2014 Attorney General Opinions and Court Decisions
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.
Attorney General Opinions
The Attorney General set forth the following conclusion in its summary:
A court would likely conclude that chapter 26 of the Tax Code does not conflict with or preempt a city charter provision that requires voter approval before municipal ad valorem taxes may be imposed.
The Attorney General set forth the following conclusions in its summary:
Under section 26.07 of the Tax Code, if a municipality's ad valorem rollback rate is zero and it adopts a tax rate above zero, the qualified voters of the municipality by petition may require that an election be held to determine whether or not to reduce the ad valorem tax rate back to zero.
Article VIII, section 1-b(h) of the Texas Constitution requires a municipality with an ad valorem tax rate of zero, upon receiving a properly filed petition from five percent of authorized voters, to hold an election to determine whether to freeze the total amount of ad valorem taxes imposed on property that is subject to a residence homestead exemption owned by a person that is disabled or is 65 years of age or older.
Opinion No. GA-1047 Re: Whether Education Code section 11.301 authorizes the citizens of Harris County to use repealed chapter 18 of the Education Code to increase the county equalization tax (RQ-1152-GA)
Summary: A court would likely conclude that section 11.301 and former chapter 18 of the Education Code do not authorize a countywide school district to hold a petition-initiated election to increase the county equalization tax.
Opinion No. GA-1040 Re: The authority of a county appraisal district to place excess funds in a capital improvement fund or to spend excess funds on a one-time, lump-sum payment to its employees (RQ-1143-GA)
Summary: An expenditure an appraisal district has committed during the fiscal year to meet or secure an obligation is an expenditure that is obligated to be spent under subsection 6.06(j) of the Tax Code. Only "payments made or due to be made by the taxing units" should be included in the excess-funds calculation and returned or credited back to the taxing units as required by subsection 6.06(j). Excess funds must be returned or credited to the participating taxing units as required by subsection 6.06(j). The fact that a particular line item is not “prepared in the proposed budget” by the June 15 deadline is not by itself fatal to the expenditure. The budget process in section 6.06 does not prevent amendments to the proposed budget after the public hearing process and before the budget is finally approved. A proposed salary increase is likely not unconstitutional under Texas Constitution article III, section 53 if it operates prospectively from the time of its proper authorization. An appraisal district's participating taxing units may utilize section 6.10 of the Tax Code to disapprove the amendment of a budget by an appraisal district board.
Courts of Appeals Decisions
The First Court of Appeals in Houston reconsidered its previous opinion in the case (issued August 13, 2013, reversing the trial court's decision). In its opinion on rehearing, the court withdrew its earlier opinion and judgment; affirmed the trial court's decision; and held that the taxpayer's motion under section 25.25(c) of the Tax Code "was untimely under the applicable regulatory scheme." In so doing, the court refused the taxpayer's request "to correct an error in its rendition statement – not in the appraisal roll – that resulted in an incorrect appraised value for its property."
"[T]he dispute,” according to the court, is “whether the correct entity pursued the appeal of the [appraisal district] valuation and, if not, whether a procedural mechanism exists under the Tax Code to correct the misidentification and avoid dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
The court noted that “John Sheehan, Robert Gowan, and Barden Patterson executed a special warranty deed on November 12, 1997, conveying property to Town & Country” Suites, L.C., the current property owner. However, a notice of protest regarding the property’s appraisal value in 2012, the appraisal review board’s “Order Determining the Protest,” and the appeal in district court of this board order were all filed by or addressed to Sheehan, Gowan and Patterson, or variations of the prior owners’ last names. There was no dispute that the property was correctly identified; there was no dispute that Town & Country was the current owner of the property.
