The TEXAS Montgomery Central Appraisal District [MCAD] appraises homes and other real estate; this value determines your property tax amount. Reducing your property taxes involves some knowledge and a modest commitment of time, although you do have the option to hire a professional property tax consultant. Basic steps to reducing the taxable value set by the appraisal district include annually protesting market value and / or unequal appraisal annually, reviewing the appraisal district evidence, preparing your case for presentation, attending the informal conference with a staff appraiser, and appearing at a formal appraisal review board (ARB) hearing if necessary.
Note: Most people are not aware that the Texas property tax code makes provision for the property owner to obtain the appraisal district evidence. This information, sometimes called the House Bill 201 package, can be very useful in preparing the case for your reduction.
The administrative appeal process at the appraisal district office usually involves two steps: 1) an informal conference and 2) a formal ARB hearing. Although the property owner is not required to attend an informal hearing, most property tax protests are resolved by agreement between the property owner (or property tax consultant) and a county appraiser at these meetings. County appraisers are supposed to make changes if there is evidence to support the change, but they are typically reluctant to reduce the taxable value for home by significant amounts. The next level of meeting, which can occur if you are not able to reach an agreement one-on-one with the county appraiser, is a formal ARB hearing. Property owners who were not able to settle through an informal conference have a second opportunity to present their case, and are sometimes able to receive resolution at a formal ARB hearing.
It is important to arrive early for your appraisal district meetings and make an effort to have a polite, pleasant, and calm disposition, even if you are feeling anxious. After you check-in with the clerk at the front desk, be ready to wait 30 to 60 minutes. Maybe bring a book or some work to pass the time. Greet the appraisal staff kindly and graciously. At this level, their goal is like yours, to reach a settlement expediently. After you discuss evidence with a county appraiser, they will sometimes make an offer to settle your property tax protest. You can either accept the offer or continue your appeal with the ARB hearing. In most cases, the value offered informally will also be recommended by the county appraiser at the ARB hearing. The appraisal district knows that most property owners are often reluctant to attend the ARB hearing because of the additional time involved and the process of a formal presentation can feel intimidating for some people.
Formal hearings typically consist panels of three or more ARB representatives, the property owner (or property tax consultant ), and the county appraiser. After introductions and a short explanation of the process, the county appraiser will describe the subject property. The property owner presents opening evidence and responds to any questions from ARB representatives. Next, the staff appraiser presents evidence on behalf of the appraisal district and responds to any questions from the ARB panel. The property owner has an opportunity for rebuttal and to respond to any further questions from the ARB panel for clarification of the facts presented. Finally, the ARB panel deliberates and announces a decision. The decision is not subject to further negotiation at the hearing. You should politely thank the ARB members for their consideration. If you are not satisfied with their decision, you may be able to pursue binding arbitration or a judicial appeal.
Fighting an effective property tax protest is probably of more than academic interest if you’ve found yourself the victim of an overly high property tax bill. In this article I’d like to offer five tips on how you can successfully fight and win the real estate tax revaluation battle.
With wildly fluctuating property values in many parts of the United States and Canada, it is becoming more and more common for property owners to discover that their property’s assessed value has been overstated by the taxing authorities.
Why is this so?
Well for one thing, assessing offices are typically understaffed and in many cases simply can’t keep up with the workload involved with adjusting the values of hundreds or thousands of properties.
For another the taxing authorities often are slow to lower the valuation of a property, because it means the taxing authority collects less in taxes if they do. While this is not fair or otherwise justified, it is the reality. The fact is it is human nature for many career government workers to exercise this protective herd mentality in the name of job preservation.
With that said, here are the basic steps you need to take when mounting a property tax protest, i.e. a real estate tax abatement filing.
1. Go to your local tax assessor’s office and find out what the local tax calendar sets as the deadline for filing a property tax appeal.
2. Request the property tax cards for other homes that you know are fairly similar to yours in terms of construction style, total square footage of living area, age, location and quality. Create a small spreadsheet to help you organize and compare these factors.
3. Compare the assessed values of these homes with your own. If the physical factors are very similar the assessed values ought to be close–but often they are not. If yours has been assessed for tax purposes at a significantly higher value, you likely have a case to wage a real estate tax protest.
4. Adjust your findings for any obvious differences in value that you can determine from these records as well as your knowledge of he local area. Is a property assessed more highly perhaps because it is much younger than another, or because it is a custom home versus a tract home?
Sometimes there are good reasons for differences in assessed values for very similar homes, but probably more often there really is no good reason. Apply some common sense here when weighing these factors, and use the “smell” test. That is, if it stinks, there is probably something rotten about the assessed value! And that is reason enough to take on a property tax protest.
5. State your findings succinctly in a letter to the property tax assessor and avoid being overly dramatic or outraged if you really do feel you are getting a raw deal. Property tax assessors are human, and like you they will react better to honey as opposed to vinegar.
You might even start off with an informal discussion with the assessor before filing an official abatement request. Sometimes an assessor will grant relieve based upon a good, simple argument.
There’s no reason to remain a victim of poor government and over taxation. It’s easy to wage a winning property tax protest armed with the right information.
Australian state Labor government spearheads anti-protest laws
30 October 2019
Despite protests and the exposure of its lies about “dangerous” demonstrations, Queensland’s state Labor government rushed new anti-protest laws through parliament last week. Demonstrators using proscribed “devices” can be jailed for up to two years and police have expanded powers to conduct personal and vehicle searches without judicial warrants.
