May 31st is the deadline to protest property tax appraisals in Harris County, a process that officials say is free, quick and easy and could save you hundreds of dollars. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, with almost 750,000 homes up in appraised value this year, tax protests could hit a record high.
In the lobby of the Harris County Appraisal District office off of Highway 290, George Najarian of Galveston drops an appraisal protest form into a box next to a sign that reads “Property Tax Protest Drop-Off”. His wife owns a condo in the Westbury area.
“We have it up for sale and we’ve had it up for sale for about a year and it’s not selling. The listing price is way below what the value of the taxes are so we know that it’s not right.”
Last year, 258,000 property owners in Harris County protested their appraisals and most were successful in reducing their property taxes. With 1.7 million property tax accounts, Harris County Tax Assessor Collector Paul Bettencourt says mistakes will be made.
“Our philosophy is that if there is something that is wrong, then we want to fix it. But also in mass appraisal, and that’s what happens when you appraise 1.7 million accounts, there’s always going to be changes, neighborhoods that aren’t done correctly. It’s just the way it works, so that’s why we want the feedback from the public. This is one tax man that says protest your value if you have a case because if you do it’s the quickest way to a tax cut in any town in the state of Texas.”
Once a protest notice has been filed with the Harris County Appraisal District, property owners will be scheduled to appear before an independent Appraisal Review Board. Bettencourt says doing homework is the key to a successful property tax protest.
“Those that do, almost 70 percent of the people actually get something off of their appraised value, but obviously they take the time to do the job right and that’s why you need to do some research. You just can’t walk in and say, hey, my taxes are too high, lower my appraised value. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Sands Stiefer with the Harris County Appraisal District says there are a few quick ways to ensure a better chance of having your property taxes reduced.
“If there are problems, for example, physically with your property like needing a roof replaced or a cracked slab or something like that, photographs are the very best evidence that you can have. If you’ve recently purchased the property and we have it on for more than you paid for it, bring in a copy of that signed closing statement. It will be a real quick and easy way to get it reduced.”
Property owners can file their protest notices online, drop off their forms at any tax office or mail them with a postmark no later than Thursday. Downloadable protest forms and other information can be found through a link on our website, KUHF.org.