After noting that section 42.21 of the Tax Code was amended in 2013 to add a new subsection – subsection (h) – the court summarized its understanding of the relevant portions of the Tax Code at issue as follows:
This memorandum opinion upheld the dismissal of the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction due to the property owner’s failure to tender taxes for the years in dispute (2009 and 2010). The property owner claimed that governmental and administrative restrictions on his property made it worthless and therefore no taxes should be due. The Court upheld the jurisdictional nature of Tax Code Section 42.08, as well as its constitutionality. In response to the property owner’s argument that because the property was worthless the amount of taxes not in dispute would be zero, the Court opined: “Subsection 42.08(b)(1), however, only applies when the property owner ‘elects to pay the amount of taxes described by Subsection (b)(1)’ and the property owner’s suit for judicial review is ‘accompanied by a statement in writing of the amount of taxes the property owner proposes to pay’ before the delinquency date, as allowed by subsection 42.08(b)(1). If he does not make the election, the property owner will be required to pay the full amount of taxes unless he substantially complies with section 42.08 pursuant to subsection 42.08(d). If he does neither, the property owner forfeits his right to judicial review.”
The case deals with the trial court’s grant of the Harris County Appraisal District’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissal of the case based on the failure of the property owner to substantially comply with Tax Code Section 42.08 regarding payment of taxes. The property owner owed over $13,000 in taxes for 2011, paid them in full on April 19, 2012, after the jurisdictional plea was filed by the District, and then filed an oath of inability to pay. The court of appeals reaffirmed that compliance with section 42.08’s prepayment requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite to subject matter jurisdiction. It held that the property owner failed to prove that it was unable to pay the taxes before the delinquency date. “We conclude that the trial court’s findings and conclusions that KMR Minden failed to demonstrate an inability to pay its taxes and that section 42.08’s prepayment requirement did not constitute an unreasonable restraint on its access to the courts were supported by evidence on the record. We therefore hold that the trial court did not err in granting HCAD’s plea to the jurisdiction.”
In this case, the Parker County Appraisal District appealed a decision of the trial court in favor of James D. Francis, the property owner. The principal issue in the case was “whether under the Tax Code a tract of property may qualify for the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation at the same time.” Francis owned three contiguous tracts of land: a three acre tract (which had been granted an open space land valuation), a one acre tract (on which Francis’ home is located), and a nine acre tract of land. In 2010 and 2011, Francis applied for the residence homestead exemption on the three acre tract. The applications were denied by the appraisal district and the appraisal review board. On appeal to the district court, the court ruled in favor of Francis applying the residence homestead exemption to the three-acre tract and also valued the tract as open-space land for 2010 and 2011. The appraisal district appealed the trial court ruling in favor of Francis claiming that the trial court erred as a “matter of law by holding that the three-acre tract qualified for both open-space land valuation and also a residence homestead exemption.” After describing the relevant Tax Code provisions, the court states: “…Francis argues, and we agree, that juxtaposing section 23.25 [Appraisal of Land Used for Single-Family Residential Purposes That Is Contiguous to Agricultural or Open-Space Land with Common Ownership] and Section 23.01(d) [market value of a residence homestead] , the tax code implicitly contemplates that under the circumstances existing here, a parcel of land may qualify for both the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation.” The appellate court also agrees with Francis’s contention that “had the legislature intended to preclude open-space land from also being used as a residence homestead, it could have utilized the phrase “designated for agricultural use” in setting the criteria for open-space land as it did in setting the criteria for agricultural-use land.” The appellate court also agrees with Francis’s argument based on Sec. 23.55(i) “that if the ‘use’ of the open-space land does not change when the residence homestead exemption is claimed on the open-space land, then the use is still principally agricultural, and the open-space land is still qualified to be open-space land and to receive the open-space land valuation.” Consequently to hold that qualified open-space land may not subsequently and simultaneously be claimed as part of a residence homestead would render Sec. 23.55(i) meaningless. Based on these arguments the appellate court affirms the trial court judgment and holds that Francis’ three-acre tract qualified for both the residence homestead exemption and the open-space land valuation of the years 2010 and 2011.
