Overview of Property Tax Valuation Lawsuits

What Happens...

Property taxes are a major cost of doing business in Texas. A property’s tax value is set by a county Appraisal District. Sometimes, the Appraisal District sets the property’s value at more than is appropriate. When this happens, owners may protest under procedures and deadlines set out in the Texas Tax Code. These protests end with a hearing before the county Appraisal Review Board. Professional tax consultants usually represent the taxpayer at Appraisal Review Board hearings. The hearings lead to an “Order Determining Protest,” which often lowers the taxable value of the property. But sometimes the Appraisal Review Board’s value remains too high.

What to do...

When this happens, taxpayers may file a lawsuit seeking to further reduce the property’s assessed value. These lawsuits are generally more stream- lined and less expensive than typical litigation. But there are rigid deadlines and procedural requirements for these lawsuits. Many lawyers do not know these deadlines and requirements. Each year, numerous taxpayer lawsuits are dismissed due to a taxpayer’s inadvertent non-compliance with these requirements. Engaging a lawyer who is familiar with the requirements will both minimize the taxpayer’s costs, and also minimize the risk that the lawsuit might be thrown out on procedural grounds.

Successful lawsuits are also based on strong factual and legal arguments. If your tax agent believes that you have a good basis for a suit to lower your property’s taxable value, you should probably proceed with a lawsuit. Similarly, if your tax agent tells you that the Appraisal Review Board’s value is appropriate, you should probably not file suit.

How do you begin a property tax valuation lawsuit?

The suit must be filed within 60 days of the Appraisal Review Board decision. It is a good idea to engage a lawyer well before the deadline, if possible. To engage Van Kerrebrook & Associates P.C., you must enter into a signed engagement letter and pay either a retainer or flat fee. The flat fee covers most legal work and expenses for the first six months of the lawsuit. Many property tax valuation cases settle by then.

You should provide the lawyer with:

  1. correct record title ownership name as shown in the most recent deed on real estate (or accurate ownership information on personal property), and
  2. the Appraisal Review Board’s Order Determining Protest. If a property has more than one tax account number, all of the pertinent Orders Determining Protest must be provided.

When you engage a lawyer, the lawyer should give you other important information necessary to maintain the lawsuit, and to maximize the chances of a successful result.

Property Tax Valuation Disclaimer

 

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