Property tax appraisals are coming, and now is the time to consider a protest

On the heels of the federal tax day, property tax appraisals have been arriving in millions of mailboxes, in recent weeks. The last few years have seen appraisals maxed-out for a lot of people, sending their property taxes soaring. In response, many will engage in the time-honored Texas tradition of lodging a protest, and having a chance that someone might listen.

Mynette Murtagh Randall has lived in her Heights home for 19 years, "I have protested every year." 

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Like a lot of people, she makes an annual argument that her home is valued more than it's worth, and protests her appraisal. Often, she says the result is tens of thousands of dollars shaved off the appraisal. She does it all on her own and says she almost looks forward to it. 

"If you don't like the results with that, you can then move on to a hearing," she explains. "You just have to have your backup and prove what you're trying to reduce the amount by. It's an easy process."

Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt, who also owns a firm that protests property taxes, says the growth of appraisals has largely, slowed this year, "If you know your value is too high, there's no reason to leave it there."

In Fort Bend County, the average hike was just 4.4% for residential properties, and 8.9% for commercial property. For those who disagree with the numbers, the deadline to protest is May 15. In Texas, major counties make the process available online through a tool called "iFile". Generally, the matter is settled without a face-to-face meeting, but a personal hearing is also available. 

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Alternately, a protest firm can do the work for a cut of any savings. The choice for property owners comes down to time and having the information to make a strong argument. 

"Generally, the person who knows the property the best, is the actual homeowner," says Bettencourt. "At the same time, they may not have the time or the resources to get enough data together to make a cognitive argument."

This year is the first that the homestead exemption has increased to a $100,000, thanks to Texas voters, and tax bills will be lower. Property tax reform continues to be on the mind for legislators who are already lining-up ideas for the next session. 

Meantime, watch for the appraisal. If you haven't received one yet, and be mindful of the deadline, if you want to protest.