Harris County Appraisal District assesses property and that value sets your property tax amount. Reducing your property taxes is relatively simple but requires a modest commitment of time. Your other option is to hire a property tax consultant. Basic steps to reducing the property tax assessment set by Harris County Appraisal District include appealing both market value and unequal appraisal annually, obtaining the Harris County Appraisal District evidence, preparing for the hearing(s) and attending the informal and/or appraisal review board hearing. Few property owners are aware of the option to obtain the HCAD evidence. Sometimes referred to as the House Bill 201 package or 41.461 package, this information in invaluable in preparing for your property tax hearing. This article focuses on the hearing process.
There are two options for the "administrative" hearing process at Harris County Appraisal District: 1) the informal hearing and 2) the appraisal review board (ARB) hearing. Neither the property owner nor Harris County Appraisal District is required to attend the informal hearing. About 80% of property tax protests are resolved by agreement between the property owner/property tax consultant and the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser. The second option, which typically occurs if you are not able to reach agreement with the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser, is the ARB hearing. The property owners often receive some property tax relief at the ARB hearing.
Harris County Appraisal District appraisers seldom reduce the assessed value for a home by $100,000 or more. If you are seeking a reduction of more than $100,000 for a home, you should probably skip the informal hearing with the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser. There are several reasons for skipping the informal hearing at HCAD if you are seeking an increase of $100,000 or more. It will likely be a waste of your time. Further, you spend your time helping the HCAD appraiser to prepare their file for the ARB hearing.
Make sure you arrive early for the hearing and try to project a cheerful, cordial and relaxed attitude, even if you are nervous. After you check in with the Harris County Appraisal District clerk, you will likely wait for 30 - 60 minutes. Bring a book, newspaper or work to pass the time. Greet the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser cheerfully and enthusiastically. His goal is similar to yours; reach a compromise quickly. At Harris County Appraisal District, the appraisers are encouraged to make changes if there is evidence to support the change. The exception is unequal appraisal. Most Harris County Appraisal District appraisers are reluctant to make changes on unequal appraisal evidence. HCAD's approach on unequal appraisal is in flux. However, if your appeal is on unequal appraisal, you will likely need to attend the ARB hearing.
After you exchange and discuss evidence with the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser, he will likely make you an offer to settle the property tax protest. You can accept the offer or continue the appeal with the ARB hearing. In most cases the value offered informally will also be suggested by the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser at the ARB hearing.
Property owners are often reluctant to attend the appraisal review board (ARB) hearing because they think they are wasting their time with such a small property. This is not the case. Harris County ARB members are courteous, respectful and want the property owner to feel good about the ARB hearing.
Players at the ARB hearings include the 3 ARB members, property owner (or property tax consultant) and the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser. After introductions and a brief explanation of the process:
- Property owner presents evidence
- Questions from ARB members
- Harris County Appraisal District appraiser presents their evidence
- Questions from the ARB
- Property owner rebuttal
- Questions from the ARB
- ARB panel deliberates and announces a decision
In most cases, property owners believe the decision was reasonable. The decision is not subject to negotiation. Thank the ARB members for their time and service. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can pursue binding arbitration or a judicial appeal.
O'Connor & Associates is a national provider of investment real estate consulting services including commercial real estate appraisals, federal tax reduction, cost segregation, income tax, business valuation, due diligence, and insurance valuations.
Appraisal services are provided for all commercial property types including nursing homes, discount stores, truck terminals, tennis clubs, supermarkets, country clubs, medical offices, mini-warehouses, restaurants, vacant lands, skating rinks, community shopping, centers, power centers, car wash facilities and service stations.