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Texas Comptroller's Property Tax Rules
Chapter 9. Property Tax Administration
Texas Administrative Code, Title 34, Part I

Subchapter A. Practice and Procedure.

Sec. 9.109. Procedure for Protesting Preliminary Findings of Taxable Value.

(a) Definitions. The following words and terms, when used in this subchapter, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

(1) Agent - The individual that the petitioner is required to designate in the petition to perform the following activities on behalf of the petitioner:

(A) receive and act on all notices, orders, decisions, exceptions, replies to exceptions, and any other communications regarding the petitioner's protest;

(B) resolve any matter raised in petitioner's petition;

(C) argue and present evidence timely submitted with the petition at petitioner's protest hearing, unless agent designates in writing another individual to argue and present timely submitted evidence; and

(D) any other action required of petitioner.

(2) Appraisal district measures - The comptroller's measures of the degree of uniformity and median level of appraisal of an appraisal district made under the Tax Code, Sec. 5.10.

(3) Decision.

(A) Proposed decision - An official finding made by the hearing examiner concerning a protest of preliminary findings of taxable value, subject to filing of exceptions by any party.

(B) Final decision - An official finding made by the hearing examiner and signed by the Deputy Comptroller if a written exception is filed by the petitioner. A proposed decision may also become final without the Deputy Comptroller's signature, if no exceptions to that proposed decision are timely filed.

(4) District - A school district. District does not include an appraisal district.

(5) Person - Any individual, partnership, corporation, association, governmental subdivision, or public or private organization.

(6) Petition - The document and supporting evidence filed by petitioner indicating disagreement with the comptroller's preliminary findings or appraisal district measures.

(7) Petitioner - A school superintendent, chief appraiser or eligible property owner who submits a petition seeking redetermination of the comptroller's preliminary findings or appraisal district measures.

(8) Preliminary findings - The comptroller's findings of district property value delivered to a district and certified to the commissioner of education under the Government Code, Sec. 403.302(f) or (g).

(9) Protest - A disagreement by a district, property owner, or appraisal district with the comptroller's preliminary findings or appraisal district measures initiated by timely filing the petition required by subsection (f) of this section.

(10) Ratio study - A study designed to evaluate appraisal performance through a comparison of appraised values made for tax purposes with independent estimates of market value based either on sales prices or independent appraisals.

(b) Intent and scope of protest rule. The protest rule is intended to provide a petitioner with a clear process for resolving a disagreement with the Comptroller of Public Account's preliminary findings of property value certified to the commissioner of education pursuant to the Government Code, Sec. 403.302(f) or (g), and the measures of degree of uniformity and the median level of appraisal made pursuant to the Tax Code, Sec. 5.10. This rule governs all aspects of a preliminary findings or appraisal district measures protest.

(c) Construction of protest rule. Rules concerning protests of the preliminary findings of property value certified to the commissioner of education pursuant to the Government Code, Sec. 403.302(f) or (g) and the measures of degree of uniformity and the median level of appraisals made pursuant to the Tax Code, Sec. 5.10, will be reasonably construed in the rule's total context and in a manner providing a fair decision for every protest. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, in this rule, the term "petitioner" includes petitioner's agent.

(d) General provisions.

(1) All petitions and other documents related to a protest of the comptroller's preliminary findings or appraisal district measures shall be filed with the Comptroller of Public Accounts of the State of Texas, Property Tax Division manager. No document or petition is filed until actually received. However, any petition including supporting evidence is timely filed if it is sent to the Property Tax Division manager by:

(A) first-class United States mail in a properly addressed and stamped envelope or wrapper, and the envelope or wrapper exhibits a legible postmark affixed by the United States Postal Service showing that the petition including supporting evidence was mailed on or before the last day for filing; or

(B) an express mail corporation in a properly addressed envelope or wrapper, and the envelope or wrapper exhibits a legible date showing that the petition including supporting evidence was delivered to the express mail corporation for delivery on or before the last day for filing; or

(C) fax received on or before the last day for filing if the petition including supporting evidence, is under 10 pages in content, the original is mailed within 3 days of the fax and all procedures for submitting a protest have been followed.

(2) An extension of time shall be requested in writing five days in advance of the original deadline for which the extension is requested. No more than one extension during an appeals period may be granted for each petitioner. An extension may not extend the deadline for more than ten days. An extension shall be granted only by the hearing examiner for good cause shown, and if the reason for the extension is not the petitioner's neglect, indifference, or lack of diligence. Good cause does not include a claim that the time periods established in this rule are too short to meet the deadline. If requested in writing by the petitioner and for good cause shown, the hearing examiner may waive the requirement that the request for the extension be made five days in advance of the deadline.

