Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar

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2016 Court Decisions and AG Opinions

Decisions and Opinions


Listed below are 2016 decisions and opinions concerning various property tax issues. The list does not include all opinions and decisions concerning property tax. The summaries are provided by the Comptroller's office as a public service intended solely as an informational resource. The summaries are not intended as substitutes for or interpretations of the opinions and decisions summarized and should not be relied upon as such. The information provided neither constitutes nor serves as a substitute for legal advice. Questions regarding the meaning or interpretation of any information included or referenced herein should, as appropriate or necessary, be directed to an attorney or other appropriate counsel.

Courts of Appeals Decisions

  • Kirkwood v. Jefferson County, No. 09-15-00296-CV (Ninth Court of Appeals - Beaumont)
    (February 11, 2016)

    In this case, the question was whether the owner may attack a tax sale of his property, independent of the provisions of the Tax Code, and sue the county to prevent denial of the owner's possession of the property, because the owner was entitled to notice of the tax sale. The court of appeals reviewed the facts surrounding the tax sale - which arose out of a default judgment against the previous owner to collect unpaid property taxes - and found the property owner's due process rights had been violated for lack of notice. The appellate court held that the property owner had standing to bring his case, and that governmental immunity did not shield the county from the property owner's equitable claims for possession.

  • HDSA Westfield Lake, LLC v. Harris County Appraisal District, No. 14-15-00180-CV (Fourteenth Court of Appeals - Houston)
    (February 11, 2016)

    The question in this case is whether two CHDOs - low and moderate income community housing development organizations - were eligible owners under Tax Code section 11.182 to a continuation of the former owner's tax exempt status for the apartments each acquired. The appraisal district argued that the exemption continued only "upon a change in ownership when the property has been sold at a foreclosure sale and the purchasing organization shows the chief appraiser proof of its qualification for the exemption within 30 days of the sale." As the CHDOs acquired the apartments through a special purpose entity - and not directly - at foreclosure, the appraisal district contended they were not eligible owners.

    In holding that the two CHDOs were "entitled to a continuation of the ad valorem tax exemptions under section 11.182," the court of appeals noted that the following facts were undisputed: 1) the two apartment properties had been purchased at a foreclosure sale; 2) each CHDO qualified as such under Tax Code section 11.182; and 3) both CHDOs held legal title to the apartments at the time they filed timely and complete applications for continuation of the exemptions establishing they were qualifying CHDOs. The court of appeals agreed with the two CHDOs' assertion that "[n]othing in the plain language [of the statute]. . . suggests that passing title through a special purpose entity will avoid an exemption."

  • Cameron County Appraisal District v. Rourk, No. 13-15-00026-CV (Thirteenth Court of Appeals - Corpus Christi-Edinburg)
    (January 28, 2016)

    Owners of travel trailers and recreational vehicles sued the appraisal district and its chief appraiser under the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act (UDJA) seeking attorneys fees and a declaration "that the assessment of ad valorem taxes on their respective travel trailers and recreational vehicles" was illegal. The owners claimed the chief appraiser "committed ultra vires acts that do not merit the protection of the governmental or official immunity." The trial court agreed with the property owners, finding that the chief appraiser: (1) "acted without authority and in violation of statutory and constitutional provision in assessing the travel trailers and/or park models"; (2) "failed to perform a purely ministerial act"; and (3) committed the acts in "violation of Texas Tax Tax Code §11.14 (West 2008)". The trial judge also awarded the owners $70,848.48 in attorney's fees under the UDJA. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment. It held that "applying the tax code's exemptions requires discretion" (and, therefore, is not purely ministerial); that the owners failed to state a valid ultra vires claim against the chief appraiser; and that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the appraisal district.

  • Jack County Appraisal District v. Jack County Hospital District, No. 02-14-00188-CV (Second Court of Appeals - Fort Worth)
    (January 14, 2016)

    The question in this case is whether an agreement between an equipment company and a hospital district (a political subdivision) to lease a CT scanner used for public purposes at a hospital is exempt from taxation under Tax Code Section 11.11 which applies to public property. Under this particular agreement, title to the scanner would remain in the company during the lease term; the hospital district was required to pay all property taxes on it. At the expiration of the lease term, the hospital district had the right to purchase the CT scanner for "Fair Market Value".

    In April 2012, the company rendered the CT scanner to the appraisal district for tax purposes which appraised it for $571,560 and sent notice of the appraised value to the company. The appraisal district also sent two tax bills to the company. The company did not file a protest, but paid the taxes totaling $19,578.71. Thereafter, the company billed the hospital district for the taxes paid. This bill was the hospital district's first notice that the appraisal district had appraised the CT scanner for tax purposes. The hospital district filed a protest, which was denied; thereafter the hospital district appealed the county appraisal review board's decision to district court, which found for the hospital district.

    The court of appeals determined that Tax Code Section 11.11(h) did not require that legal title to the property "automatically" pass to the governmental entity at the end of the lease term. Rather, so long as the political subdivision "is entitled to compel delivery of the legal property" at the end of the lease term, the political subdivision is considered the owner of the property for tax exempt purposes. It held that the hospital district had "established, as a matter of law, that it was the owner of the CT scanner as defined in section 11.11(h), and therefore, the CT scanner was exempt from taxation under section 11.11(a)."

Attorney General Opinions

  • Opinion No. KP-0081
    (May 3, 2016)

    Re: Whether Tax Code section 33.06 authorizes ad valorem property tax deferral on mixed-use property (RQ-0067-KP)

    The Attorney General set forth the following conclusion in his summary:

    A court would likely conclude that section 33.06 of the Tax Code impliedly authorizes a district to investigate facts recited in an affidavit for deferral, request additional information, and allow or deny a deferral as warranted by the law and facts. An appraisal district may grant deferral on mixed-use property provided that all uses are compatible with occupancy as a residence homestead. Whether an owner occupies an entire parcel as a residence homestead will depend on the particular facts.

    Section 33.06 of the Tax Code does not authorize an appraisal district to require a property owner to provide a survey at the owner's expense in order to claim entitlement to tax deferral under subsection 33.06(a) of the Tax Code.

  • Opinion No. KP-0072
    (March 17, 2016)

    Re: Whether a school district, municipality, or county may reduce or repeal the local option homestead exemption from the amount that was adopted for the 2014 tax year through the 2019 tax year (RQ-0082-KP)

    The Attorney General set forth the following conclusion in his summary:

    Subsection l 1.13(n-1) of the Tax Code prohibits a school district, municipality or county from repealing or reducing the local option homestead exemption from the amount that was adopted for the 2014 tax year through the 2019 tax year.

  • Opinion No. KP-0066
    (February 16, 2016)

    Re: Whether land owned by the Texas A&M University System, and improvements on that land, are exempt from ad valorem taxation (RQ-0049-KP)

    The Attorney General set forth the following conclusion in his summary:

    Property is exempt under Tax Code section 11.11 if a public entity holds legal or equitable title to the property and the property is used for public purposes. An owner who has the present right to compel legal title holds equitable title. A court is likely to determine that under subsection 11.11(e), property held or dedicated for the support, maintenance, or benefit of an institution or institutions of higher education that is leased to students or employees of such institution or institutions is tax exempt. If such property is leased to provide private residential housing to members of the public other than students and employees of the institution or institutions, the property may lose its exemption under subsection 11.11(e) of the Tax Code, in whole or in part.

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