A simple majority of ARB members constitutes a quorum that must be present to conduct business. Hearings must be conducted according to ARB procedures. ARB members must act professionally and ethically as discussed earlier in this manual.
ARB ex parte contacts and affidavit
An ARB member must be very careful to maintain an unbiased approach to each property under protest. An ARB member may not communicate with another person about a protest, including evidence, argument, facts or any merits of the case except during the hearing on the protest. An ARB member is also prohibited from communicating with another person concerning a property that is the subject of the protest, except when the property is discussed in another protest or used before the ARB as a comparison or sample property in another protest or proceeding.
The affidavit form prescribed by the Comptroller's office states that the member has not communicated about the property under protest in the ways discussed above (Exhibit 18). If the member cannot sign the form, he or she cannot participate in the hearing. The removed member may not hear, discuss or vote on the protest. The appointing authority can temporarily replace an ARB member who must be removed from a protest hearing.
Affidavit for Protest Hearing
An ARB member who communicates with the chief appraiser or an appraisal district employee concerning a taxpayer protest outside of the hearing may be penalized. The chief appraiser or appraisal district employee is also subject to a penalty if they communicate with an ARB member about a protest. Both offenses are punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.
The same penalty, however, does not apply if an ARB member talks to a property owner outside of a hearing. However, the ARB member cannot sign the sworn affidavit and cannot participate in that property owner's hearing.
The ex parte prohibition does not apply to discussions between the ARB and its attorney, or with the chief appraiser or another employee of an appraisal district and a member of the ARB if the communications are limited to and involve the following:
- administrative, clerical or logistical matters related to the scheduling and operation of hearings;
- processing of documents, the issuance of orders, notices or subpoenas; or
- operation of the ARB. 
Appearance at the protest hearing
As a matter of procedure, the ARB chair calls the cases in the order scheduled and makes certain each party takes an oath promising the accuracy of the party's testimony. All testimony must be given under oath.
Most property owners will represent themselves at the protest hearing. Some property owners, however, may designate a lessee or agent to present the protest and perform other required actions. An attorney may represent a client without filing an agent designation, as can most mortgage lenders and authorized corporate employees. Other agents should not be recognized by the ARB unless a properly executed form is filed at or before the hearing on the motion or protest. If the ARB designates a time and place for appearance before a hearing, an agent authorization is considered to be timely if a copy of the authorization is filed at the time and place designated. Agent appointments must be filed with the appraisal district before an ARB can take any action.
The ARB should examine the form to ensure the owner or someone authorized by the owner signed the form and that it was not signed by the agent on the owner's behalf and to determine whether the agent is authorized to receive all ARB communications. An individual exempt from registration as a property tax consultant who files a protest with the ARB on behalf of the property owner is entitled to receive all notices from the appraisal district regarding the property subject to the protest until the authority is revoked by the property owner.
The law requires a person who provides property tax consulting services for compensation to be certified and registered with the state. If a consultant who is not registered as required by law appears before the ARB, the ARB should seek legal advice on how to decide the best method to report noncompliance with the registration act. For more information about the licensing act, an ARB member can call the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation at (512) 463-6599 or (800) 803-9202, or visit their Web site at www.license.state.tx.us.
A property owner may choose not to attend an ARB hearing and appear by affidavit. In this case the owner must file a notarized affidavit before the ARB hears the protest. The chief appraiser has a right to study and copy the affidavit. The property owner may use Comptroller-prescribed Form 50-283, but is not required to use this form.
The owner may submit a notarized letter that includes the owner's name, a property description and evidence or argument. A statement specifying the chief appraiser, appraisal district or ARB's determination from which the owner seeks relief constitutes a sufficient argument.
An ARB should consult with its attorney to determine what to do if the property owner does not appear. It should develop procedures on how it will respond in such a case.