(3) In computing a period of time, the period begins on the day after the act or event in question and ends on the last day of the time period. If the last day of the time period is a Saturday, Sunday, or state or federal legal holiday, the period of time runs until the end of the first day which is neither a Saturday, Sunday, or state or federal legal holiday.

(4) The protest hearing will be conducted by a hearing examiner.

(5) Before a scheduled protest hearing the comptroller or a petitioner may request a preliminary conference to clarify the issues or resolve the protest. If the request is accepted, the conference shall be scheduled during business hours at the offices of the comptroller or at a time mutually agreeable to the comptroller and the petitioner. Admissions, proposals, or offers made in the compromise of disputed issues in a preliminary conference may not be admitted in a hearing. A hearing examiner may not attend a preliminary conference.

(6) An error in the comptroller's preliminary findings caused by an error in a district's annual report of property value or by a change in a district's certified tax roll may be corrected by timely filing a petition and otherwise complying with the requirements of this section.

(7) A district shall send notice of its protest to each appraisal district that appraises property for the district. An appraisal district shall send notice of its protest to each district that participates in the appraisal district. The district's or appraisal district's petition shall contain a certification that a copy of its petition was delivered as required by this subsection.

(8) A property owner may contact the Property Tax Division manager for information concerning the districts or appraisal districts that have filed a petition as required by this section. A district or appraisal district may contact the Property Tax Division manager for information concerning property owners that have filed a petition as required by this section.

(9) During the conduct of a protest hearing, a petitioner or a comptroller employee may present evidence not submitted prior to the deadline for filing the protest petition if the evidence is requested and obtained by a comptroller employee pursuant to subsection (i)(5) of this section, after the deadline to file a petition has passed and before the date set for the petitioner's protest hearing.

(10) A comptroller employee may present evidence, gathered during the conduct of the property value study or during the comptroller's review of the petitioner's protest, during a hearing on the petitioner's protest.

(11) At any time before the date final changes in the preliminary findings are certified to the commissioner of education, the comptroller may certify to the commissioner of education amended preliminary findings. If the comptroller certifies amended preliminary findings that are adverse to the district, the appraisal district's, property owner's, and district's time to protest begins to run on the date the amended preliminary findings are certified. An amended preliminary finding is made when the comptroller's finding of property value for a district is delivered to a district and certified to the commissioner of education between the date preliminary findings for the district are originally certified and final certification of changes in preliminary findings.

(12) A petition shall show the petitioner's name and address, designate the petitioner's agent, and list for each category of property the grounds for objection to the preliminary findings for that category. The grounds for objection shall list by category specific changes that the petitioner alleges would improve the accuracy of the taxable value finding or appraisal district measures, and shall provide the reason that each change will make the findings more accurate. A petition that does not clearly specify by category of property the specific changes that petitioner alleges would improve the accuracy of the taxable finding or appraisal district measures does not adequately specify the grounds for objection as required by Government Code, Sec. 403.303(a). The petition shall include the following information:

(A) all documentary evidence, placed in order by category, necessary to support the factual and legal contentions made in the petition; and

(B) the value petitioner claims is correct.

(13) A petition must be signed by:

(A) the superintendent of the district if it is a petition filed by a school district; or

(B) the property owner or the property owner's agent if it is a petition filed by a property owner; or

(C) the chief appraiser of the appraisal district, if it is a petition filed by an appraisal district.

(14) The petition must contain a statement by the person signing the petition that, to the best of the person's knowledge, the evidence contained in the petition is true and correct.

(15) In a protest of the comptroller's preliminary findings, the comptroller has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the comptroller used appraisal, statistical compilation, and analysis techniques, generally accepted as an appropriate method for the conduct of a ratio study by organizations setting recognized standards for the conduct of a ratio study, to reach a correct value for a district included in the property value study.

(16) The comptroller may, on the comptroller's own motion, grant an extension of time for the limited purpose of correcting technical errors or omissions in a timely filed protest petition. Petitioner's failure to submit grounds for objection or all documentary evidence necessary to support the factual and legal contentions made in the petition is not a technical error or omission.

(e) Who may protest.

(1) A district may protest the preliminary findings of its taxable value.

(2) A district may protest the preliminary findings of taxable value of an audit within the district.

