It isn’t over until the review board rules. Higher than normal property valuations have residents worried about a steep tax bill in October, but homeowners have the right to appeal their valuation. 

The Fort Worth Report compiled everything you need to know about how to appeal the valuation of a property and how, when and why property taxes are levied. 

Tarrant County homeowners likely will have to budget for a higher tax bill after property values rose about 20% in 2022. Last year, values rose 7%

“Property appraisals this year are on the rise because of the really strong real estate market here and around the state,” Jeff Law, executive director at Tarrant Appraisal District said. 

Residents received letters with their valuation in April and have until May 16 to appeal it with the Tarrant Appraisal District. The Fort Worth Report compiled everything you need to know about how, when and why property taxes are levied and how to appeal the valuation of a property. 

Legislation that went into effect in 2020, House Bill 1313, prohibits appraisal districts from raising the valuation of a property that was previously lowered without  “clear and convincing evidence” that the increase is supported by facts.

The Tarrant Appraisal District determines the value of residents’ property. The property has to be taxed based on its current market value – or the price it would sell for when both buyer and seller seek the best price and neither is under pressure to buy or sell. 

The valuation is based on the sales prices of comparable homes. However, valuation is not an exact science. Texas does not require property owners to disclose the price for what they sold their property. This limits appraisal districts’ data, Law said.   

A taxing unit is a governmental entity that collects property taxes to provide services to residents. In Tarrant County, the tax assessor-collector collects and distributes property tax income to most school districts, cities and other local governments that spend the money on schools, roads, hospitals, fire departments and other programs. Some school districts and cities have their own tax assessor-collector. 

Texas counties and local school districts tax all nonexempt property within their jurisdictions, residents might also have to pay taxes to a city or special districts like hospitals, junior colleges, or water districts

The county tax assessor-collector will collect all property taxes due in that county, then transfer the appropriate amounts to each taxing unit. 

Over 4,000 local governments in Texas – school districts, cities, counties, and various special districts – collect and spend local property taxes 

Timeline

January 1: Appraisal districts are required to appraise property at its value at this date. A lien is attached to each taxable property to ensure payment 

January 1 – April 30: Appraisal districts complete appraisals and process applications for exemptions 

April – May: Appraisal districts send notices of appraised values 

May – July: Appraisal districts hear protests for property owners, make determinations and approve appraisal records

Late summer, early fall: Local taxing units adopt tax rates 

October 1: Local taxing units (the county tax assessor and collector send bills to property owners 

Governing bodies determine how much it wants to raise and set its own tax rate – most contract with the county tax assessor-collector to collect these taxes. 

How do local governments determine the tax rate – and what are they?

Tarrant County contains 75 different taxing entities. Based on a resident’s location, they will pay property taxes to multiple entities, each with its own tax rate. The appraisal district provides a full list of the tax rates for each taxing entity. 

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court sets the tax rate for the county and the hospital district. The commissioners vote on the tax rate and adopt the county budget in September. 

The city of Fort Worth adopted its tax rate and approved its annual budget in August

Property tax rates are determined per $100 valuation. Tarrant County’s current tax rate is 22.9 cents. A resident would be paying about 23 cents for every $100 of property value. The average Tarrant County home was worth $239,403 in 2021, a homeowner would pay about $548 to Tarrant County in property taxes.  

There are exemptions available to homeowners, which require applications in most cases. There are seven exemptions available to homeowners in Tarrant County: 

  • General residential homestead exemption, which is available to taxpayers who own and reside at a property as of Jan. 1. 
  • Over 65 exemption is available to property owners the year they become 65 years old. By state law, this exemption is $10,000 for school districts.
  • A person who meets the Social Security Administration’s standards for disability may be eligible for a special homestead exemption, even if they are not receiving disability benefits. 
  • A disabled veteran who receives 100% disability compensation can receive an exemption from taxation of the total appraised value of the veteran’s qualifying residence homestead.
  • Texas law provides partial exemptions for property owned by veterans who are disabled and who own and occupy homes that have been donated by a charitable organization.
  • The surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. armed services or the first responder who was killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is allowed a 100% property tax exemption on a residence homestead if they have not remarried.

Homeowners have rights under the Texas Constitution. Each property must have a single appraised value, which means the various local taxing entities can’t assign different values to your property. All property is taxable unless federal or state law exempts it from the tax, like property owned by charitable organizations, and property owners have a right to reasonable notice of increases to their property values. 

How to protest your appraisal 

Each district has an appraisal review board, which is a board of residents that hears disagreements between property owners and the appraisal district about the proposed value of the property. The administrative district judge in Tarrant County appoints members of the board. 

The notice of appraised property will include the date and place the appraisal review board will begin hearing protests. If a taxpayer is dissatisfied with the appraised value or the appraisal records are wrong, they can file a notice of protest with the appraisal review board. 

The Tarrant Appraisal District has a website where taxpayers can file a protest if:

  • The appraised value of the property is too high. 
  • The district denied a special appraisal, like open-space land or denied your exemption application. 
  • The district failed to provide you required notice. 

Residents are required to file a notice of protest with the appraisal district review board no later than 30 days after the appraisal district mailed the notice of appraised value, or May 16 – whichever comes later. The board will notify the taxpayer 15 days ahead of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The board begins hearings around May 16 and generally completes them by July 20. 

Taxpayers should pay particular attention to the “reason for the protest” section on the form, the Texas Comptroller writes in their informational materials. The reason you choose for protest will influence the type of evidence you may present. Choosing the option “incorrect appraised value and/or unequal appraisal” will allow you to present the widest types of evidence, the office said. 

How to prepare for the hearing 

Taxpayers protesting their valuation should ask appraisal district staff about their property’s value and ask questions about items they don’t understand, the comptroller suggests. Protestors should be on time for the hearing, avoid emotional appeals and stick to the facts. They also should review the hearing procedures and present their information in a simple and well-organized manner. 

Since the property is valued based on conditions up to Jan. 1, improvements or damage that occurred to the property after the first of the year should not be included in the protest. After the board comes to a decision on a taxpayer’s protest, they will receive a ruling by mail or email. 

Property owners can appeal further if they are not satisfied with the appraisal review board. There are three options to appeal: 

  • Go to district court
  • Depending on the property, the State Office of Administrative Hearings and binding arbitration

Taxpayers have the right to appeal the decision of the appraisal district to the district court in the county where the property is located. 

If the appraisal district assigns a property value over $1 million you may file an appeal with the State Office of Administrative Hearings, the decision of their judges is final and may not be appealed. 

“Everyone has the right to protest or contest their property value. I would recommend they understand that the real estate market is more active than I’ve ever seen it in 30 years, most people may not realize or fully understand what prices are selling for now versus what they sold for in the past,” Law said.

Editors note: The story was updated to include the correct deadline for homeowners to appeal their property appraisal. A previous version of the article incorrectly stated the date.

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel Behrndt

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org