The case concerned whether or not certain motor oil, grease, and gear oil was entitled to an exemption as Freeport goods under Tax Code Section 11.251. The court held as follows: “In summary, the Freeport exemption does not apply to petroleum products that are immediate derivatives of the refining of oil or natural gas. It is undisputed that base oil, which is produced through the refining process at a refinery, is an immediate derivative of the refining process. Ashland’s evidence supporting its summary-judgment motion demonstrates that once base oil is combined with numerous raw materials in a manufacturing process using trade secrets and patented technologies that are confidential and proprietary, in separate facilities that are not refineries, a new product is created that is no longer an immediate derivative of the refining of oil or natural gas. On this record, Ashland has conclusively demonstrated that its motor oil, grease, and gear oil are entitled to the Freeport exemption.”
The property owners protested the value of their property, and the Harris County Appraisal Review Board reduced the value based on the property owners’ agent’s sworn testimony at the ARB hearing and a hearing affidavit. The property owners timely appealed the ARB order, and the district court granted the Harris County Appraisal District’s motion for summary judgment. “In reviewing the summary judgment in favor of the appraisal district, we consider whether the doctrine of judicial estoppel precluded the property owners from asserting on appeal in the district court that the appraised value of the property should be less than the value to which the property owners’ agent testified before the appraisal review board. We conclude that the district court had jurisdiction over the appeal, and that the property owners exhausted their administrative remedies and have standing to appeal. Because the summary-judgment evidence does not establish as a matter of law the appraisal district’s entitlement to summary judgment based on the sole ground asserted, judicial estoppel, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand.” The court of appeals stated that a trial de novo is permitted in the Tax Code and “any statement in the Hearing Affidavit or at the Formal Hearing cannot be a basis for application of the judicial-estoppel doctrine in the district court.”
The property owners protested the value of their property, and the Harris County Appraisal Review Board (ARB) lowered the value based on an unsworn statement of the owners’ agent indicating an opinion of value. The property owners timely appealed the ARB order. The appraisal district and ARB were granted a summary judgment that the owners had no standing to bring the suit and that judicial estoppel prevented the district court’s intervention. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court of appeals concluded that “the Tax Code allows the Patels to appeal the order of the Review Board on their protest to the district court for review by trial de novo. The Patels have standing to appeal this order to the district court, and they have exhausted their administrative remedies. Under this court’s precedent, any statement in the Hearing Affidavit cannot be a basis for application of the judicial-estoppel doctrine in the district court, and the trial court erred in granting the Appraisal District’s summary judgment motion.”
The Court issued a memorandum opinion upholding the collection of delinquent property taxes on affordable housing property. The City of Dallas foreclosed on the property in 2010 because the owner was in default on a loan from the City (not a tax foreclosure). Property taxes were delinquent from 2006—2010, and the taxing units filed suit for collection of the taxes in 2011. The owner claimed that the City's foreclosure extinguished the delinquent taxes and made other arguments regarding ownership and the withholding of certain funds under the owner's Section 8 Voucher Program Agreement. The Court disagreed and concluded that "the evidence supports the trial court's finding the delinquent ad valorem taxes remained unpaid after the deed foreclosure sale took place." Therefore, the judgment in favor of the taxing units for payment of over $8,000 in delinquent taxes was affirmed. The award of court costs and abstract fees was reversed, as the Court held that "the Taxing Authorities did not need to initiate this suit in order to collect taxes owed by DCH."
The taxing authorities foreclosed a tax lien on a “large piece of commercial property in Grand Prairie” and sold the property for payment of over $900,000 in delinquent taxes. After the sale, over $1 million in excess proceeds were deposited in the court’s registry. Based on Tax Code Section 34.04(a), the taxing units claimed the excess proceeds on the theory that the former owners (the Sides) had abandoned title to the property. The Court held that Texas law does not recognize the theory of abandonment of title to real property and that the person(s) with legal title to property is generally considered to be the owner for purposes of taxation. Since the Sides held title to the property before it was sold, the Court determined that they had a right to claim the excess proceeds as the former owner under Tax Code Section 34.04(c)(2). The court affirmed the trial court’s order relating to excess proceeds, which was that post-judgment taxes be paid from the proceeds and the remaining balance released to the former owners.
