Posts Categorized: Property Taxes

Who Sets My Property Tax?

Tax Bills are Made up from Many Taxing Jurisdictions

Should I Blame the Central Appraisal District? 

When Texas property tax bills come out in October, your first response may be that they are too high. Property owners want to blame the Central Appraisal District (CAD), the entity that sets their property values. In this case, the CAD is innocent of the blame. While the CAD does set property values, they are not part of setting the tax rates, nor do they determine the ultimate tax bill. In fact, it is usually the Tax Assessor/Collector who issues the property tax bill. 

Who Determines the Property Tax Rates? 

Local jurisdictions such as independent school districts, colleges, hospitals, cities, and the county all need tax revenue to operate. Each year they submit their budgets for review and approval. Based on their budget, and the values of properties in their taxable areas, tax rates are determined so they can collect the amounts needed for their budgets. While the actual process can be more complicated, this can be illustrated quite simply using the following formula:

 If a jurisdiction needs $1,000,000 and your taxable value is $250,000,000, then your tax rate would be $1,000,000 ÷ $250,000,000 = 0.4%. 

Can I Do Anything About the Tax Rates? 

Truth-in-Taxation requires that notices are published regarding public hearings about proposed budgets and tax rates. It is at these meetings that taxpayers can voice their concerns and seek that the proposed budget be denied. In cases where the tax rate increase is excessive, the increase will be placed on the ballot for voters to approve or deny. By exercising your right to vote, you can have an impact on whether certain tax rate increases are approved or denied.   

I’ve Done Everything Right but the Taxes Still Went Up! 

Sometimes you do all that you can to be heard, but the result is that tax rates–and your value!–still increases. This will cause your property tax bill to increase. Once valuations and tax rates are set, the tax bill needs to be paid. Each year you are given an opportunity to protest the noticed value of your property. If you are not reviewing your valuation and protesting when appropriate, you are missing at least one way of keeping your property tax bill lower. 

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Will an Appeal of my Noticed Value Really Make a Difference?

The Impact to You

As a multifamily property owner in Texas, you have most likely received a “Notice of Proposed Value” from your local county appraisal office and wondered whether to appeal that value. If you have never appealed this value, you may be unaware of the benefits that a successful (and even an unsuccessful!) appeal may bring. 

The Impact on Your Relationship with the CAD

If successful, an appeal will result in lowering a property’s taxable value. This means tax savings for the owner. But even if your appeal is unsuccessful, just by filing it you will have had the opportunity to learn more about your county’s appeal process and build a relationship with your Central Appraisal District (CAD). Building this relationship can be invaluable in later years/appeals.

YOUR Impact on the Community. 

In the multifamily industry, tax savings are often passed along to multiple parties; owners may see a healthier bottom line while tenants may see improved amenities and accommodations. However, there are also benefits to owners of different properties. By lowering the taxable value of your property, it may provide evidence for another owner of a comparable property to help lower their taxable value. Thus, the benefits that your property and tenants receive may also be possible for others in your market. Besides improving the lives of those in your communities, the beauty of this type of relationship is that this initial reduction may fuel tax savings for years to come because now the whole market has a lower taxable value. Upward movements in values will be offset by lower starting values.

 And those are the two main impacts your appeal could have on both you and your properties, as well as the communities you serve. The next time you believe your property is overvalued by your local CAD, remember that the impacts your appeal can have are far reaching and helpful to all. If you have any questions about pursuing a valuation appeal for your Texas multifamily property, please contact our team of specialists today!

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Filing a Protest of Noticed Value

What Does it Mean to Me? 

Every year, multifamily property owners receive a proposed notice of value for the properties they own. Left unappealed, this proposed noticed value will become the taxable value of their property for the current tax year. Many owners ignore these notices or simply approach it indifferently. They often ask, “Why should I file a protest of this value?” When examined, there are multiple reasons to file a protest of your proposed value.

Tax Savings can Benefit Multiple Parties

This is the most obvious and impactful reason owners should appeal their noticed values. By reducing the taxable values of their property, they can directly lower their property tax bills dues later in the year. The savings generated from these reductions can mean owners are able to improve the assets they currently occupy, or potentially acquire new ones. Never forget, the service multifamily property owners provide their communities is extremely important. Oftentimes, benefits that property owners receive work their way into the public in some form or fashion (be it new amenities, updated units, etc.). The benefits following tax savings are significant and far reaching for more than just the property owner.

