even more about the process to protest property tax in Austin and share the most current accurate information with you.
The property taxing system is a cycle with 4 parts:
Phase 1 – Appraisal – occurs between Jan. 1 and April 30. This is when the county determines the value of every property using a computer algorithm. It’s not personal, it’s not specific. Then the notices we are all panicking about are mailed.
Phase 2 – Equalization. Yes, it is part of the cycle for homeowners to protest their values and help determine a more accurate one. Think of it like a check and balance.
Phase 3 – Adopting a Budget – comes after the protest period has ended and the values, and anticipated revenues – are set. This is meeting the public can attend.
Phase 4 – Collecting Taxes – is from Oct. – Jan. 31st of the following year.
Let’s focus on Phase 2 – Equalization. What are your options?
- Don’t do anything. Accept the value your property was assigned by the computer system and prepare to pay that increased tax bill.
- Protest your property tax in Austin. Complete the Travis County tax protest form and send it in by May 31st. Check both boxes “Value is over market value” AND “Value is unequal compared to other properties”. That way you have options as you do your research. Check YES for “I want to receive a copy of hearing procedures”. I recommend filing as close to May 31st as you can without being late. Hearings are done in the order received, and if others homes’ values in your area have had successful protests before your hearing, that data will help you. You will need access to the data for comparable homes sold in your neighborhood between Oct. 1 of last year and March 31 of this year.
You can ask a Realtor to help, but be aware that if you don’t have a relationship with that person or experience with their attention to detail, you may not get the best information. In general, our market has increased in value a great deal. You want to find the nuances that can show why your property shouldn’t follow the average, and those are time consuming to research.
You can hire a firm on contingency to do the work for you. They take between 35-60% of the tax savings they get you. Average success rate is 90% and they average a 10% reduction. So if they save you $1,000 in taxes they collect between $350 and $500. If there is no reduction, there is no cost.
Remember you can actually protest two things - the lot value and/or the structure value. It seems that this year the appraisers did a better job of differentiating between lot sizes. So if you have a larger lot, you probably saw a more significant increase this year. You can still protest your lot value if for example, you have drainage issues, or it’s not flat and buildable.
If you or someone you know needs help understanding their Travis County property tax valuation and their options to protest property tax in Austin, we can help! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your property address and contact information and we will go from there.
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- By Rodney Campbell