The property that was the subject of the dispute was pollution control equipment for which the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had issued a positive use determination for property tax exemption qualification. The issue in the case was whether an agreement between the parties under Tax Code Section 1.111(e) in 2004 that the property was exempt as pollution control equipment precluded the appraisal district from removing the exemption as erroneously granted for tax years 2004—2007. The court of appeals held that the statutory provision stating that agreements are final “means that the appraisal district may not take subsequent action that is contrary to that agreement, even in situations in which the Property Tax Code would otherwise allow it to reconsider a previous decision.” The court concluded “the parties entered into a valid agreement under Section 1.111(e) to grant the exemption in 2004 and that the agreement prevented the District from removing the exemption.”
The case involves a property owner who filed a motion in 2012 to correct the 2010 appraisal roll under Tax Code Section 25.25. No tax payment was tendered at any time for the business personal property in dispute. The taxpayer contended that the appraisal review board had a duty to inform him of the need to pay taxes on the value not in dispute and that he did not have adequate funds to pay the taxes. No affidavit or oath of inability to pay was filed. “Although section 42.08(d) does not specify what evidence must be offered or what items a taxpayer must prove to establish that it was financially unable to pay the assessed taxes at issue, the taxpayer must still establish its inability to pay by a preponderance of the evidence before it may be excused from the prepayment requirement.” Further, the court stated that “the Board was under no obligation to include this specific information in its order.” The court concluded that the taxpayer did not substantially comply with either subsection 42.08(b) or 42.08(d) of the Tax Code and the case was properly dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
The case deals with an amendment to Tax Code Section 22.23(c) to encourage property owners to render business personal property that had been previously omitted from the appraisal rolls in 2003 by granting a one-time “amnesty” in the form of exemption from retroactive appraisal of that property for tax years 2001 and 2002. In this case, Honeywell filed an amnesty rendition for 2003 for over $102 million. The appraisal district prepared supplemental appraisal records and issued a new appraisal notice for 2003. Honeywell protested claiming that “the Texas Tax Code does not authorize any change in property account value after certification.” The court held that “there was evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that Honeywell had previously undisclosed property in Denton County that was omitted from the 2003 appraisal roll because it did not disclose the omission until the fall of 2003.” The courted stated that “the 2003 rendition reveals that Honeywell failed to list machinery and equipment, supplies, tools, and a vehicle in the 2001 rendition and that during the intervening years, Honeywell had acquired approximately $100 million more in inventory, $540,000 more in furniture and fixtures, and $370,000 more in computers.” The court held that “the District had the authority, pursuant to Sections 25.21 and 25.23 of the Tax Code, to add the business personal property omitted by Honeywell to the 2003 appraisal roll after it had been certified.”
Galveston Central Appraisal District v. TRQ Captain’s Landing, A Texas Limited Partnership and American Housing Foundation, A Texas Non-Profit Corporation, No. 07-0010 (Texas Supreme Court)
(January 17, 2014)
This cases involves a claimed exemption under Tax Code §11.182. The Court addresses two issues: (1) whether a community housing development organization (CHDO) must have legal title to the property to qualify for the exemption, and (2) whether the CHDO’s application for exemption was timely. As set forth by the Court:
TRQ Captain’s Landing, L.P., has legal title to Captain’s Landing Apartments. American Housing Foundation formed and became the sole member of CD Captain’s Landing, LLC, which in turn acquired TRQ by purchasing the limited partners’ 99% interest and acquiring TRQ’s general partner, which owns 1% of the limited partnership. Thus, the Foundation completely controls the LLC, which owns and controls the LP, which owns the apartments.
