2013 Attorney General Opinions and Court Decisions
If you do not already have it, you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print the PDF file.
Listed below are recent opinions and decisions concerning various property tax issues. The list is 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. Additionally, 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
This case involves a suit to recover delinquent ad valorem taxes. As set forth by the appellate court:
Appellants are seventeen different corporations that own and operate shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico out of Port Lavaca, Calhoun County, Texas. On July 11, 2005, the Appraisal District filed suit pursuant to section 33.41 of the Texas Tax Code seeking to recover delinquent ad valorem taxes imposed against appellants for the tax years of 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 33.41 (West 2008). For those tax years, appellants alleged that the Appraisal District failed to send them ad valorem tax notices. The Appraisal District claims in its brief that it sent notice to the previous owners of the shrimp boats in Matagorda County, Texas. It is undisputed that the previous owners are now appellants’ shareholders.
The Appraisal District filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The property owners appealed.
In its analysis, the appellate court noted:
When a taxing unit introduces its delinquent tax notices into evidence, a prima facie case is established as to every material fact necessary to establish its cause of action. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 33.47(a) (West 2008); Maximum Med. Improvement, Inc. v. County of Dallas, 272 S.W.3d 832, 835 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.). A rebuttable presumption then arises that the taxing entity has taken all actions necessary to obtain legal authority to levy the tax, including proper delivery of all required tax notices. Maximum Med. Improvement, Inc., 272 S.W.3d at 835. However, there is no presumption of notice if the identity of the party named as owner of the property on the Appraisal District tax roll does not match the identity of the defendant sued for non-payment. Id. at 836–37 (“Although Section 33.47(a) provides a rebuttable presumption, if the identity of the entity named as the owner does not match the identity of the defendant sued for non-payment, no presumption arises as to the defendant . . . .”) (citing Pete Dominguez Enters. v. County of Dallas, 188 S.W.3d 385, 387 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2006, no pet.)).
In response to the Appraisal District’s motion for summary judgment in the trial court, the property owners filed copies of “the property appraisals from the Appraisal District’s website showing that the [property owners] were not listed as the owners of the properties at issue . . . during the 2002 and 2003 tax years.” The appellate court stated:
This constitutes evidence that the identity of the property owners listed in the Appraisal District tax rolls for the 2002 and 2003 tax years does not match the appellants’ identities. Therefore, any presumption of notice disappeared. . . . .The Appraisal District also argues that the Appraisal District records attached to appellants’ response neither proves nor disproves that notice was properly sent. However, it is reasonable to conclude that the Appraisal District sent notice of the taxes to the persons listed as the owners of the properties at the addresses listed in its own records as required by statute. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 1.07(b) (West Supp. 2011) (requiring the taxing entity to address the tax notice to the property owner, or his agent, at the address according to the most recent record in the possession of the property taxing entity). Moreover, as previously stated, the presumption of notice did not arise in this case, and the Appraisal District has offered no evidence that notice was given.
The Appraisal District argued that the property owners should have filed a protest under Section 41.411 or 25.25(c) of the Tax Code. The appellate court noted that the pre-2008 version of Section 41.411 applicable to the case would not have permitted the property owners to file a protest if they did not receive notice before the taxes became delinquent. Similarly, the appellate court held that because there was no evidence indicating that the property owners received notice of the delinquent taxes before the Appraisal District filed suit, there is a question of fact as to whether the property owners could have filed a complaint pursuant to Section 25.25. The appellate noted that “Section 25.25 does not provide for a challenge to the taxes on the basis that the taxpayer did not receive notice.”
The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.