If you are a Texas property ‘owner’ it is likely you have already received your property appraisal this week from your county’s appraisal district. Many Texans are reporting higher than expected appraisals, which almost assuredly translates to an increased property tax burden.
Though it is not entirely the reason, Texas has been the recipient of record population growth as many transplants flee states which have a less advantageous climate for future prosperity. With that increase in growth comes an increase in demand for residences, driving property values up.
For example, Williamson County, located just North of Travis County, and the bulk of the city of Austin had their appraisal district estimate that there would be a 40% increase in home valuations this year. Similarly, Hays County, located just Southwest of Austin also reported a 40% increase. Caldwell County, located South of Austin reported 50% higher valuations, and Bastrop County, located East of Austin, reported home valuations 60% higher.
Similar reports are coming in from all across the state, especially in major metropolitan areas.
In Texas, property taxes are the result of first having the value of property assessed through a county’s appraisal district. Property owners are then notified and many are given the option to protest.
The appraisal district is supposed to use a combination of data sets to ultimately determine the perceived value of a property given to them by various local jurisdictions which include the county itself, municipalities, school districts, and special-purpose districts.
By statute school districts are limited to increasing their taxes by only 2.5% without approval by voters, whereas other taxing districts are limited by 3.5%.
You do not have to merely rely on statutory limitations, however.
What Can You Do?
If you are a property owner you can generally do three things to ease your property tax burden:
Protest Your Appraisal
As a taxpayer, it behooves you to protest your appraisals every year with your appraisal district. The appraisal paperwork you were sent should provide you with all of the details as to how and when to protest. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) recently shared a ‘Best Practices’ primer with tips on what information to have available and how best to do so.
You have the ability to do things like request the evidence for your perceived appraisal and the right to protest said appraisal. Generally, they count on most property owners not protesting.
If you have not already, ensure your primary residence has a homestead exemption. This exemption removes a portion of your home’s value from the tax calculation, thereby lowering the taxes owed. You can find out whether your residence qualifies here.
An exemption also qualifies property owners for what is considered the ‘homestead cap’, limiting the appraised value of your home to no greater than 10 percent per year.
Dialogue With Your Elected Officials
It should go without saying that one of the best ways to ensure your taxes stay reasonable is to engage your elected officials at both the local and state levels. Though it is state lawmakers who have the ability to reform how the property tax is collected it is ultimately local officials primarily making the decisions about the rates and what it is used for.
Eliminate the Property Tax
At TFR, we believe the levying of the property tax is immoral and that it should ultimately be eliminated. There are several alternatives to the tax that could be administered in a more equitable manner but it could also be an option to eliminate and not replace the tax, whereby instead forcing the government to actually cut spending on frivolous things.
It has been reported that state lawmakers can expect nearly a $25 billion surplus next legislative session. TFR believes that the surplus should be returned to its rightful owners, you the taxpayer, in the form of tax relief.
Republicans have controlled every statewide office and the state legislature for nearly two decades. Despite this and promises to address the ever-increasing property tax burden, they have merely continued to allow the budget to grow and instead provide trinkets of ‘property tax relief’ by ‘slowing the rate by which it grows’. Taxpayers should demand better.