The Foundation, a Texas nonprofit corporation, is a CHDO; the LLC and the LP are not. The LLC, the day it acquired the LP, applied for a tax exemption under section 11.182. Section 11.182(b) states that “[a]n organization is entitled to an exemption from taxation of improved or unimproved real property it owns” if the organization is a CHDO and meets certain other requirements. The Galveston Central Appraisal District denied the exemption on the ground that the LLC did not own the property. The LP filed a notice of protest, providing records to show the relationship between the property, the LP, the LLC, and the Foundation, and the Foundation’s status as a CHDO, but the Appraisal Review Board denied the protest. The Foundation and the LP then sued for a declaration that they are entitled to the exemption. The trial court granted summary judgment for the District and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment.
A divided court of appeals reversed, holding that “an otherwise qualified equitable property owner may obtain an exemption from ad valorem taxes pursuant to subsection 11.182(b)”, and that plaintiffs’ application for an exemption was timely under section 11.436. We granted the District’s petition for review, but after we heard oral argument, the Foundation sought protection in bankruptcy, and we abated the case. The bankruptcy trustee and the District now agree that this case is no longer stayed. We therefore vacate our order abating this cause and reinstate this matter on the active docket.
While the case was abated, we addressed section 11.182(b)’s ownership requirement in AHF-Arbors. The CHDO in that case was Atlantic Housing Foundation, Inc., a South Carolina nonprofit corporation. Atlantic was the sole member of two limited liability companies — the “Arbors” — each of which owned an apartment complex as its sole asset. The Arbors unsuccessfully applied for the tax exemptions available to a CHDO, and sought judical review. We held that a CHDO’s equitable ownership of property qualifies for an exemption under section 11.182(b), specifically noting our agreement with the reasoning of the court of appeals in the case now before us. AHF-Arbors is thus dispositive of the ownership issue in the present case.
The District here additionally contends that the application for an exemption was untimely. Generally, eligibility for an exemption is determined as of January 1 of the year in which the exemption is sought, and a person must apply for the exemption before May 1 of that year. Because the plaintiffs did not apply for an exemption until December of the year at issue, on the day the Foundation’s LLC acquired the LP, the District argues that the application was late. But section 11.436(a) provided at the time:
An organization that acquires property that qualifies for an exemption under Section 11.181(a) or 11.182(a) may apply for the exemption for the year of acquisition not later than the 30th day after the date the organization acquires the property, and the deadline provided by Section 11.43(d) does not apply to the application for that year.
The District argues that the relevant occurrence was not the LLC’s acquisition of the LP but the LP’s acquisition of the apartments years earlier. We agree with the court of appeals that this argument is based on the District’s position that an exemption must be based only on legal title, which we have rejected. Under section 11.436, the Foundation’s application, made within thirty days of the date it acquired equitable title to the apartments, was timely.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the trial court.
This case involves numerous challenges to a trial court judgment regarding the valuation of saltwater disposal wells. The factual and procedural backgrounds are relatively complex:
Davis Vacuum Services purchased a tract of land and the saltwater disposal well located on it on April 18, 2007. This well was known as the Davis #2. In December 2010, Davis merged with Key Energy Services, LLC. Key calls this well the Davis #5. Key leases the land on which its saltwater disposal well, known as the Davis #3, is located pursuant to a lease with John and Deborah Leggett, the owners of the land. The lease has been in effect since December 2005. Prior to 2007, the wells had been valued at approximately $300,000.00 each for purposes of ad valorem taxation. The valuations increased dramatically in 2007 and remained at that level thereafter. Key protested the valuations for the years 2007 through 2010. The Shelby County Appraisal Review Board heard the protests and determined that it would make no changes. Key appealed that decision to the trial court for a trial de novo, naming SCAD and the Shelby County Appraisal Review Board as defendants. Key later nonsuited the appraisal review board, and Key’s claims against it were dismissed.
