Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Protesting your Residential Property Taxes

The right to protest to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) is the most important right you have as a taxpayer. You may protest if you disagree with any of the actions the Appraisal District has taken on your property. 

The ARB is a group of private citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the Appraisal District.  No officers of the Appraisal District or the taxing units it serves may sit on the ARB.  To qualify for service on the ARB, an individual must be a resident of the Appraisal District for at least two years prior to taking office.

The ARB determines taxpayers protests and taxing unit challenges.  The ARB's decisions are binging only for the year in question.  The ARB begins protest hearings around May 15 and finish by July 20.  There are 90 members on the ARB of Dallas County.

Duties of the ARB
-  Determine protests initiated by property owners
-  Determine challenges initiated by taxing units
-  Correct clerical errors in the appraisal records and the appraisal rolls
-  Act on motions to correct appraisal rolls
-  Determine whether an exemption or a partial exemption is improperly granted and whether land is improperly granted appraisal
-  After it has completed substantially all protests the ARB provides the appraisal records.

What can you protest?:
-  The proposed value of your property is too high  (If similar properties are selling for less than your property, you may have a reason to protest)
-  Your property is valued unequally compared with other property in the Appraisal District
-  The Chief Appraiser denied you an exemption
-  The Chief Appraiser denied agricultural appraisal for your farm or ranch
-  The Chief Appraiser wrongly determined that you took your land out of agricultural use
-  The appraisal records show an incorrect owner
-  Your property is being taxed by the wrong taxing units
-  The Appraisal District or ARB took other action that affects your property

How Do You Protest?
Beginning on May 1st, protests to the ARB can be filed in written form or by electronic communication via the Dallas County Appraisal District (DCAD) website using the Online Protest Program (uFile).  The ARB will NOT accept protest filings by facsimile or e-mail submission.  Any written notice of protest will be acceptable as long as it identifies the owner, the property that is the subject of the protest and indicates apparent dissatisfaction with an action or decision taken by the Appraisal District.  Protests MUST BE FILED by MAY 31, 2011.  If you fail to file a protest on time, your options are limited.

How to File Using uFile
Go to:
Simply search your property using the Search Appraisal function in the Navigation LInks box to the left of the screen.
You can search by Owner Name or Address
Once you are on the details page of your property, click on the "Online Protest" link and it will take you through the steps to file online.  

If you have not heard from anyone:
Taxpayer phone calls, walk-ins and formal ARB Hearings take priority during this time of year.  Many times appraisers are unable to review documents attached to a protest until a day or so before the ABR Hearing.  However, if you attached documentation to your protest, call and ask to speak with the appraiser so they can pull your protest and review your documentation with you.  If they are able to make an adjustment that you are in agreement with, there may be no need for your formal ARB Hearing.  SUGGESTION:  File either online or by mail and GO DOWN THERE!  

Do you have to go to an ARB Hearing to settle your issue?
NO!  It is encouraged that all taxpayers try to resolve their issues with an appraiser prior to the formal hearing.  You should prepare to present whatever documented evidence you have to convince the appraiser of your point of view.  IF you are able to resolve your issue prior to the hearing, there is no need for a hearing.  

Do you need to make an appointment to see an appraiser informally?
NO!  To see an appraiser, go to the Appraisal District office and sign in.  Wait is typically not more than 30 minutes.  (Unless you go during lunch)  SUGGESTION:  GO EARLY IN THE MORNING!  Kind of like the DMV!

A hearing before the ARB is conducted very much like a court case, but less formal.  The ARB will hear evidence from the property owner and the Appraisal District appraiser (5-7 minutes each)  The entire case takes about 15 minutes and you will know the decision before you leave.  A Notice of Final Order is then sent via certified mail to you or your agent if you were represented.  The decision by the ARB is binding for the current tax year unless you file under binding arbitration or appeal to the District Court.

Do you need to appear in person?
You have three choices: appear in person, appoint someone else to appear for you or file an affidavit stating your facts and presentation by mail.  (I would show up)

By law a copy of all evidence submitted to the ABR must be retained.

Standards of Documentation - Residential Real Estate
Provide documentation that supports your market value position
The saying...A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS rings true when presenting evidence
Recently bought your home?  Provide a copy of your closing statement and/or fee appraisal if one was done for financing purposes.  
Not a recent buyer?  Try to provide sale comparables, broker opinion of value, and/or sales information that you feel supports your position.  If your property has conditional problems - professional repair estimates of the problem areas as well as pictures are helpful.  If you have a recent fee appraisal undertaken, this information should be provided as well.

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