How to Protest
Your most important right as a taxpayer is your right to protest to the appraisal review board (ARB). You may protest if you disagree with any of the appraisal district’s actions concerning your property. You may discuss your objections about your property value, exemptions and special appraisal in a hearing with the ARB, an impartial panel of your fellow citizens.
Most appraisal districts will informally review your protest with you to try to resolve your concerns. Check with your district for details.
If you lease property and are required by the lease contract to pay the owner’s property taxes, you may appeal the property’s value to the ARB. You may make this appeal only if the property owner does not, however. This appeal right applies to leased land, buildings and personal property. The appraisal district will send the notice of appraised value to the property owner, who is required to send a copy to you. If you appeal, the ARB will send any subsequent notices to you.
State law prohibits the Comptroller’s office from advising a taxpayer, appraisal district or appraisal review board about a protest. State law also prohibits the Comptroller from intervening in a protest.
What is an ARB?
An ARB is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district.
The appraisal district's board of directors appoints ARB members. Members must be residents of the appraisal district for at least two years to serve. Current officers and employees of the appraisal district, taxing units and the Texas Comptroller's office may not serve. In counties with populations greater than 100,000, former directors, officers and employees of the appraisal district cannot serve on an ARB. Some other specific Tax Code restrictions also apply. ARB members also must comply with special state laws on conflict of interest.
The ARB determines taxpayer protests. The ARB also decides issues that a taxing unit may challenge about the appraisal district’s actions. In taxpayer protests, it listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. The ARB determines if the appraisal district has acted properly. ARB decisions are binding only for the year in question. ARB hearings begin around May 15. The ARB should complete most of the hearings by July 20.
ARB meetings are open to the public. Notices of the date, time and place of each meeting must be posted at least 72 hours in advance at the appraisal district office and the county clerk’s office. The ARB’s hearing procedures must be posted in a prominent place in the room in which hearings are held. ARBs typically meet at the appraisal office; generally, they do not have their own staffs or offices.
The chief appraiser must publicize annually the right to and methods for protesting before the ARB, in a manner designed to effectively notify all district residents. The ARB by rule will provide for hearing times on evenings or on Saturdays or Sundays.
Should you protest?
The ARB must base its decisions on evidence. It hears evidence from both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser.Protest issues that an ARB can consider include:
How should you protest?
- Is the proposed value of your property too high?
Ask one of the district’s appraisers to explain the appraisal. Be sure the property description is correct. Are the measurements for your home or business and lot accurate? Gather blueprints, deed records, photographs, a survey or your own measurements to contest the appraiser’s decision.
Are there any defects not noted in the district’s survey, such as a cracked foundation or inadequate plumbing? Obtain photographs, statements from builders or independent appraisals.
Ask the appraisal district for appraisal records on similar properties in your area. Is there a big difference in their values? This comparison may show that your property wasn’t treated equally.
Collect evidence on recent sales of properties similar to yours from neighbors or real estate professionals. Ask the appraisal district for the sales that it used.
Consider using an independent appraisal by a real estate appraiser. Insurance records also may be helpful.
If you decide to use sales information to support your protest, you should:
If you protest the agricultural value of your farm or ranch, find out how the appraisal district calculated your value. Compare its information with that of local experts on agriculture, such as the county extension agent, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Soil Conservation Service, the Texas Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the agriculture department of a nearby university. The Comptroller’s Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land may be helpful.
- obtain documents or sworn statements from the person providing the sales information.
- use sales of properties similar to yours in size, age, location and type of construction.
- use recent sales. Sales occurring close to January 1 are best.
- weigh the costs of preparing a protest against the potential tax savings. Preparing a protest may not be worth the time and expense if it results in only a small tax savings.
- Is your property valued unequally compared with other property in the appraisal district?
Determine whether the value of your property is closer to market value than other, similar properties. For example, your property may be appraised at 100 percent of market value, while your neighbors’ properties may be appraised at 90 percent. A protest based on the level of appraisal may require more evidence. For more information about appealing an unequal appraisal or gathering evidence for such an appeal, see the Comptroller’s Appraisal Review Board Manual.
- Did the chief appraiser deny an exemption?
First, find out why the chief appraiser did so. If the chief appraiser denied your homestead exemption, for example, obtain evidence that you owned your home on January 1 and used it as your principal residence on that date.
If the chief appraiser denied a homestead exemption for part of the land around your home, show how much land is used as part of your residence.