Most property owners are not represented by attorneys in ARB hearings. The law requires that ARB hearings be as informal as possible.  Nonetheless, the ARB must follow its written hearing procedures. Property owners are entitled to expect that the hearings will be conducted as described in the procedures. The procedures should be complete and include matters addressed in this manual.
Either before or immediately after the hearing begins, the protesting party and the chief appraiser must provide each other with copies of any written materials that will be submitted to the ARB as evidence during the hearing. As the ARB listens to the evidence, members should keep in mind the evidence presented by both sides and the fact that the appraisal district has the burden of proof regarding protests related to appraised value or market value, as well as unequal appraisal. Generally, the appraisal district must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that its value is correct.
The law prohibits the ARB from considering any evidence unless the evidence is presented at the protest hearing. If the property owner requests the information the appraisal district intends to introduce at the hearing, the appraisal district must make it available at least fourteen days before the hearing in order to be used as evidence at a hearing.
The protesting party does not necessarily have 14 days to study the records made available by the appraisal district. However, if the owner could not gain access to the appraisal district's evidence 14 days before the hearing, the ARB must exclude the unavailable evidence. For example, suppose the appraisal district makes the evidence available 14 days prior to the hearing but the property owner does not appear at the appraisal district until two days before the hearing to inspect the evidence. The evidence is admissible at the regularly scheduled protest hearing, even though the owner may not have had time to study the records. On the other hand, if the owner appears 14 days before the hearing to inspect the evidence and some of it is not made available, then the appraisal district cannot use that evidence at the hearing. The property owner may choose not to inspect the evidence during the 14 days before the hearing.
The ARB is required to postpone a hearing if the property owner requests additional time to prepare for the hearing and establishes that the chief appraiser failed to provide requested evidence. The ARB is not required to postpone a hearing more than one time.  The ARB is not required to postpone a hearing if requested by the appraisal district; however, its hearing procedures may permit the practice.
Few issues are more contentious and difficult than evidence, its presentation and its weight. The appraisal district has the duty to provide available information that it plans to use at a hearing as requested by a property owner. The ARB should adopt clear procedures about its consideration of this information, rebuttal testimony and taxpayer evidence. In addition, the ARB should seek legal advice concerning this complicated issue.
Evidence may be documents, testimony, electronic presentations, or physical objects. Documents include any papers, affidavits, drawings or photographs that may be relevant to the protest. Testimony is any oral statement from a witness. Electronic presentations may include PowerPoint presentations or proprietary software. Physical objects may include samples of the building materials used or the soil found on a property. Comptroller Rule 9.803 requires the ARB to maintain all evidence presented at the hearing. The rule says a recording or a written summary of testimony may be used. The ARB should consider all types of evidence and the rule while developing their hearing procedures.
Presentation of evidence
ARB procedures should establish the order of presenting evidence. Even though the appraisal district generally has the burden of proof, property owners may prefer to start with the presentation of their evidence and argument and can do so by agreement of the appraisal district or in accordance with ARB procedures. The ARB should allow rebuttal testimony, and the parties may cross-examine each other and any witnesses. Values from prior years or the decisions of previous ARBs do not bind the current ARB as each year and property must be considered individually.
Testimony and evidence may address the following:
- property's legal description and location;
- type of property and its use;
- property's appraised value and the way it was appraised;
- description of any improvements to the land and their age, condition and appraised value;
- methods used to appraise improvements;
- total value for each type of property considered;
- information on sales of comparable properties in the neighborhood or elsewhere in the area;
- information about other appraisal methods considered;
- appraisal ratios and median appraisal levels of comparable properties, appropriately adjusted;
- reasons for denying exemption or special appraisal; and
- reasons for the decision by the chief appraiser concerning other matters under protest or challenge.
Evidence is information that helps the ARB decide what is factual. Evidence may include data, schedules, formulas and other information. It may include appraiser and owner opinions of value. The ARB should consider only relevant evidence, which is information that has particular meaning in the hearing in which it is introduced. The ARB should disregard any irrelevant evidence.