(3) An owner of property included in a sample used by the comptroller to determine the taxable value of a category of property in a district may protest the comptroller's preliminary findings of value if the total ad valorem tax liability on the owner's properties included in the category sample for the district is $100,000 or more.

(4) An appraisal district may protest the comptroller's measures, made under the Tax Code, Sec. 5.10, of the level and uniformity of property appraisals within the district.

(5) A protest filed by a property owner or an appraisal district will not be considered for any purposes to be a protest filed by a district.

(f) Filing of a protest. A petition for a protest of the preliminary findings of taxable value or measures of degree of uniformity or median level of appraisal must be filed within 40 days after the date the comptroller certifies preliminary findings of district taxable value to the commissioner of education. A petition for a protest of the preliminary findings of taxable value of an audit must be filed within 40 days of the date the district received the preliminary findings of taxable value. Except as provided by subsection (d)(10) or (i)(5) of this section, no additional evidence may be submitted after the deadline for filing the petition.

(g) Scheduling a protest hearing. The comptroller shall deliver notice of the date, time, and place fixed for a hearing to each petitioner. The notice must be delivered not later than ten days before the date of the hearing.

(h) Hearing examiner's powers.

(1) The hearing examiner shall conduct a protest hearing in a manner insuring fairness, the reliability of evidence, and the timely completion of the hearing. The hearing examiner shall have the authority necessary to receive and consider all evidence, propose decisions, consider exceptions and replies to exceptions, and amend a proposed decision. The hearing examiner's authority includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(A) establish the comptroller's jurisdiction concerning the protest, including whether a timely protest has been filed or whether an extension of time should be granted;

(B) set hearing dates;

(C) rule on motions and the admissibility of evidence;

(D) designate parties and establish the order of presentation of evidence;

(E) consolidate related protests;

(F) conduct a single hearing that provides for:

(i) participation by the affected district(s), appraisal district, and any property owner that has filed a valid and timely petition, if the hearing concerns preliminary findings of taxable value or the degree of uniformity and median level of appraisal; or

(ii) participation by the affected district(s) and the commissioner of education, if the hearing concerns the preliminary findings of an audit of a district's taxable property value;

(G) conduct hearings in an orderly manner;

(H) provide for hearings by written submission;

(I) administer oaths to all persons presenting testimony;

(J) examine witnesses and comment on the evidence;

(K) insure that evidence, argument, and testimony are introduced and presented expeditiously;

(L) refuse to hear arguments that are repetitious, not confined to matters raised in the petition, not related to the evidence or that constitute mere personal criticism;

(M) accept and note any petitioner's waiver of any right granted by this rule;

(N) limit each hearing to one hour for presentation of evidence and argument or extend the one-hour time limit in the interest of a full and fair hearing; and

(O) exercise any other powers necessary or convenient to carry out the hearing examiner's responsibilities and to insure timely certification of changes in preliminary findings to the commissioner of education.

(2) The hearing examiner may take official notice of any matter that trial judges may judicially notice and of facts within the hearing examiner's personal knowledge or specialized experience. Petitioners in a protest in which official notice is taken shall have an opportunity to contest the matter.

(3) The hearing examiner may entertain motions for dismissal at any time for any of the following reasons:

(A) failure to prosecute;

(B) unnecessary duplication of proceedings or res judicata;

(C) withdrawal of protest;

(D) moot questions or obsolete petition;

(E) failure to certify that notice of protest was filed as required by subsection (d)(1) of this section or failure to actually file notice as required by subsection (d)(1) of this section; or

(F) the result of an appraisal district protest is adverse to a district.

(4) The hearing examiner may grant a request to postpone a protest hearing if good cause is shown and doing so would not prevent timely certification of changes in the preliminary findings to the commissioner of education. A request to postpone must be in writing, show good cause for the postponement, and be delivered 5 days before the date the protest hearing is scheduled to begin. Good cause does not include a claim that the time periods established in this rule are too short to meet the deadline. If requested in writing by the petitioner and for good cause shown, the hearing examiner may waive the requirement that the request for postponement be made five days in advance of the deadline.

(5) The hearing examiner shall determine the admissibility of the evidence. Any party may object to the admission of evidence and the objection will be ruled on and noted on the record. The hearing examiner may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence. The hearing examiner may receive any part of the evidence in writing.

(6) The hearing examiner in a protest may not communicate outside a protest hearing, directly or indirectly, with any agency, person, petitioner or petitioner's agent regarding any issue of fact or law relating to the protest unless all petitioners in the protest have notice and opportunity to participate, except that the hearing examiner may communicate ex parte with comptroller employees to use the comptroller's special skills to evaluate the evidence if the employee will not participate in the protest hearing, has not been involved in preparing for the hearing, and has not been involved in conducting the particular property value study under protest.