Key filed a declaratory judgment action asking the trial court to declare that its protests to the 2007 tax year appraisal and assessment were timely and that the appraisal roll entries for the two wells for the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 tax years are void. Key argued that the appraisal roll entries are void because they fail to appraise the wells in the manner required by law and fail to describe the property accurately or in proper categories. Alternatively, Key challenged the assessments for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 as excessive. Key filed a motion for summary judgment requesting judgment on the 2007 tax year for the well known as the Davis #5 and that the appraisals and assessments for both wells for all four tax years are void for failure to properly describe and categorize the property. Alternatively, Key requested judgment that its challenges concerning the 2007 tax year were timely. SCAD filed a motion for partial summary judgment asking the court to find that the wells are real property subject to taxation. The trial court sent a letter to the parties, on December 17, 2010, asking one of the attorneys to prepare an order reflecting a ruling that Key’s motion for summary judgment was denied and SCAD’s motion was granted. Key filed a second motion for partial summary judgment requesting a declaratory judgment that the wells are personalty or that the Davis #3 be taxed to the landowner, John Leggett.
SCAD filed a third party petition for declaratory judgment against John and Deborah Leggett, the owners of the land on which the Davis #3 sits, requesting the court determine if the property is taxable to Key or the Leggetts. In response, the Leggetts sought rescission of Key’s lease and attorney’s fees.
The case was submitted to the trial court without a jury. At the close of the trial, the Leggetts nonsuited their claims against Key. The court denied Key’s request to change the valuation of the wells for any of the years under review and denied Key’s claims with respect to the 2007 valuation due to lack of jurisdiction. Further, the court denied all requests for relief pursuant to the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act and ordered each party to bear its own costs and attorney’s fees. Key requested findings of fact and conclusions of law but none were filed. Key appealed the trial court’s judgment.
The first issue addressed by the appellate court is Key’s challenge to the trial court’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction to consider claims concerning the 2007 tax year as a result of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. As set forth by the appellate court:
Relying on tax code Section 31.04(a-1), Key argues that it timely filed a notice of protest with the appraisal review board and timely paid the amount of taxes not in dispute, thus complying with jurisdictional prerequisites. SCAD asserts that Section 31.04(a-1) does not apply because this case presents a supplemental appraisal decision, not an omitted property question. This distinction is important because it dictates the applicable delinquency date.
. . . .
The record shows that the subject properties were not included in the original 2007 appraisal roll or tax roll. However, by notice dated September 7, 2007, SCAD notified Davis Vacuum Services of the 2007 appraisal of each well. That notice letter advised Davis that it had until October 9, 2007, to file a written protest with the appraisal review board and even enclosed a form to send in for that purpose. SCAD certified supplemental appraisal records regarding the subject properties on December 26, 2007. On January 10, 2008, SCAD delivered to the Shelby County Tax Assessor-Collector the supplemental appraisal roll containing the two wells. The two accounts were added to the tax assessor-collector’s tax rolls on February 11, 2008. The original 2007 tax bills were mailed to Davis Vacuum on February 15, 2008. Davis sent two checks for the base tax amounts to the tax assessor-collector on October 6, 2008. These checks were returned to Davis. On December 16, 2008, Davis filed two protests with the appraisal review board. One is entitled “Motion to Correct Alleged Error in Appraisal Roll.” This motion cites to Section 25.25(c) and alleges that the appraisal roll entry reflects a clerical error, multiple appraisals in a tax year, or the inclusion of property that does not exist in the form or at the location described in the appraisal roll. Specifically, the alleged error is described as use of an inappropriate appraisal technique. The second motion is entitled “Motion to Correct Alleged 1/3 Over-Appraisal Error” and is made pursuant to Section 25.25(d) and (e).
Addressing the protest deadline, the appellate court stated:
The purpose of Section 25.25(c) is to allow late changes to otherwise finalized appraisal records only in situations where the decision to make the change is based on an objective, factual determination and the payment of taxes based on the uncorrected records would be fundamentally unfair. GE Capital Corp. v. Dallas Cent. Appraisal Dist., 971 S.W.2d 591, 593 (Tex. App.–Dallas 1998, no pet.). These limited corrections include only objective and ministerial matters such as clerical errors. Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543. They do not include the substantive reevaluation of a property’s market value. Id. Here, the 25.25(c) motion to correct the appraisal roll raised a complaint requesting a substantive reevaluation of the property’s market value. Thus, the 25.25(c) motion was not the proper vehicle to address Key’s complaint. Id.
