It’s that time of year when Austinites are receiving their final tax assessment to be paid. Earlier this year homeowners received the estimated summary which homeowners can look over and either agree and do nothing or appeal the amount with the local Tax Assessor. I don’t know about you, but personally, I appealed mine. There was, in my mind, no way my property was worth what the county’s appraiser said it was. Due to the county I live in, I didn’t know of a company who could appeal my taxes for me, so I had to do it myself. If you’re a homeowner in Travis County, Five Stone Tax Advisers will do this for you for a very nominal fee—you just sit back and wait for word from them to see if they succeeded in lowering your property taxes.
As for me, it wasn’t too bad. I kept up with what sold in my neighborhood during the previous year (2014 in this case), documented it, sent it with my appeal and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I finally called the property appraiser’s office as I was getting nervous. Turns out they had a record number of people filing appeals! When do get word back from the property appraiser, you can agree with the new value they send you or you can deny it and request a hearing.
Don’t be too worried about a ‘hearing’, it’s not like a courtroom with a judge, it’s a room with one or more members from the assessor’s office and you plead your case of why you feel your property is worth a certain amount. When you receive your hearing date, ask for a copy of their “Packet of Evidence”; this is like a competitive market analysis (CMA) used to find comparable properties recently sold or appraised to value your home against. You’ll want to see what they used and how the county’s appraiser made their adjustments. If you don’t know how to read this, you can ask assistance from your tax advisor or your Realtor may be able to assist you.
After reviewing the packet, you can agree with their assessment or continue to the hearing with your packet of evidence you’ve gathered. Basically, it’s a debate. You debate why your assessment should be what you think using your comparable properties and why they should be used vs. the assessor’s comparable properties. You’ll need to prepare what you’re going to say, so don’t just walk in and expect to win because you think you know what your neighbor’s house sold for.
If you’re successful, you’ll receive a reassessment right then which you either approve or not. If you don’t approve the ‘new’ figure, either way, that’s what you’ll be assessed. In my case, I was able to prove in my first appeal why their figure was higher than that what 2014 properties sold for in my neighborhood. The first re-assessment from the appeal was an amount which was aprox. 8% of the 1st valuation, which I appealed as I felt it was still too high. After requesting the evidence packet, I received an email from the county assessor representative offering a new amount, which now totaled 16% lower than the original.
Ok, so this doesn’t sound like much, but let’s be real. If your $400,000 property assessment was lowered by 16%, that’s $64,000! Bringing your tax assessment to $336,000 - $15,000 basic homestead, you’re now taxed on $321,000. But… if you vote for Proposition 1 on Nov. 3rd to increase the total exemption, you would then be taxed on $311,000.
So, the question is: Is it worth it to appeal your property tax assessment? Is it worth going to the polls and approving a higher homestead exemption? In my example above, to me, $89,000 is worth it.
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