For example, a homeowner may introduce information such as recent sales of comparable properties to demonstrate a home value is too high. This is relevant evidence. Other examples of relevant evidence might include photographs showing the condition of the property, survey reports of the property size or a records of deed restrictions on the use of the property.
A complaint that taxes are too high because a certain taxing unit's governing body spends money carelessly is irrelevant. The ARB should disregard it because it does not pertain to the subject of the protest.
Burden of proof
In a protest on appraised or market value or unequal appraisal, the law states that the appraisal district has the burden of establishing the property's value by preponderance of the evidence or, in certain protests, by clear and convincing evidence presented at the hearing. Appraised values are not presumed to be correct in protest hearings. If the appraisal district fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must determine the protest in the property owner's favor.
In a protest of unequal appraisal, the ARB must determine a protest in favor of the protesting party unless the appraisal district establishes one of the following:
- the property's appraisal ratio is equal to or less than the median level of appraisal of a reasonable and representative sample of other properties in the appraisal district;
- the property's appraisal ratio is equal to or less than the median level of appraisal of a sample of properties, consisting of a reasonable number of other properties similarly situated to or of the same general kind or character; or
- the property's appraised value is equal to or less than the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted. 
The unequal appraisal provision deals with a property owner not necessarily claiming that his or her value is incorrect, but that comparable properties are not appraised similarly, after adjusting for differences such as size, location, condition and other relevant factors. Unequal appraisal protests require considerable attention to requirements of law in the calculation of median level of appraisal.
In a protest on a property with a market or appraised value of $1 million or less, the appraisal district has the burden of establishing the value of the property by clear and convincing evidence, as opposed to the weight or preponderance of the evidence, when the following evidence is present:
- the property owner or agent delivers an appraisal report to the chief appraiser at least 14 days before the hearing;
- the appraisal was performed within 180 days of the hearing date;
- the appraiser is certified under Occupations Code Chapter 1103;
- the appraisal is attested before an officer authorized to administer oaths; and
- the appraisal includes the certified appraiser's name and address, the property description and statements that the appraised or market value, as applicable, was as of Jan. 1, was determined using appraisal methods authorized by Tax Code Chapter 23, and that the appraisal was performed in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). 
If a required rendition – a property report or information requested by the chief appraiser – is not delivered prior to the date of an ARB hearing, the property owner has the burden to prove the property's value to the ARB rather than the appraisal district.  When the property owner has the burden of proof under this circumstance and fails to provide sufficient evidence that convinces the ARB that the value should be adjusted, the ARB should determine the protest in favor of the appraisal district.
ARBs must also consider the issue of substantial evidence when a protest is brought concerning certain value increases. The chief appraiser is prohibited from increasing the appraised value of property in the year following a final determination of value resulting from a protest before the ARB, a lawsuit or binding arbitration, unless the increase is reasonably supported by substantial evidence.  The substantial evidence "must be based on all of the reliable and probative evidence in the record considered as a whole." If an ARB or a court makes a determination of value based on unequal appraisal claims, this substantial evidence requirement may be met by presenting evidence showing that the inequality has been corrected with regard to the properties that were considered to be comparable in determining the value of the subject property. The burden of proof is on the chief appraiser to support an increase in the appraised value of property under these circumstances.
Witnesses should have personal knowledge about the facts of the protest or should provide opinions concerning appraisal issues. Persons designated as experts should have credentials and/or specialized knowledge of the subject property in order to give opinions of value. Property owners are considered eligible to provide opinions of value as experts.
Appraisals often require a high degree of specialized knowledge and training. Both sides may present the testimony of expert appraisers, both about value and about methods of appraisal. Often these are matters of opinion based on specialized knowledge rather than firsthand observation of the facts.
The ARB should ask about the experts' qualifications and experience and be sure it understands the facts on which the experts base their opinions. Admissible expert testimony may concern appraisal theory and methodology and opinions on theory.
