How to Appeal
The right to protest to the appraisal review board is the most important right you have as a taxpayer. You may protest if you disagree with any of the actions the appraisal district has taken on your property. You may discuss your concerns about your property value, exemptions, and special appraisal in an informal session with an impartial panel of your fellow citizens.
Most appraisal districts informally review your protest with you to try to solve problems. Check with your district for details.
If you lease property and must pay the owner's property taxes (required by lease contract), then you may appeal the property's value to the ARB. You may appeal the property's proposed value only if the property owner does not appeal. This appeal right includes leasing land, buildings, or personal property. The appraisal district will send the notice of appraised value to the property owner, who is required to send a copy to you. If you appeal, the ARB will send any notices to you.
State law prohibits the Comptroller from advising a taxpayer, appraisal district, or appraisal review board about a protest. State law also prohibits the Comptroller from intervening in a protest.
What is an appraisal review board (ARB)?
An ARB is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district.
ARB members are appointed by the appraisal district's board of directors. An individual must be a resident of the appraisal district for at least two years to serve on the ARB. Current and former directors, officers, and employees of the appraisal district or local taxing units can't serve on the ARB. Current employees of the State Comptroller's office also may not serve. ARB members also must comply with special conflict of interest laws.
The ARB determines taxpayer protests and taxing unit challenges. In taxpayer protests, it listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. The ARB determines if the chief appraiser has granted or denied exemptions and agricultural appraisals properly. ARB decisions are binding only for the year in question. The ARB begins around May 15 and ends by July 20.
ARB meetings are open to the public. Notices of the date, time, and place of each meeting must be posted at least 72 hours in advance at the appraisal district office and at the county clerk's office. The ARB's hearing procedures must be posted in a prominent place in the room in which hearings are held. For cost savings, the ARB typically meets at the appraisal office. It does not usually have its own staff or office. The chief appraiser must publicize annually the right to and methods for protesting before the ARB in a manner designed to notify all district residents. The ARB will provide for hearing times on evenings or on Saturdays or Sundays.
Should you protest?
The ARB must base its decisions on evidence. It hears evidence from both sides: the taxpayer and the chief appraiser.
Following is a list of protest issues that an ARB can consider and suggestions on evidence you may want to gather.
Is the proposed value of your property too high?
Ask one of the district's appraisers to explain the appraisal. Be sure the property description is correct. Are the measurements for your home or business and lot correct? Gather blueprints, deed records, photographs, a survey, or your own measurements.
Are there any hidden defects, such as a cracked foundation or inadequate plumbing? Get photographs, statements from builders, or independent appraisals.
Ask the appraisal district for the appraisal records on similar properties in your area. Is there a big difference in the values? This comparison may show that your property wasn't treated equally.
Collect evidence on recent sales of properties similar to yours from neighbors or real estate professionals. Ask the appraisal district for the sales that it used.
Consider using an independent appraisal by a real estate appraiser. Insurance records also may be helpful.
If you decide to use sales information to support your protest, you should:
- Get documents or sworn statements from the person providing the sales information.
- Use sales of properties that are similar to yours in size, age, location, and type of construction.
- Use recent sales. Sales that occurred closest to January 1 are best.
- Weigh the costs of preparing a protest against the potential tax savings. Preparing a protest may not be worth the time and expense if it results in only a small tax savings.
If you protest the agricultural value of your farm or ranch, find out how the appraisal district calculated your value. Compare its information with that of local experts on agriculture, such as the county extension agent, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Soil Conservation Service, the Texas Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or the agriculture department of a nearby university. The Comptroller's Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land may be helpful.
Is your property valued unequally compared with other property in the appraisal district?
See if the value of your property is closer to market value than other similar properties. For example, your property may be appraised at 100 percent of market value, while your neighbors' properties may be appraised at 90 percent of market value. A protest based on the level of appraisal may require more evidence. For more information about appealing an unequal appraisal or evidence to gather for such an appeal, see the Comptroller's Appraisal Review Board Manual or call the Comptroller's property tax hotline at 1-800-252-9121.
Did the chief appraiser deny you an exemption?
