With apologies to Ripley, the Texas property tax system is a big scheme, believe it or not
The state’s property tax system is unfair, confusing and rotten to the core.
The watchdog collected stories from the 2021 tax season that prove my point. Unfortunately, these stories are not rarities. It’s like a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! exhibition on injured taxpayers.
Let’s start with the news from the Denton Central Assessment District where civil war broke out.
Beverly Henley, the outgoing chair of the Denton County Appraisal Review Board, which handles home value protests, has filed a complaint with the state against Denton County Chief Appraiser Hope McClure .
In his letter to state regulators, Henley, who is resigning on January 1, put the spotlight. She accused McClure of “suspected fraud” harming both governments and taxpayers.
His main charge is that McClure was unable to meet the deadlines to complete property reviews, so McClure sent false value notices to hundreds – and some say thousands – of homeowners. The reviews indicated an automatic 10% reduction. Some of these owners then happily withdrew their protests.
But later, those owners received a corrected second review, often far less than the 10% reduction in the first review. With their values, and therefore their 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 the opinions or decisions made by the Denton Appraisal Review Board or its members. “
If you miss your protest hearing at the Collin Appraisal Review Board, you can file a “cause for cause” for a second chance.
The application form is one of the most intrusive I have ever seen. It is designed to catch liars.
“If you were out of town… when did you leave?” To return to? Where have you been? Why were you there? Did you have access to a telephone? … Do you have copies of plane tickets?
“If you or someone in your family got sick… who was it?” When did the disease start?
“If a member of your immediate family has died, who has died? What relationship with you? When did he die? When and where did the funeral take place? Do you have an obituary? “
If you think I’m making this up, I’m not. It’s word for word.
A Dallas County taxpayer sent me a screenshot of his phone that showed he was on hold with the Dallas Central Appraisal District for 3 hours and 18 minutes while awaiting his protest hearing over the phone.
He showed up on time. The hearing did not.
Dallas CAD spokesperson Cheryl Jordan said, “There is usually no wait time for telephone hearings as owners call in and we queue them up for their hearing or we let us recall them. “
A typical wait is 15 to 30 minutes, she said. Tell him that.
Some discerning taxpayers have noticed that a key number is no longer assigned to owners.
This number is the estimated tax invoice that appears on the notice of initial value. This number has helped people decide whether to protest against the value of their property.
This number has disappeared, thanks to a new law according to which evaluation districts no longer have to provide an estimate.
Assessment districts pushed state lawmakers to allow them to stop providing an estimated initial tax number, saying the numbers were ultimately never accurate. In addition, a new system in which taxpayers in large counties are asked to visit websites to obtain their tax numbers is said to be sufficient.
The problem is that these numbers only come later, so it is very possible that people who might protest do not have the information in time to know what to do.
Also, how many people visit the new websites? Each time I visited the number listed was zero. Updates are slow. We are missing the estimated tax number.
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. Both had the same strategy: each had a neighbor next door whose ownership was very similar, and the neighbor next door was worth less than the two protesters.
They demanded that their values drop to match the value of next door neighbors. It usually works in a demonstration.
This time, however, it only worked for one of them. The loser was so upset he couldn’t sleep. His note for me came at 2 a.m.
“I am stunned by how this ‘fair’ system works,” he said.
Welcome to the club, sir.
A Grapevine woman was unaware that her homestead exemption was mistakenly dropped by the Tarrant Assessment District, who then sent her a bill for five years of overdue taxes, which she paid.
The exemption should never have been abandoned. Yet his fight to correct this outrage lasted two years.
In the end, about $ 10,000 was repaid to the woman. In return, Chief Appraiser Jeff Law asked his property tax officer to withdraw two open appraisal district registrations.
In a note to me, Law did not admit the clerical error of his office by relinquishing his exemption.
“The only mistake I know of was the discontinuation of the exoneration of the previous owner,” he said.
Everyone lodges a protest
I will stick to my long term recommendation that everyone protest. (Do you remember my movement has its own flag?)
Of course, there are exceptions. But even seniors who can freeze a large chunk of their property taxes at age 65 may want to protest to keep values down.
As I’ve learned, in this unpredictable system, the secret to keeping your property taxes low is to be consistent in your protests against market value.
Taking action to protest each spring can and often does have an impact on where you start with next year’s value. Lowering that year means lower hurdle the following year, and so on.
That’s what I think. Believe it or not!
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