Taxing Entities are Held Accountable

Central Appraisal Districts (CADs) are in charge of setting the value for properties within their counties. They have the difficult job of valuing every property in their county annually. This is impossible without something called “mass appraisal”. Mass appraisal is a way of valuing large groups of properties by applying common multipliers or factors to some individual characteristics of a property. However, the problem with this methodology is that it cannot account for factors plaguing individual properties. This is where the owners and agents of a property are able to help CADs accurately value a property. By sharing specific factors that impact your properties’ values, you can provide insight to the CAD that may impact not only your valuation, but other properties’ values. It helps taxing entities be more accurate.

Your Rights can be Exercised

Finally, appealing is a right afforded to you by the Constitution and laws of the land. Texans are big on believing their government should be working for them, not the other way around. If nothing else, your appeal will be a signal that due process in the Lone Star State is strong and present.

If you have any other questions as to why you should annually appeal your property valuation, please reach out to the specialists within our office.

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What do I Need to do to Get a Property Tax Reduction?

Reductions Require Evidence

If you appealed your multifamily property’s value, you most likely feel that your local Central Appraisal District (CAD) overvalued your property. As a result, you probably want to reduce that value and ultimately save yourself from paying unfair property taxes. Well, to do this you need to have strong evidence of your property’s overvaluation and explain this evidence effectively to either the appraisal office or an Appraisal Review Board (ARB). A common mistake made by individuals handling their own appeals is that they believe values increasing from one year to the next is by itself evidence that their appeal should succeed. That is not the case. You need to have strong evidence of what you believe the value should be to get that desired reduction.

Getting an Informal Reduction 

In Texas, most CAD’s will communicate with taxpayers in an effort to settle the appeal and avoid an ARB hearing. To take advantage of this, you need to do research in your market. Are there sales comps? Did you recently build the property for less? Is the property charging less in market rent than it did in previous years? You really need to examine the functionality and external impacts on the property to determine if a reduction is warranted. Once you have strong evidence, reach out to the CAD. Most offices are happy to take a look at your evidence and at least communicate with you about why they set the value where they did. Remember, you have a right to the evidence the CAD used in setting your value, and you should request it when you reach out to attempt settlement of your appeal. Review it critically and fairly.

Getting a Reduction at the ARB 

If you were unable to secure a reduction at the informal level with the CAD, it is time to prepare your case for an ARB hearing. These hearings are generally fair and most evidence is considered. To secure a reduction at these hearings, you need to put your evidence into one packet and make multiple copies to hand out at the hearing (check your local ARB hearing procedures packet for the exact number of copies needed). Next, you need to be sure that your evidence is accurate and can stand up to scrutiny. The CAD will most likely attack your evidence as unreliable and claim your requested value is too low. You then need to be able to attack the CAD’s evidence fairly, and cast doubt on their method of valuing your property. If you are more convincing, the ARB may choose a lower value than the CAD’s proposed one, or they may simply take your exact requested number if your case was strong enough. 

There are two main ways to get a reduction to your property value: 1) informally settle with the property’s CAD, or 2) win your hearing before an ARB. Both of these stages are extremely important when pursuing a reduction, so please reach out to our multifamily property specialists for guidance, consultations, or excellent representation.

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Why do I Need a Property Tax Agent?

You Need Someone in Your Corner Who Will Fight For You.

A Tax Agent is… 

  1. Licensed by the State

A Texas property tax agent is an individual licensed in Texas to represent taxpayers in the valuation appeal process. There are education requirements and certification exams proving a base level of competency in Texas property tax law before someone can become licensed.  Once licensed, continuing education requirements ensure agents are staying up-to-date on Texas law and ethics. When evaluating an agent, first check to see that they are licensed and legally allowed to represent you.

  1. Your Advocate 

Tax agents are meant to be your advocate and represent your best interests.  They are an extension of you throughout the appeal process. Their goal is to reduce your property tax burden while preserving your relationship with the county. Your agent should communicate with you proactively and keep you in the loop. Unless you specifically state it, they should not be accepting valuations or settlements without your knowledge. 

  1. A Representative Who Works For You

Your tax agent should be working for you, not working around you.  They should not file appeals on your behalf without your permission. Occasionally, you may find an agent who is overly aggressive and ignores your instructions. They may even threaten to drop your appeal if you don’t do what they say. These agents are acting beyond their authority, and you should review your rights to hire a more respectful agent. If you encounter a rude agent, you should run in the other direction!  Agents like this run the risk of causing a rift between you and the county–and that could damage your future appeals. There are too many good agents out there; you don’t need to settle for poor representation.