Above all, the ARB should ask expert witnesses whether they have any reservations about or qualifications to their opinions. The ARB can believe all, some or none of an expert's testimony.
Firsthand observation and expert testimony will have the witness testifying, "I saw it," "I measured it" and "I did it." When the witness says, "I heard it from someone else," the testimony is hearsay. Hearsay is secondhand testimony. For example, in a protest over denial of a residence homestead exemption, the chief appraiser testifies, "The property owner's neighbor told me the owner does not live in the house." The statement is hearsay. Ideally, the neighbor should be at the hearing and under oath to substantiate the statement.
There may be cases where common sense tells you to consider hearsay testimony. The fact that the evidence is hearsay may affect the weight the ARB gives it.
Appraiser testimony and evidence
Since an appraisal often requires special knowledge and skills, appraisers are usually key witnesses in ARB hearings. Remember that such testimony is informed opinion, not necessarily verifiable fact. The ARB should ask about the witness's qualifications, and it should have access to the data used in the appraisal. Ultimately, the ARB must consider all relevant testimony and documentary evidence and give weight to the most credible information to arrive at an opinion.
Appraisals by chief appraiser and relatives
The Tax Code places a special restriction on appraisals made by the chief appraiser in a private capacity on behalf of a taxpayer or taxing unit. The ARB may not consider such an appraisal as evidence in a protest or challenge.
Similarly, if a relative within the second degree of the chief appraiser makes an appraisal, the ARB may not consider that appraisal as evidence. Both of the above restrictions only apply to the appraisal district that employs the chief appraiser. A chief appraiser or his relative may provide evidence in ARB hearings in other appraisal districts.
Documents and papers are important items of evidence before the ARB. A party must submit the original of a document unless the ARB determines that it is not readily available.
If a copy of a document is used, any party has the right to compare the copy with the original. Documents submitted in evidence become a permanent part of the hearing record. As a result, copies of the required originals should be accepted into the record.
As a general rule, the ARB must make its decision only on the evidence brought by the parties. However, the ARB may also consider certain kinds of basic facts that neither side presents as evidence. This is called "taking official notice" of a fact.
The ARB, like a judge, may take official notice of any fact that is reasonably certain, either because it is generally known in the community or capable of being easily confirmed by sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. For example, an ARB may take official notice that a house is located near a landfill, a fact which may affect its property value. If it takes official notice of a fact, the ARB must inform both parties and give them an opportunity to argue against this action.
Subpoenas and records
The ARB and the parties involved in a hearing should gather all evidence relevant to the case. The property owner or a challenging taxing unit has a right to know the basis of the appraisal district's determinations. Similarly, the appraisal district has a right to know relevant facts in the taxpayer's possession.
To ensure these rights, the Tax Code gives the ARB the following powers to:
- subpoena witnesses, books, records or other documents;
- inspect the records or other materials of the appraisal office that are not made confidential under the Tax Code; and
- request the Comptroller to assist in determining the accuracy of appraisals or to provide other professional assistance, in certain cases.
The ARB may subpoena witnesses, books, records or other documents only after holding a hearing to determine whether good cause for issuing the subpoena exists. A subpoena for books, records or other documents may only be issued if a property is under protest and may be issued only to a party to the protest. The ARB may not subpoena books, records or documents that belong to persons other than the property owner or the appraisal district involved in the protest.
The ARB may inspect the records or other materials of the appraisal office that are not made confidential under the Tax Code. On demand of the ARB, the chief appraiser must produce the materials as soon as practicable. There are numerous provisions creating confidential status and the related grounds for releasing the information. The ARB should consult its attorney when questions about the need for a subpoena arise.
An ARB may not issue a subpoena unless it holds a hearing to determine that good cause exists for issuing the subpoena. The ARB must establish a procedure for a good cause hearing for issuing a subpoena. The procedures must require the ARB to deliver written notice not later than the fifth day before the date of the hearing to the party to be subpoenaed. The party has the right to be heard at the hearing. Exhibit 19 is a sample subpoena.