Addressing the date of delinquency, the appellate court stated:
Section 25.25(d), however, contains a provision specifically directed at changing the appraisal roll due to an incorrect appraised value. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.25(d) (West Supp. 2013). This section extends the time to file a challenge to the appraised value of land for properties that have been significantly overvalued due to an error. Anderton, 26 S.W.3d at 543. To be entitled to a correction under Section 25.25(d), the motion must be filed before the taxes become delinquent, the incorrect appraised value must exceed the correct appraised value by one-third, and the property owner must pay a penalty. TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.25(d); Dallas Cent. Appraisal Dist. v. G.T.E. Directories Corp., 905 S.W.2d 318, 320 (Tex. App.–Dallas 1995, writ denied).
Here, the parties disagree about the applicable delinquency date. Generally, taxes are due on receipt of the tax bill and are delinquent if not paid before February 1 of the year following the year in which the taxes were imposed. TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 31.02(a) (West 2008). Therefore, ordinarily, the extension under 25.25(d) ends on February 1 of the year following the tax year, the date the yearly property taxes become delinquent. However, if a tax bill is mailed after January 10, the delinquency date provided by Section 31.02 is postponed to the first day of the next month that will provide a period of at least twenty-one days after the date of mailing for payment of taxes before they become delinquent. TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 31.04(a) (West 2008). Here, the 2007 tax bill was mailed on February 15, 2008. Relying on Section 31.04(a), under which the delinquency date is April 1, 2008, SCAD argues that the 25.25(d) motion and Key’s payment of taxes were late because Key did not meet the April 1, 2008 deadline.
Key asserts that the applicable deadline is provided for in Section 31.04(a-1), which states as follows:
If a tax bill is mailed that includes taxes for one or more preceding tax years because the property was erroneously omitted from the tax roll in those tax years, the delinquency date provided by Section 31.02 is postponed to February 1 of the first year that will provide a period of at least 180 days after the date the tax bill is mailed in which to pay the taxes before they become delinquent.
TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 31.04(a-1) (West 2008). Applicability of Section 31.04(a-1) hinges on whether property was “erroneously omitted from the tax roll” in 2007. The chief appraiser’s listing of all taxable property in the district and its appraisal value constitutes the appraisal records. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.01. The appraisal roll with amounts of tax entered as approved by the governing body constitutes the unit’s tax roll. TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.24 (West 2008). Key’s argument is that, literally, the property did not appear on the tax roll in 2007, but was added in 2008. Therefore, the argument continues, Section 31.04(a-1) applies, making the delinquency date February 1, 2009, after Key attempted to pay the base taxes.
While we appreciate Key’s efforts to follow the plain language of the statute, there is a distinction to be made here. As SCAD explains, this was a supplemental appraisal decision, not an omitted property question. Robert Pigg, Chief Appraiser at SCAD, testified by deposition that the two properties had “existed in some form in the past.” He explained that the reason the appraisal notices were late was that Pritchard & Abbott (P&A), the private evaluation consulting firm hired by SCAD, was “trying to gather some information to value these the way they felt they should be valued.” The critical point is that the appraisal record was supplemented in 2007. The fact that the tax roll was supplemented in 2008 did not turn a late appraisal into an omitted one. Thus, because the property was not “erroneously omitted from the tax roll” in 2007, Section 31.04(a-1) does not apply. Section 31.04(a) applies, making the delinquency date April 1, 2008. Section 42.08 requires the property owner to pay taxes due on the portion of the taxable value of the property that is not in dispute before the date the taxes become delinquent or the property owner forfeits the right to appeal. TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 42.08 (West Supp. 2013). Section 25.25(e) specifies that the movant must comply with Section 42.08. Key sent two checks for the base tax amounts in October 2008. Key’s failure to comply with Section 42.08, and to exhaust the required administrative remedies, deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over the 2007 tax year complaint. See Rourk, 194 S.W.3d at 502.