First, find out why the chief appraiser denied your exemption. If the chief appraiser denied your homestead exemption, get evidence that you owned your home on January 1 and used the home as your principal residence on that date.
If the chief appraiser denied a homestead exemption for part of the land around your home, show how much land is used as a yard.
If the chief appraiser denied you an over-65, a disabled person's, or a disabled veteran's exemption, read about these exemptions in the section Savings on Home Taxes.
Did the chief appraiser deny agricultural appraisal for your farm or ranch?
Find out why the chief appraiser denied your application. Agricultural appraisal laws have specific requirements for property ownership and use. Prove that your property qualifies as outlined in the section Savings on Agricultural Land Taxes. Gather your ownership records and management records or get information from local agencies that provide services to farmers and ranchers.
Did the chief appraiser wrongly determine that you took your land out of agricultural use?
Is agricultural activity still taking place on your land? If you took only part of the land out of agricultural use, you may need to show which parts still qualify. If you are letting land lie fallow, show that the time it has been out of agricultural use is not excessive.
Do the appraisal records show an incorrect owner?
Provide records of deeds or deed transfers to show ownership. If you acquired the property after January 1, you may protest the property's value until the ARB approves the records. The law recognizes the new owner's interest in the taxes on the property.
Is your property being taxed by the wrong taxing units?
An error of this sort is often simply a clerical error. For example, the appraisal records show your property is located in one school district when it actually is located in another school district.
Is your property incorrectly included on the appraisal records?
Some kinds of taxable personal property move from place to place quite regularly. Property is taxed at only one location in Texas. You can protest the inclusion of your property on the appraisal records if it should be taxed at another location in Texas.
Did the chief appraiser or ARB fail to send you a notice that the law requires them to send?
You have the right to protest if the chief appraiser or ARB failed to give you a required notice. But unless you disagree with your appraisal, there is no point in protesting failure to give a notice. Be sure that the appraisal district has your correct name and address.
You can't protest failure to give notice if the taxes on your property are delinquent. Before the delinquency date, you must pay a partial amount of taxes, usually the amount of taxes that aren't in dispute.
A notice is presumed delivered if sent by first-class mail with a correct name and address. Your failure to receive a properly mailed notice does not give you the right to a late hearing. In some instances, notices are sent certified mail.
Is there any other action the appraisal district or ARB took that affects you?
You have the right to protest any appraisal district action that affects you and your property. For instance, the chief appraiser may claim your property wasn't taxed in a previous year, and you disagree. You may protest only actions that affect your property.
How to File a Protest
1. File a written protest. The appraisal district has protest forms available, but you need not use an official form. A notice of protest is sufficient if it identifies the owner, the property that is the subject of the protest, and indicates that you are dissatisfied with a decision made by the appraisal district.
2. File your notice of protest by May 31 or no later than 30 days after the appraisal district delivers a notice of appraised value to you, whichever date is later.
If the chief appraiser sends you a notice that your agricultural land is no longer in agricultural use, you must file your protest within 30 days of the date the chief appraiser mailed the notice.
If the ARB ordered a change in your property's records, you must file your notice of protest within 30 days of the date on which the ARB delivered you a notice of the change.
If you file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the appraisal records, you are entitled to a hearing if the ARB decides that you had good reason for failing to meet the deadline.
If you don't file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the appraisal records, you lose your right to protest. You also lose the right to file a lawsuit about the taxable value of your property.
If your protest is late because the chief appraiser or ARB failed to mail your notice of appraised value or denial of exemption or agricultural appraisal, you may file your protest any time before the taxes become delinquent. You must pay some current taxes before the delinquency date to be entitled to this type of hearing.
In some cases, you may file with the ARB to correct an error even after these deadlines. Contact your appraisal district or the Comptroller's office if you have questions about clerical errors, substantial value errors, double taxing, or other areas.
How should you protest?
The ARB will notify you at least 15 days in advance of the date, time, and place of your hearing. Try to discuss your protest issue with the appraisal office in advance. You may work out a satisfactory solution without appearing before the ARB.