 An Extension of you

Ultimately, a tax agent should be an extension of you, decreasing your stress and fighting for reductions. They should handle the entire appeal process and keep you in the loop, while minimizing the burden on you. Hiring the right property tax agent will bring results to you and your property that can make a meaningful impact to your bottom line.

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What Does A Great Property Tax Agent Do?

When it comes to service, the difference between good and great is noticeable. Good service fits a need while great service exceeds expectations. Most of us have experienced both good and great service, and I am willing to bet that great service providers stand out to us, while good providers fall by the wayside. This is mainly because great service is much rarer, and we feel its impacts immediately.

A Great Agent is Hard to Come By

There are a lot of good property tax agents in Texas, but not many great ones. This is because the level of service a great agent can provide is often much higher than most groups are able or willing to offer. Great agents visit all the properties they represent so that they can intimately understand their clients’ assets. They also act as an extension of their clients and treat every appeal as if it were their own property being valued. They are considerate of their clients’ needs, expectations, and goals throughout the entire tax year, not just during appeal season.

A great agent also knows when to be aggressive with an appeal and push for a large reduction and when to work with an appraiser to come to a settlement. You can usually identify a great agent by their consistent large reductions and favorable reputation with the appraisal districts they work in. As a result, their clients benefit from lower taxes and elevated reputations in the communities they serve. 

The Wayfinder Way

All multifamily property owners deserve great property tax services. To be sure you are receiving great service, download the Property Tax Agent Checklist and evaluate your current provider. If you find that there is some room for improvement, it may be time for a change so you can get the service you deserve. 

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Why Did My Value Increase?

How Can the Central Appraisal District Keep Raising My Value?

This Feels Illegal 

You didn’t do any work on your property and yet the value still increased. The taxes are crushing you and you may have wondered, “How is this even legal?” It might seem unfair, unjust, and downright illegal to be taxed out of your property. Unfortunately, it may not be fair, but it is legal. It all has to do with how properties are valued on a large-scale using market factors. 

Property Value Changes 

Texas law does not limit the amount of an increase or decrease to your property value by the Central Appraisal District (CAD). The CAD is tasked with finding what they determine to be your market value. They achieve this purpose by gathering sales of similar properties in the market.  Additionally, they gather market surveys regarding rents, expenses, and cap rates. Once they have this information, they look to see if the market values are trending up or down. They use this information to determine what happens to your value. Most often, the values in real estate trend upwards. This is likely why your value has continued to increase, even if you have not done anything to further improve the property.

CAD’s Limited Knowledge

The values determined are based on generalized models for the market[1]. It is highly unlikely that your property is exactly in line with the model. You may have some deferred maintenance, or there may have been an issue with your property during the past year that has negatively impacted you. This information is what the CAD is missing when valuing your property. It is through your protest that you may provide the CAD with this additional information and seek a lower value. As you prove your property is not in line with the model, the value should be reflected to show it. 

Here is a real-life example: one multifamily property owner I encountered had their property assessed and valued per the CAD’s model. The value increased. What the CAD didn’t know was the property had suffered a fire and lost an entire building of 16 units! The CAD was completely unaware that the property did not follow their model, and it appears the tax agent was unaware as well, since they did not file a protest. Unfortunately, the taxpayer was burdened with excessive taxes because their value was not reduced. Had an appeal been filed and the value reduced, the owner would have been able to use the tax savings to rehab the building in a more expedited manner.   

Don’t let this happen to you. 

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[1] Texas Property Tax Code §23.01

What is an Informal Meeting with the Central Appraisal District?

Informal Appraisal Meeting v. Appraisal Review Board Hearing 

When a taxpayer files an appeal of their property value, they are given a date that their protest will be heard by the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). This appeal will determine the final value of the property through the administrative process. However, before this hearing, a taxpayer may seek out an “informal” meeting with the county appraiser’s office in an attempt to settle the appeal. This allows both the appraisal office and the taxpayer to set the value for the property without the intervention of an ARB.

What to Do:

BEFORE THE MEETING

The first thing a taxpayer needs to do before their informal meeting with the appraisal district is examine their evidence. This should include the county’s evidence as well. After examining all the evidence, taxpayers must establish a justifiable value for their property and craft the narrative of their appeal (“My property’s value should be reduced because . . .”). Once they’ve done their homework, it is time to meet with the appraiser.