If the chief appraiser denied you an over-65 or disabled homestead exemption, or a disabled veteran’s exemption, read about these exemptions in Savings on Home Taxes.
- Did the chief appraiser deny agricultural appraisal for your farm or ranch?
Find out why the chief appraiser denied your application. Agricultural appraisal laws have specific requirements for property ownership and use. Prove that your property qualifies, as outlined in Savings on Agricultural Land Taxes.
Gather your ownership records and management records or obtain information from local agencies that provide services for farmers and ranchers.
- Did the chief appraiser wrongly determine that you took your land out of agricultural use?
Is agricultural activity still taking place on your land? If you have taken only part of the land out of agricultural use, you may need to show which parts still qualify. If you are letting land lie fallow, show that the time it has been out of agricultural use is not excessive or is part of a typical crop or livestock rotation process for your county.
- Do the appraisal records show an incorrect owner?
Provide records of deeds or deed transfers to prove ownership.
If you acquired the property after January 1, you may protest its value until the ARB approves the appraisal records. The law recognizes both the old and new owners as having an interest in the property’s taxes.
- Is your property being taxed by the wrong taxing units?
An error of this sort often is simply a clerical error. For example, the appraisal records may show your property as located in one school district when it actually is in another.
- Is your property incorrectly included on the appraisal records?
Some kinds of taxable personal property move from place to place quite regularly. Property is taxed at only one location in Texas. You can protest the inclusion of your property on the appraisal records if it should be taxed at another location in Texas.
- Did the chief appraiser or ARB fail to send you a notice that the law requires them to send?
A notice is presumed delivered if sent by first-class mail with a correct name and last known address. (In some instances, notices are sent certified mail.)
If you rebut this presumption with proof that you did not receive the notice, the appraisal district must prove that it mailed the notice properly. You have the right to a hearing on your property for an improperly mailed notice.
You have the right to protest if the chief appraiser or ARB fails to give you a required notice. But unless you disagree with your appraisal, there is no point in protesting such a failure. Make sure that the appraisal district has your correct name and address.
You cannot protest failure to give notice if the taxes on your property are delinquent. Before the delinquency date, you must pay a partial amount, usually the amount of taxes that aren’t in dispute.
- Is there any other action the appraisal district or ARB took that affects you?
You have the right to protest any appraisal district action affecting you and your property. For instance, the chief appraiser may claim your property wasn’t taxed in a previous year. You may protest only those actions that affect your property.
The ARB will notify you at least 15 days, based on the notice’s postmark date, in advance of the date, time and place of your hearing. Try to discuss your protest issue with the appraisal office in advance. You may work out a satisfactory solution without appearing before the ARB. If you can show good cause, the ARB may postpone your hearing. Or, the chief appraiser can agree to a postponement. You must appear at a hearing (in person, by affidavit or through an agent) or you may lose your right to judicial review.
At least 14 days before your protest hearing, the appraisal district will send you:
- a copy of this pamphlet;
- a copy of the ARB procedures; and
- a statement affirming that you may inspect and obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas and any other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing.
If you request this information, the appraisal district may charge for copies. The charge may not exceed $15 on a residential property or $25 on a non-residential property.
When you present your protest to the ARB, you may appear in person; send someone whom you authorize in writing to appear in your behalf; or send a sworn affidavit with evidence to support your protest. (See Appointing an Agent.)
You may contact the appraisal district or the Comptroller’s office for an affidavit form, but you need not use this form. If your letter contains all the information required, you may have your letter notarized and send it to the appraisal review board.
- Do not contact ARB members outside the hearing.
ARB members are prohibited from communicating with other persons about a property under protest. Each ARB member must sign an affidavit stating that he or she hasn’t discussed your case with anyone. An ARB member who discusses your case outside the hearing must remove himself or herself from your hearing. An ARB member who communicates on specific evidence, argument, facts or the merits of a protest with the chief appraiser or appraisal district staff outside the hearing commits a criminal offense (a Class C misdemeanor).
- Be on time and prepared for your hearing.
The ARB may place time limits on hearings.
- Stick to the facts of your presentation.
The ARB has no control over the appraisal district’s operations or budget, tax rates for local taxing units, inflation or local politics; addressing these topics in your presentation wastes time and will not help your case.
- Present a simple and well-organized protest.
Stress key facts and figures. Write them down in logical order and give copies to each ARB member. You are required to give a copy of your evidence to the appraisal district staff at or before the hearing. Photographs and other documents are useful evidence.
- Recognize that the ARB acts as an independent judge.