At least 14 days before your protest hearing, the appraisal district will send you:
- A copy of this pamphlet;
- A copy of the ARB procedures;
- A statement that you have the right to inspect and obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas, and any other information that the chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing; and
- A request for a copy of the evidence that you plan to introduce at your hearing.
The appraisal district may charge for copies of materials you request. However, the charge may not exceed $15 on a residential property or $25 on a non-residential property.
When you present your protest to the ARB, you may appear in person, send someone to present the protest, or send a sworn affidavit with the evidence to support your protest. See the subsection Appointing an Agent in the section Property Tax Basics.
Do not contact ARB members outside the hearing.
The ARB members are prohibited from communicating with another person about a property under protest. Each ARB member must sign an affidavit stating he or she hasn't discussed your case. An ARB member who discussed your case outside the hearing must remove himself or herself from your hearing.
Be on time and prepared for your hearing.
The ARB may adopt a policy to place a time limit on hearings.
Stick to the facts of your presentation.
The ARB has no control over the appraisal district's operations or budget, tax rates for the local taxing units, inflation, or local politics. Including these topics in your presentation isn't helpful to you.
Present a simple and well organized protest.
Stress key facts and figures. Write them down in logical order and give copies to each ARB member. You are required to give a copy of your evidence to the apraisal district representative.
Recognize that the ARB acts as an independent judge.
The ARB listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser before making a decision. It is not a case of the taxpayer against the ARB and the chief appraiser. The ARB will ask you to take an oath (either by swearing or by affirming) before you present evidence. Should you refuse to take the oath, the ARB will note this fact and may take it into account as the ARB weighs the evidence. The ARB may decide to end the hearing. Appraisal district staff must take an oath.
The chief appraiser has the burden of proving your property's value by a preponderance of the evidence presented at the ARB hearing. If he or she fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must determine in your favor.
What should you do about errors found after the filing deadline?
The law provides for a late ARB hearing to correct errors, including property appraised more than one-third above its correct value. The ARB has limited authority after approving the original appraisal records. Property owners must file a written request and meet certain requirements for the ARB to grant a late hearing on an approved value.
For the current and previous four tax years, the ARB may correct a clerical error, multiple appraisal of a property, or including non-existent property on the appraisal roll. A clerical error is a mistake in writing, copying, transcribing, or entering data, but is not a mistake in reasoning or judging a value. A clerical error does not include a property owners mistake. Multiple appraisal, also called double taxation, is taxing the same property more than once in the same tax year. Non-existent property is property that does not exist at the location or in the form described in the appraisal record.
For the current tax year, the ARB may grant late hearings to correct one-third overappraisals, to correct values based on a joint motion of the property owner and chief appraiser, and to hear from owners who weren't sent a required notice. These types of late hearings require property owners to file written requests before the delinquency date of February 1. Pending an ARB decision on a late hearing, the owner must pay some current taxes, usually the taxes not in dispute. If the owner wins a value reduction in a late ARB hearing, the taxing units will refund the difference in the tax payment. For a hearing on one-third overappraisal, the property may not have had an ARB hearing earlier in the year. The owner must show that the approved appraised value exceeds the correct value by more than one-third. If the owner proves that the value is in error, but less than one-third wrong, the ARB may not order a value reduction. For a joint motion hearing, the ARB must approve a change when the property owner and chief appraiser have agreed to the change in writing.
Following rules adopted by the ARB, the chief appraiser may change the appraisal roll at any time to correct any inaccuracy that does not increase the amount of tax liability.
Should you appeal to district court?
Once the ARB rules on your protest, it sends you a written order by certified mail. If you are dissatisfied with the ARB's findings, you have the right to appeal its decision to the state district court in your county.
You should consult with an attorney to determine if you have a case. Within 45 days of receiving the written order, you must file a petition for review with the district court.
You also are required to make a partial payment of taxes, usually the amount of taxes that aren't in dispute before the delinquency date. You may ask the court to excuse you from prepaying your taxes. You must file an oath of inability to pay the taxes in question and argue that prepaying the taxes restrains your right to go to court on your protest. The court will hold a hearing and decide the terms or conditions of your payment. At the district court, you may ask to have your appeal resolved through arbitration.