In addressing a challenge Key made as to SCAD’s categorization and description of Key’s saltwater disposal facilities, the appellate court stated:
. . . Key contends the trial court erred by allowing SCAD to value Key’s saltwater disposal facilities as categorized and described when SCAD admitted that the facilities were made up of both personal and real property and the descriptions were impermissibly vague. Key argues that SCAD was required to identify the property, place it into its proper statutory categories (real or personal), and then describe and value it appropriately. Key contends that SCAD commingled the real and personal property into a single property tax account for each facility. As a result, Key argues, “[T]hese accounts fail as legally inadequate to provide sufficient notice as to what is being taxed.” Key requests this court to void the appraisals.
The tax code requires appraisal records to be in a particular form and to include certain specified information. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.02 (West 2008). The statute also requires the appraisal district to send notice of appraised value to property owners and that notice must include certain information. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 25.19 (West 2008). However, Key has not identified the specific SCAD record or document it contends fails to follow the statute. Further, Key has not provided a record reference showing where this issue was raised in the trial court. Key has also failed to provide authority for the assertion that it is entitled to have the appraisals voided based on SCAD’s record keeping.
The tax notices we found in the record specified the SCAD property identification number, the name of the well, and the Railroad Commission identification number. Other documents contain the name, the general location, and the Railroad Commission identification number. [SCAD’s expert witness] testified that the real property component was valued separately from the personal property component and then the values were combined. We conclude that SCAD provided sufficient notice as to what it was taxing. Even assuming that sending a tax bill stating the full amount of tax owed without itemizing is error, the supreme court has ruled that including property in an incorrect category does not exempt it from taxation. See Matagorda Cnty. Appraisal Dist. v. Coastal Liquids Partners, L.P., 165 S.W.3d 329, 335 (Tex. 2005).
Regarding Key’s contention labeled by the appellate court as “Estate or Interest,” the court stated and held:
. . . Key contends the trial court erred by allowing SCAD to attribute taxable value to Key by categorizing each facility as an “estate or interest” in land when the taxes on the land had already been assessed to Key for one facility and to the Leggetts for the other facility. Specifically, Key argues that by allowing SCAD to attribute a value to the “right to inject” as an estate or interest in real property, the trial court erred as a matter of law because lesser estates are generally nontaxable as separate interests. Key asserts that the value of the entire fee necessarily contains the lesser value of the leasehold the fee contains. Key argues that the tax code prevents its leasehold interest in Davis #3 from being taxed apart from the Leggetts’ fee simple interest; otherwise, invalid double taxation results. Likewise, Key asserts, taxing both the facility under its “lesser interest” theory and the land where the #5 is located, which Key owns, caused Key to be taxed twice on the same land.
. . . .
Key owns the saltwater wells, which are, like the storage caverns in Coastal Liquids, in active commercial use. See Coastal Liquids, 165 S.W.3d at 334-35. A Section 1.04(2)(F) interest in land is taxable. Id. Taxation of the land is separate from taxation of the Section 1.04(2)(F) interest around which this litigation centers. See id. at 335. Therefore, there is no double taxation.
After addressing Key’s remaining issues, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
[A] party qualifies as a “party who appeals” a Board decision under Section 42.21(a) if the party is the owner of the property, a designated agent or lessee, a lessee authorized to appeal independently under Section 41.413, or one who qualifies as appealing “on behalf of a property owner” within the meaning of Section 42.21(h) [of the Tax Code].
The court held that the “better interpretation” of section 42.21(h) “is to read the statute to address misidentification and to establish a new statutory scheme in which misidentification of a property owner should be addressed through a special exception instead of a plea to the jurisdiction.” In so doing, the court reversed the trial court’s granting of the appraisal district’s plea to the jurisdiction and remanded the case for further proceedings between Town & Country and the appraisal district.