The ARB listens to both the taxpayer and chief appraiser before making a decision. It is not a case of the taxpayer against the ARB and the chief appraiser.
Appraisal district staff must take an oath to tell the truth. The ARB will ask you to take an oath as well, either by swearing or by affirming, before you present evidence. Should you refuse to take the oath, the ARB will note this fact and may take it into account as it weighs the evidence.
The chief appraiser has the burden of proving your property’s value by a preponderance of the evidence presented at the ARB hearing. If he or she fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must determine in your favor.
How to File a Protest
- File a written protest. The appraisal district has protest forms available, but you need not use one. A notice of protest is sufficient if it identifies the owner, the property that is the subject of the protest and indicates that you are dissatisfied with a decision made by the appraisal district.
- File your notice of protest by May 31 or no later than 30 days after the appraisal district mailed a notice of appraised value to you, whichever date is later. Note that it is 30 days after mailing the notice, not its receipt.
If the chief appraiser sends you a notice that your land is no longer in agricultural use, you must file your protest within 30 days of the date upon which the chief appraiser mailed the notice. The chief appraiser sends this notice by certified mail; the mailing date appears on the “green card” you will receive.
If you file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the appraisal records, you are entitled to a hearing only if the board decides that you had good reason for failing to meet the deadline.
If you don’t file a notice of protest before the ARB approves the appraisal records, you lose your right to protest. You also lose the right to file a lawsuit about the taxable value of your property.
If your protest is late because the chief appraiser or ARB failed to mail a required notice of appraised value or a denial of exemption or agricultural appraisal, you may file your protest any time before the taxes become delinquent. You must pay some current taxes before the delinquency date to be entitled to this type of hearing. A notice of appraised value is not always required.
In some cases, you may file with the ARB to correct an error even after these deadlines. Contact your appraisal district or the Comptroller’s office if you have questions about clerical errors, substantial value errors, double taxing or other possible errors.
What should you do about errors found after the filing deadline?
The law provides for late ARB hearings to correct errors, including property appraised more than a third above its correct value. Property owners must file a written request and meet certain requirements for the ARB to grant a late hearing on an approved value.
For the current and previous five tax years, the ARB may correct a clerical error, multiple appraisal of a property or inclusion of nonexistent property on the appraisal roll. A “clerical error” is a mistake in writing, copying, transcribing or entering data, but not in reasoning or judging a value. “Multiple appraisal,” also called double taxation, is taxing the same property more than once in the same tax year. “Nonexistent property” is property that does not exist at the location or in the form described in the appraisal roll.
For the current tax year, the ARB may grant late hearings to correct certain over appraisals; correct values based on a joint motion of the property owner and chief appraiser; and hear from owners who weren’t sent a required notice. Such late hearings require property owners to file written requests before the delinquency date of February 1.
Before an ARB decision on a late hearing can take place, the owner must pay some current taxes, usually those not in dispute. If the owner wins a value reduction in a late ARB hearing, the taxing units will refund the difference in the tax payment and the correct amount of taxes. For an over appraisal hearing to take place, the property must not have had an ARB hearing and determination earlier in the year.
The owner must show that the approved appraised value exceeds the correct value by more than a third. If the owner proves that the value is in error but less than one-third wrong, the ARB may not order a value reduction. If the owner proves at least a one-third error, the ARB will reduce the value. The owner will pay a 10 percent penalty based on the taxes on the correct value for the late filing. For a joint motion hearing, the ARB must approve a change when the property owner and chief appraiser have agreed to the change in writing.
Following rules adopted by the ARB, the chief appraiser may change the appraisal roll at any time to correct any inaccuracy that does not increase the amount of tax liability.
Should you appeal to district court?
Once the ARB rules on your protest, it will send you a written order by certified mail. If you are dissatisfied with the ARB’s findings, you have the right to appeal its decision to the state district court in the county in which your property is located.
You should consult with an attorney to determine if you have a case. Within 45 days of receiving the written order (when you sign for the certified mail, in other words), you must file a petition for review with the district court.
You also are required to make a partial payment of taxes, usually the amount of taxes that aren’t in dispute, before the delinquency date. You may ask the court to excuse you from prepaying your taxes; to do so, you must file an oath attesting to your inability to pay the taxes in question and argue that prepaying the taxes restrains your right to go to court on your protest. The court will hold a hearing and decide the terms or conditions of your payment.
At the district court, you may ask to have your appeal resolved through arbitration, by a jury or by a judge.