DURING THE MEETING

When having the informal meeting with the appraisal office, be sure to listen to what bit of evidence drove the county’s valuation. Where are they putting the most weight on in their argument? Was it a comparable sale in the market? Or maybe a new cap rate study? Be sure to listen to their argument; even if you cannot resolve the protest in the informal meeting, it will help you later in an ARB hearing. After meeting with the appraiser, try to rework your evidence using some of the data/numbers the county is using to bridge the gap between your valuations. It is ok to make concessions. If the number is higher than you find to be reasonable, then take your shot in front of the ARB. Otherwise, offer this new number to the appraisal district and see if that is agreeable to them.

The Wayfinder Way

These meetings can be extremely useful to taxpayers because they now know what the driving factor was in their property’s valuation. The meeting allows them to bypass a potentially risky ARB hearing to acquire a reduction in value. 

For help setting up or handling an informal meeting with an appraiser concerning your property valuation protests, ask how we can help.

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Why Are My Property Taxes So High?

You Need a Texas Multifamily Property Tax Specialist.

Why Your Taxes Keep Getting Higher 

Property taxes are determined based on the value of your property and the tax rates set by local jurisdictions. Since Texas does not allow income tax, the property taxes are higher than in other states. With multiple inputs, there may be many reasons why your tax bill is high. We will address a few of them in this article.

How Property is Valued 

Each year the Central Appraisal Districts (CAD) review and assess the value of your property.  As you might expect, most often the value increases. If you have not been contesting your value, this would definitely impact why your taxes seem high compared to others. Even though the CAD attempts to value every property fairly and equitably with others, it is a very difficult job.  They value thousands to hundreds of thousands of properties and cannot know your property personally. They use information they have gathered about the market to value properties en masse.  Hiring a tax agent to properly review your valuation each year and contest the value when appropriate can help keep the market value reduced, and thereby reduce your property taxes.

Why Tax Rates Matter

Another component of the tax bill is your tax rate. Even if your valuation stayed the same from last year, the tax rates may have increased. This would increase your tax bill. In the fall, the local districts have meetings to discuss their budget needs and proposed tax rates. This is really the only time you can voice your opinion about the tax rate. If you are not attending these meetings and letting your district know you want to keep the rate low, they will likely move forward with their proposal. 

Evaluating Your Agent 

If you have an agent who has been appealing your valuation and you still feel like your valuations are too high, then download the Property Tax Agent Checklist and rate your agent.  You may find out that it isn’t you, but it is your agent that is not giving you the representation you deserve.  Evaluate their fee, if it is a bargain price, you are likely getting bargain service.  Consider finding a Texas multifamily property tax specialist to take your results to the next level. 

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When Should You Hire A Property Tax Professional?

Anytime Of Year Is A Good Time To Get With A Property Tax Agent

Many Texas multifamily property owners already have representation concerning their noticed value protests. But not all. Whether you do it yourself–or even if you’ve never filed an appeal–you should engage with a property tax agent today to get specialized help with lowering your taxes.

2 Reasons You Need Specialized Help with Your Property Taxes

1. They can save you more than you can save yourself

If you do not have a property tax agent currently reviewing your properties’ values for potential protests, you should do so immediately. Agents specialize in property valuations–and in reducing them–to save you more on taxes. Doing these in-house may seem to save you money because you do not need to pay an agent’s fee, but you are most likely missing out on large tax savings every year that more than pays for the agent. In fact, most agents only charge a fee if they are successful in saving you money. Doing this work in-house creates more stress for you and your team members, requires the use of more resources, and often will result in suboptimal results. Getting expert representation is always advisable.

2. They can help you all year long

Now that you can see the value of a good agent, when should you reach out and engage with a firm for representation? The answer is: immediately. There is no bad time to start working with a good agent. If values have just come out, it means they can start preparing your case for appeal to an ARB and even court, if needed. If it has been months since your last appeal, an agent can review your portfolio for further reductions outside the normal appeal timeframe, or start prepping appeals for next year by doing site visits and learning your assets. Agents can, and should, even be providing you with tax estimates for budgeting purposes. There is no bad time to get with a great firm. A good agent can provide value no matter the season. 

If you do not yet have any representation for your Texas multifamily property, please visit Wayfindertaxrelief.com today and see what a specialist can do for you and your portfolio.

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