My obsession with teaching Texas property owners how to protest your property taxes began in 2011 when my county appraisal district debuted online protesting. One Saturday night, in a matter of minutes, I entered my ideal home value, and the computer accepted it.
I called it “The Price is Right,” and I won.
Phase two began in 2017 when I launched my “Everybody file a protest” campaign. I even created a flag to support my little revolution.
As I explained, “Appraisal districts will be overwhelmed with workloads like never before. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s your legal right as a Texan to file a protest every year, even if your taxes don’t go up, and even if your school taxes are frozen because you’re a senior or disabled.”
“Overload the system like never before, and in return, appraisers would have to settle cases in greater numbers than ever to clear their calendar by the state’s July deadline.”
I know it worked because Denton County Chief Appraiser Rudy Durham blamed me in 2019 for his problems.
“There’s a consumer watchdog that is encouraging people to file a protest,” he complained. “He wants to mess up the system and shut it down and prove a point.”
Here now comes Phase 3 of my Watchdog Nation revolution. With the help of Glenn Goodrich of PropertyTax.io (which helps predict your chance of protest success), we unveil a new plan.
One part is to use open records to request from the appraisal district its evidence they plan to use against you ahead of time.
The other part is making it possible for you to win your protest without showing up for the hearing. Sound good?
You can miss your hearing
Let’s start with you protesting without showing up. Many tax fighters can’t make hearings because of work or family responsibilities. Property owners sign up to protest but don’t show up. But if you fill out an affidavit, get it notarized and mail it in, certified with a return receipt so you know they received it, they have to honor it. A hearing will be held, but you don’t need to be there.
You can find the form on the state comptroller’s website by searching for “Property Owner’s Affidavit of Evidence.” But you don’t even need to send the form as long as you offer all the information it requests in a letter, get it notarized and send to the Appraisal Review Board.
Information sought includes: property address and owner, account number, property description, phone and email, date and time of scheduled hearing and information on whether the owner will attend the hearing. You also outline your case for lowering your appraisal and submit evidence. This way you can skip your hearing, but your evidence is still considered.
If you do use the form, check the top box on page 2 where it says, “I do not intend to appear at the hearing in person, by telephone conference call or by videoconference. This affidavit and the evidence and/or argument submitted with it may be used at the hearing if I do not appear in person at the hearing.”
You can also change your mind and let them know you plan to appear.
And make sure when it asks for “Reasons for Protest” you check “Other.”
Knock out their evidence against you
The second strategy takes advantage of the confusion and work overload appraisal districts endure, especially if everybody files a protest.
According to the rules of this process, no evidence may be presented at a hearing by either the county appraiser or by you if this evidence isn’t shown to the other side.
What kind of evidence? Photos, comparable properties, repair estimates. They are supposed to see what you have, and you should see what they have. They can see yours at a hearing or in the affidavit described above. (You produce five copies – three for ARB members, one for the appraiser and one for you.)
Their evidence against you, on the other hand, can’t wait for the hearing. The district must produce your evidence before your hearing. It arrives via mail, email or through the district’s website.
But they only have to give it to you if you ask for it.
Here’s the important part. If they fail to provide the evidence ahead of time, they can’t use it at the hearing. And appraisal districts are often not set up to easily distribute the information in a timely way. This is a sensitive pressure point, and you take advantage of it.
As Goodrich explains, “I would advise anyone to make the 14-day evidence request almost as soon as you file the protest. That way you can say you gave the appraisal district ample time to fulfill the request.”
He adds, “Failure to provide evidence prior to the hearing would essentially be the same as the appraisal district saying they have no evidence at the ARB hearing.”
As O’Connor and Associates, the largest tax protest firm in the state, explains on its website: “Unfortunately, most appraisal districts do not comply with this section of the tax code and ARB panels do not enforce this issue at property tax protest hearings.”
Let’s change that.
You can only get your evidence if you file a protest by the protest deadline, 30 days after you receive your blue-colored appraisal notice.
To request evidence, you write a letter to the appraisal district asking for any evidence they will present in your ARB hearing. Mail this letter certified so you can prove that you requested the evidence at least 14 days prior to your ARB hearing date.
Producing evidence ahead of time is time consuming. Glenn says the reason ARB hearings sometimes run long and waiting room time is lengthy is because they don’t prepare evidence ahead of time and just wing it during the hearing.
So, to summarize, you fill out a “Property Owner’s Affidavit of Evidence” to serve as your substitute so you don’t have to attend your hearing. And you send a request for evidence to be used against you 14 days or earlier before your hearing.
Imagine hundreds of thousands of protesters following these two tips.
Your appraisal district likely didn’t highlight these for you. The Watchdog did.
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