Tax consultants give tips for lowering appraisals

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

May 24, 2014 at 12:24 a.m.

Property values are jumping in the Crossroads, but property owners can lower their tax bills even if their appraisal increased or stayed the same.

The period to file a property tax protest in Victoria County is open until midnight June 6.

Doug Ford, a senior property tax consultant with O'Connor and Associates, said appraisal districts do not have the staff to properly examine and appraise each property in the county.

Businesses like his help people push back against escalating appraisals.

"I've had appraisers tell me if they don't get a protest from someone, they're of the opinion their value is too low," Ford said.

Abraham Tieh, a tax consultant with the same firm, said Victoria County is seeing a major increase on its tax rolls this year.

Tieh, who is also a Victoria resident, said the most important step when making a plea to lower your appraisal is to file for the protest before the deadline.

The next step is to properly fill out the protest forms, including checking boxes to protest market value and an unequal appraisal, which gives you the ability to compare your property to other properties in your neighborhood.

"The burden of proof is on the homeowner," Ford said.

Take photographs, get bids on projects that need repairs such as old roofs or worn-out appliances and present those as evidence as well.

Ford recommended property owners also ask the appraisal district to supply the evidence they will use in the hearing two weeks in advance.

"It's very powerful if you know in advance what they're going to present in the hearing," Ford said.

Last year, the firm, which is one of the largest tax companies in the state, filed for a protest on 165,000 properties, of which about 80 percent were for residences, and 20 percent were commercial.

Ford estimates about 15 percent of property owners file for a protest but dreams of the day when a third do.

"It would so overwhelm the appraisal district, they would be forced to reduce their values," Ford said. "That's what we hope will happen, and that's why we try to educate people so much on the process."

As for the philosophy that it's good to have a high appraisal, especially if you're considering selling, Ford said it's not true.

"There is no relationship between the true market value and what the appraised value on your house is," Ford said. "If you're getting ready to sell your property, you will sell yours faster if the taxes due on that house are lower than the other houses in the neighborhood."

Commercial property, including retail and office buildings, see some of the largest discrepancies on appraisals, Tieh said.

Because income plays a role in those appraisals, anything that has impacted income, including road construction or factors outside the owners' control, can help those property owners lower their appraisals, Tieh said.

Financial documents can play a critical role in proving your case, he said.

"All in all, we just encourage people to simply fill out the form, file protest and gather their evidence," he said. "If you're busy and don't have time, call a property tax professional, and we'll do it for you."

Related story:

Soaring appraisals stun Victoria County homeowners



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