(i) Conduct of hearing.

(1) The hearing examiner shall convene a hearing for a protest.

(2) All protests heard by the hearing examiner shall be recorded on audio tape. A petitioner will be provided a copy of the recording after a written request and payment of a cost-based fee. A petitioner may at any time make arrangements for and bear the cost of having a hearing recorded and transcribed by a court reporter, provided the comptroller's staff timely receives a copy of the transcript.

(3) All proceedings are open to the public and are held in Austin, unless the hearing examiner designates another place for the hearing. The hearing examiner may close a hearing, on the hearing examiner's own motion or on the motion of any party, if confidential information may be disclosed during the hearing.

(4) A petitioner may designate in writing one or more individuals to present argument and evidence timely submitted with the petition.

(5) If a comptroller employee has requested in writing information, materials, sales, or documentary evidence of any type from the appraisal district, property owner, or district and any of these materials are not provided to the comptroller's employee within ten working days of the request, the materials that were not provided shall be inadmissible during the conduct of a protest hearing for a petitioner who failed to provide the materials. The comptroller may require that information requests be supplemented.

(6) Each petitioner may present argument on any matter raised by the petition. Each petitioner may offer oral argument at the hearing. Argument shall be confined to the evidence and to arguments of other parties. Admissions, proposals, or offers made in the compromise of disputed issues in a preliminary conference may not be admitted in a hearing.

(7) No more than one representative for each petitioner or aligned group of petitioners shall be heard in the protest hearing on any petition except on leave of the hearing examiner. An agent may designate, and the hearing examiner may approve, a reasonable number of individuals to present argument and timely submitted evidence. Nothing in this subsection limits the presentation of evidence through witness testimony.

(8) The hearing examiner shall establish the order of proceeding, and is responsible for closing the record.

(j) Proposed decision.

(1) The hearing examiner, hearing examiner's designee, or a comptroller employee who has read the record shall prepare a proposed decision, which shall include a statement of the reasons for the proposed decision.

(2) The hearing examiner shall serve the proposed decision on the petitioner by facsimile machine, if available, or by using an overnight mail delivery service.

(k) Exceptions to proposed decision.

(1) Unless the petitioner has waived the right of review of the proposed decision, any party adversely affected by the proposal may, within ten days after the date the proposed decision is sent by facsimile machine or delivered to an overnight delivery service, file exceptions by delivering the original documents to the hearing examiner. Replies to exceptions shall be filed in the same manner within 20 days after the proposal for decision is sent by facsimile machine or delivered to an overnight delivery service. Copies of all exceptions and replies shall be served promptly on the examiner and on all other parties in the protest with certification of service furnished to the hearing examiner. Failure to provide copies to all other parties in the protest and to the hearing examiner with certification of service is grounds for withholding consideration of the written exceptions.

(2) After consideration of the exceptions and replies, the hearing examiner may issue an amended decision without again serving the decision on the petitioner.

(l) Final decision.

(1) A proposed decision is final ten days after it is delivered to the parties to the protest, unless exceptions to the proposed decision are filed, in which case the decision becomes final, in either its original or amended form, on the date signed by the Deputy Comptroller.

(2) A final decision ordering changes to preliminary findings made as a result of a school district's protest will change the preliminary findings for the appraisal district in which the school district is located.

(3) A final decision ordering changes to preliminary findings made as a result of an appraisal district's protest will change the preliminary findings for the school districts participating in the appraisal district.

(4) A final decision ordering changes to preliminary values made as a result of a property owner's or district's protest will change the measures for an appraisal district.

(5) A final decision ordering changes to preliminary findings made as a result of a property owner's protest will change the preliminary findings for the school district where the property which is the subject of the protest is located. A property owner's preliminary value may be changed by a protest brought by a school district or appraisal district.

(6) A decision concerning a protest of preliminary findings of taxable value of an audit must be decided by written order within 120 days of the date the school district received the preliminary findings.

(7) The hearing examiner shall deliver written notice of the final decision to each protesting petitioner.

(m) Certification of changes to preliminary findings. Unless the comptroller determines that circumstances require otherwise, the comptroller shall certify to the commissioner of education all changes to the preliminary findings on or before July 1 of the year following the year of the study.

Effective January 31, 1997, 22 TexReg 960.