Form of Subpoena
The ARB must consider the evidence presented by the property owner and the appraisal district. The evidence can be testimonial, physical, electronic or documentary. The most convincing evidence should support the ARB's determination of value or other appraisal matter. The ARB cannot develop its own valuation or consider matters not presented to it as evidence at the hearing. The ARB cannot testify for either party, develop its own calculations, create appraisals or develop theories not part of the hearing record.
Sample hearing script
Exhibit 20 provides a sample script that the presiding officer may use for guidance in conducting a protest hearing. Please keep in mind that this is a generic sample to provide presiding officers an idea as to how a hearing may unfold. This sample assumes that a property owner is appearing in person and not represented by an agent or filing a response via affidavit. Different types of protests will require different approaches. The script is not intended to address all situations and should not be considered to be mandatory.
Example of Hearing Script
Good morning (afternoon),
My name is (name of ARB presiding officer) and I am the presiding officer of the (County Name) Appraisal Review Board and will direct this hearing. Let me introduce the other members of the board (panel).
[Proceed to introduce the remaining members on the board or panel, as the case may be.]
We are here today to consider the protest filed by (name of property owner indicated on the Notice of Protest form) regarding property located at (provide property description from the Notice of Protest form), which bears the appraisal district property number of (provide number from Notice of Protest form). According to the Notice of Protest filed by (Mr. or Ms.) (name property owner) we will consider the following reason(s) for the protest: (read reason(s) from Notice of Protest form).
Before we proceed, I would like to make sure we are indeed on the correct protest.
[Directing yourself to the protester, ask the following.]
Are you (name of protester on the form)? Is this the property you wish this board (panel) to consider? You have indicated that your property was over appraised (or whatever is indicated on the Notice of Protest). Is that the only issue that you wish to protest? If not, what else do you claim is incorrect?
[Addressing yourself to the appraisal district representative, ask the following.]
Who is here representing the appraisal district?
[Have the representative identify him or herself.]
Okay. (Name of appraisal district representative) is this the correct appraisal record number for this property?
Since it appears we are all at the right place, let me take this opportunity to explain the process we are about to undertake in considering this matter. First, the board (panel) is made up of private citizens and resident taxpayers of (name of county). Our interest is the same as the property owner and the appraisal district; we all want to ensure that all property in (name of county) county is fairly and equally appraised. We are an independent body; we are not beholden to the property owner or the appraisal district.
We will hear evidence from both parties and we will consider all the evidence without preconceived ideas on the value of the property. We are prohibited, under criminal penalties, from discussing this case with anyone prior to this hearing. Let me ask my fellow board (panel) members whether they are prepared to proceed with an open mind?
[Wait for response.]
At this time, let me also ask members of the panel to fill out, sign and return to me the affidavit regarding ex parte communications. If anyone is unable to sign this affidavit because he or she has discussed this case with the protester, the appraisal district or anyone else prior to this hearing you must recuse yourself from this hearing.
[If someone, admits discussing this case prior to the hearing ask the person to recuse him or herself. Postpone the hearing if a substitute needs to be named to the board or panel.]
The Chief Appraiser and the property owner are required to exchange any written material they intend to introduce as evidence. Please exchange that material now.
[Wait while the two parties exchange evidence or state that they have no written evidence to exchange. The law does allow this exchange before the hearing begins, so the parties may state that this has already been done.]
The last thing we would like to do before we begin hearing the evidence is to swear the witnesses in. Would everyone who is going to testify in this proceeding please stand and raise your right hand. Do each of you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to provide is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
[Wait while each person answers. If anyone does not wish to swear or affirm this oath, they may not testify. All testimony is required to be under oath.]