By accelerating the legislation, the Labor Party has taken the lead in a wider drive by Labor and Liberal-National Coalition governments across the country to outlaw many forms of political protest amid growing discontent in Australia and worldwide, particularly over worsening social inequality and ecological dangers.
Backed by the Liberal National Party (LNP) opposition, the state parliament passed the Summary Offences and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 last Thursday. Just two days earlier, more than 200 people rallied outside the Queensland parliament to denounce the legislation. The demonstrators included environmental activists, civil liberties representatives and construction workers.
A token parliamentary committee inquiry into the bill also had received more than 200 submissions, most voicing opposition to the attack on the democratic right to protest and the underlying right to political free speech.
The bill will see demonstrators jailed for allegedly trying to use “lock-on” devices to prevent police from dragging them away from protests. It also gives the police powers of search and seizure if they “reasonably suspect” that a person has “something that may be a dangerous attachment device” that could be used “to disrupt a relevant lawful activity.”
Introducing the bill in parliament, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk repeated the false claims that she and her ministers had made throughout the media for weeks to justify the measures. She insisted that the bill did not infringe on the right to protest but only targeted the use of “dangerous attachment devices” that “are reinforced with metal, wire or glass—fragments that can become projectiles—they can injure police, emergency services workers or members of our community.”
Palaszczuk and other Labor leaders had accused Extinction Rebellion and other environmental demonstrators of using deadly booby traps designed to maim or kill police and emergency services personnel. But they produced no evidence to substantiate their allegations, which protest groups strongly denied.
This exposure of the government’s lies did not halt the Labor Party’s determination to be in the forefront of imposing a wave of anti-protest laws. Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s federal Coalition government, backed by Labor, pushed through parliament a bill that could see people jailed for up to five years for using social media, emails or phone calls to promote, or even advertise, protests against agribusinesses. Morrison’s government is also working with state governments to impose harsher jail terms on demonstrators, adding to expanded anti-protest laws imposed over the past three years.
In Queensland, protesters obstructing traffic or resisting arrest already faced court-imposed fines up to $61,000. The Labor government has also introduced a bill setting penalties of up to one year in jail for people found guilty of trespassing on agricultural premises to protest against animal cruelty. In April, Palaszczuk’s government authorised police and biosecurity officers to issue on-the-spot fines of $652 to such demonstrators, on top of existing trespass penalties.
During last Thursday’s parliamentary session, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner boasted of Labor’s record. “Earlier this year, in my portfolio, we as a government amended the regulations under the Biosecurity Act to allow Queensland Police Service and biosecurity officers to immediately fine people who put on-farm biosecurity at risk. We acted, and acted quickly, and broadly industry was supportive of the quick response.”
Furner’s remarks underscore Labor’s anxiety to satisfy the demands of agribusiness and other sections of big business for the suppression of any political dissent that threatens corporate profits.
Clearly, the targets of these measures go beyond the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, which temporarily blocked traffic in the Queensland capital of Brisbane, as they did in other cities around the world. During last Thursday’s short parliamentary debate, references were made to the mass protests sweeping the globe against social inequality and attacks on working class conditions.
Education Minister Grace Grace admitted that the importance of protests had been “brought to the forefront of people’s mind” by “many around the world at the moment.” She said people “may or may not agree with the protests that are happening in Hong Kong, London, Santiago and Paris over various domestic and international issues.”
In their speeches, Labor ministers hypocritically professed to defend the right to protest, provided it was “lawful.” So did the leaders of the LNP, who supported the legislation, even as they criticised the government for not going further to outlaw “unlawful assembly” and set mandatory jail terms for people arrested more than once during protests.
The Queensland legislation has provoked outrage, including among those who still had illusions that Labor was a “lesser evil.” Palaszczuk insisted that her government was not reprising the notorious blanket anti-demonstration laws of the Bjelke-Petersen National Party state government of the 1980s. She even bragged of having joined the widespread protests against those laws.
Palaszczuk’s comments only point to the fact that Labor’s anti-democratic trajectory is part of a global shift. Governments around the world are increasingly turning to repressive and authoritarian methods of rule in the face of the resurgence of mass protests, from France to Puerto Rico, Haiti, Chile, Lebanon, Iraq, Ecuador, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
Labor’s Summary Offences and Other Legislation Amendment Bill contains measures that can be used well beyond environmental or animal cruelty protests. The “dangerous devices” banned include “sleeping dragons”—concrete-filled pipes that lock protesters’ arms together—and “dragon’s dens”—steel drums filled with concrete. These devices make it difficult for police to remove protesters. Also specifically outlawed are “monopoles” and “tripods,” used to delay coal trains.
However, the provisions are vague enough to cover any equipment that “reasonably appears” to be designed to prevent a demonstrator from being removed and arrested. Likewise, the “relevant lawful activity” that must not be disrupted is defined in sweeping terms. This includes “transport infrastructure,” “entering or leaving a place of business” and “the ordinary operation of plant or equipment.”
In other words, these laws criminalise protests that allegedly disrupt business operations. They can be used more broadly to suppress opposition, including industrial action by workers, to the deepening assault by governments and the corporate elite on jobs, living standards and social conditions.
The laws attack fundamental democratic rights, including free speech, free movement and freedom to associate. They have nothing to do with protecting the public from “unsafe” protests. Rather they are intended to intimidate and quash the growing anger produced by the deteriorating social and environmental conditions.
The author also recommends:
Australian state Labor government’s lies about “protest violence” exposed [24 August 2019]
Australian governments trial police-state measures against climate protesters [ 15 October 2019 ]