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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Protesting Property Tax Valuations

Posted in Money, Property Issues

Ward and June recently received their property valuations from Comfort County. Their broker son Beaver Cleaver told them that, because county property valuations are intended to reflect the market value of the property as of January 1 this year, widespread foreclosures, declining building permits and high office vacancy rates should send Comfort County property values noticeably downward for the first time in years. Beaver also tells Ward and June that because of an unusually high number of abandoned and foreclosed properties, the latest sales of all properties shows many market values dropping by 33% or more.

Despite the slumping real estate market, the Cleavers’ latest property valuation shows their property (and their taxes) will go up almost the annual maximum of ten percent.

When Ward and June called to complain to their friend Knoe “Lafin” Mater, the Comfort County tax collector, he told them that simply having a foreclosed property nearby does not guarantee a tax protest will be successful.

What should the Cleavers do?

Common Sense Considerations –

  • File a written protest by May 31.
  • Get their broker Beaver to check “comparables” – the sales of properties similar to theirs in their area.
  • Ask Comfort County for the sales comparables that were used to value the Cleavers’ property. Is there a big difference in values?
  • Consider asking Beaver or a real estate appraiser friend to create an independent appraisal using the comps found. If not, secure documents or sworn statements from the person providing the sales information using sales closest to January 1st. Then, weigh the time and cost of preparing a protest against the projected, potential tax savings.
  • Know that even if Comfort County does not give them a fair property valuation close to the comparables, the Cleavers can still complain in court if their potential tax savings will justify the likely cost, and if they timely file their written protest.
  • Be persistent. Be thoughtful. Neither Comfort County nor any other county wants to lose property tax revenue, especially in a down economy. Now might be a particularly good time to carefully review the valuation presented by your county tax assessor collector.

For more information on property tax protests, see Texas Property Taxpayers’ Remedies: How to Protest Your Property Value for Property Taxes on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts web site.