We will start with the appraisal district representative providing a brief description of the property, including the value being protested. Then we will hear testimony from the property owner first and then the appraisal district. Please limit your testimony to information that is relevant to the protest. Relevant evidence includes any information that in a logical way relates to the principal facts of the protest. If I believe either party is wandering off the central focus of the protest, I will stop you and ask that you stick to the points under protest. We do not want to deny anyone the opportunity to make his or her case, but we are limited in time and we want to stick to the issues indicated in the Notice of Protest form. We must be fair, not only to this protester, but to all protests still waiting to come before us.
The burden of proof in this proceeding is with the appraisal district, which must show by the preponderance of the evidence that its value is correct.
[This does not apply if the property owner introduces a certified appraisal that meets the Property Tax Code requirements. If the protest involves the property owner's failure to file a rendition or property report in response to the chief appraiser's request, the burden of proof shifts to the property owner.]
Preponderance of evidence means the greater weight of the evidence. It does not mean more evidence, but better evidence. It is our job to rule in favor of the protester if the appraisal district does not present better evidence. If the appraisal district does, in fact, support its appraised value with sufficient evidence, than we must find in its favor.
After the appraisal district presents its evidence, the property owner may ask for clarifications or rebut any evidence (he or she) feels was incorrect. The appraisal district will have the same opportunity. Once all the evidence is presented, we will make our decision.
Does anyone have any questions before we start?
[Address any questions.]
Okay, let's begin. (Mr. or Ms. Property owner) please tell us and show us why we should resolve this protest in your favor? And, please tell us what you believe is the correct value of your property.
[After the property owner finishes his or her presentation proceed to the appraisal district.]
(Mr. or Ms. Appraisal District representative) please tell us and show us why you believe your value is correct.
(Mr. or Ms. Property owner) do you have questions or do you want to respond to any information the appraisal district presented?
[Allow the property owner to ask questions and present rebuttal evidence.]
(Mr. or Ms. Appraisal District representative) do you have any other information?
[Allow the appraisal district to ask questions and present rebuttal evidence.]
The evidentiary part of the hearing is closed and the ARB will consider the evidence and will arrive at a decision.
[At this point, based on the procedures the ARB has adopted for the conduct of hearings, the ARB must vote on a motion concerning its decision. ARB members should not exchange notes.]
After consideration of all the evidence, the board (panel) believes the appraised value for the property under protest is (Announce the value.) You have additional remedies if you disagree with this decision. A copy of the "Remedies" pamphlet published by the Comptroller's office is available for our consideration.
Postponement of hearings
Under certain circumstances, the ARB may postpone a protest hearing. A property owner who has not designated an agent under Tax Code Section 1.111 is entitled to one postponement without showing cause. In addition, a property owner or his or her agent is entitled to an unlimited number of postponements if they show good cause for the postponement or if the chief appraiser consents to the postponement. Good cause means a reason that includes an error or mistake that was not intentional or the result of conscious indifference and that will not cause undue delay or other injury to the person authorized to extend the deadline or grant a rescheduling. If these conditions are met, the ARB chair or his or her representative must postpone the hearing for five to 30 days. The chief appraiser and the property owner may agree to a shorter or longer postponement. A property owner may request a postponement in writing, including by fax or e-mail, by telephone or in person to the full ARB, a panel of the ARB or the chair of the ARB. 
A property owner who is not represented by an agent who fails to appear at a hearing is entitled to a new hearing if he or she writes to the ARB, not later than the fourth day after the date the hearing occurred, a statement showing good cause for the failure to appear and requesting a new hearing.
The presiding officer or his or her representative may take action on a postponement without the necessity of action by the full ARB if the hearing for which the postponement is requested is scheduled to occur before the next regular meeting of the ARB. The ARB is not required to send the property owner additional written notice when a postponement is granted.
In addition, the ARB must postpone an ARB hearing if either the property owner or owner's agent is scheduled for an ARB hearing in another appraisal district on the same date. To qualify for the postponement, the owner or agent must show that the postmark on the other ARB's hearing notice is earlier than the postmark on the hearing notice delivered by the ARB in which the postponement is requested.