Unfair Tax Appraisal: How to Fight Against Them With Texas Tax Protest

What’s got Dallas County residents nervously waiting in anticipation? On May 1, property tax notices will begin appearing in mailboxes across the county and some residents will need to prep for a fight.

With the third highest effective property tax rates in the nation, Texas has been feeling the squeeze for years. And across Texas, 2017 tax notices are once again raising eyebrows and ire. Tarrant County residents saw a 9 percent increase over last year on average, with 1,300 people filing protests in the first week of notices being mailed. Travis County saw similar increases. Residential property values went up 8 percent and commercial property values went up 23 percent on average. In Harris County, residential property values went up 5.5 percent on average.

With mere weeks until property tax notices go out, experts predict the plight may be even graver for Dallas County residents.



“Candace, do they even care how property taxes affect small businesses? Property taxes are by far my biggest expense. I pay over $100,000 a year in property taxes. I would love to hire another $45,000 employee, but I am holding off until I know what our property taxes and other taxes will do.”

How many of you have ever been to a Dallas County Commissioner’s Court hearing? I have lived in Dallas for 36 years, and Tuesday morning was the first time I went. Glad I did. A) It’s a pretty nice court and B) our elected officials gave themselves a 6 percent pay raise, (county employees to get 3 percent).

It was very interesting.

It made me dislike even more the system by which we fund our counties and cities, schools and Parkland Hospital, through property taxes on our real estate. I came away convinced that every hardworking Dallas county employee thinks if you own property you are a rich land baron and can well afford to pay taxes and more taxes because it just means fewer dinners at Fearings. I’m sure not ALL feel that way, but that seemed to be what was in the air Tuesday morning at 411 Elm.

First of all, we noticed there were a lot of constables and Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies in the room from the get-go. I figured they were there to push for their raises. Can’t say I really blame them. I mean, there is extra money bubbling in the system from our wild real estate ride. They work hard, felt like they deserved a raise, “have been with us during the lean times,” and someone said they hadn’t had a raise since 2008 when everyone held off on raises due to the recession.

Fact check: County employees have received raises each of the last 4 years. According to the Dallas Morning News: (more…)

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On Thursday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sent out an email announcing two public hearings to discuss lowering the tax rate in Dallas County down to 22.638 per $100 valuation from 24.31. He says that, because the county is flush with cash from all our increased property values, this can be done and still generate a 3% pay hike for county employees.

This is very interesting coming on the heels of SOME Dallas County Commissioners asking for a whopping 8% pay hike.

I highly recommend you attend one of these. We certainly will. I have an email flying over to Judge Jenkins right now.

Property taxes have hit moderate income levels particularly hard this year. Home values may have increased, but that doesn’t help you unless you are selling. State law prohibits the annual rise in taxable property values from exceeding 10 percent for homeowners who claim homestead exemptions, that is, who live in their homes. If you have investment properties, you will pay through the nose and probably are. (You will likely raise the rent to cover.) Even with those limits, as total assessed values climb higher this all but guarantees future tax increases for homeowners, even those who hit age 65.

An analysis by the Dallas Morning News in May showed who has been hit the heaviest: the middle class, or folks in homes priced below $250,000:

While most Dallas County home values rose by less than 10 percent this year, the middle class, with homes worth $100,000 to $250,000, saw a higher increase of 11.2 percent. And the wealthy, with homes valued at over $1 million, saw a median increase of just 7.5 percent, The News found.

Changing home values by price

The median middle-class home in Dallas County increased in value by 11.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 — far more than the typical change in any other price category.


Source: Dallas Central Appraisal District

Also, homeowners were more likely to see their property taxes go up than owners of commercial properties: 73 percent of homeowners vs. 30 percent of commercial properties. The reason for this is that commercial properties consistently fight appraisals using seasoned tax consultants, as do the owners of higher priced homes.

And you can see, now, why seasoned, sophisticated buyers try to keep listings out of MLS: to keep their tax burden at bay. Not saying it’s the right thing to do, just saying I get it.

I truly applaud Judge Jenkins for making this effort. Jump to read his entire email… (more…)

AC Gonzalez

When it comes to real estate, I am the nosiest. Especially on Dallas County property taxes.

Last week, we looked at Dallas County Tax Assessor John Ames. I noticed he had a dramatically lowered value on his DeSoto home. He had, of course, a perfectly good (really, a terrible) excuse for having that lower value: he and his wife had a house fire in 2015. Thank God, no one was injured. By the way, I’m told the same thing happened to the victims of the Rowlett day-after-Christmas tornado. Come Jan. 1, the condition of your property is what the your taxes are based on. But we continue to look at what our fearless leaders are doing with their taxes during this time when residents are seeing the biggest increase in property values in Dallas history: how are our leaders coping?

By hiring tax consultants! Today we check on Mayor Mike Rawlings, City Manager (soon to be former City Manager) A.C. Gonzalez, and one-time Dallas mayoral candidate Marcos Ronquillo.

First of all, remember whose fault it is that our values are going up: prosperity.

“Let’s put the blame on the fact that the Dallas/Fort Worth area is a great place to live and the rest of the world has figured that out and are moving here in droves,” says our Tax Doctor Rob Wheelock of Property Tax Managers. “Blame Toyota, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, and FedEx.”

Those guys are in Frisco, but whatever.

We work hard, says Rob, to make sure clients don’t pay more than their fair share when it comes to property taxes, but the fact is, values are up and our investment in our homes is likely doing better than any of our other investments.

Can’t blame anyone who would try to get their appraised values hammered down, as are Mayor Mike and A.C. It’s like not taking a tax deduction. But Rob says this is going to be a tough year.

“I’d be willing to bet not more than one will end up with any kind of reduction, and double down that none will. This is proving to be a difficult year in Dallas County with our continued growth,” says Rob. “Remember the Appraisal District by law has to value properties at market value and if they fall outside of plus or minus 5% they get in trouble with the State Controller’s office.  Good luck.”

Mayoral-Candidates-Homes-014.jpg Rawlings on Lennox Lane


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Update, 4:09 pm: there IS a good, well, a very bad reason why John Ames had such a low appraisal: his home burned down! Details coming up.

I love our Dallas County Tax Assessor John R. Ames, I really do. I’ve met him, I voted for him, just love the guy. I think he’s doing a great job down at the tax office. Plus I think he’d be really fun at a party.

But I want to know, what’s in the secret appraisal sauce down there? John lives in DeSoto, in a darling circa mid 80’s house on a cul de sac. It’s 30 years old, 5199 square feet, and in very poor condition.

(Let’s face it: all our homes are in very poor condition, right? My dishwashers just broke, and I just found rotted wood from all this rain. This house is going to hell in a Louis Vuitton handbag.)

Last year his house was appraised at $254,380.

This year it’s appraised at $177,270.

In 2015 his land was $36,000, improvement was $218,380. Proposed for 2016 is land at $36,000 holding steady there but improvement is down at $141,270.

I mean Zillow, a real estate gawking site that is always off — wait — did you see where Zillow founder Spencer Rascoff’s former home sold for way less than the Zestimate?

On February 29, Rascoff sold a Seattle home for $1.05 million, 40 percent less than the Zestimate of $1.75 million shown on its property page a day later.

The gap between the Zestimate of Rascoff’s former property and its sales price has decreased only modestly since then.

Zillow readily acknowledges that Zestimates can be inaccurate, but some consumers can still take them at face value, causing headaches for agents.

Thank God because  Zillow has John’s house “zestimated” at $298,373.

That’s completely ridiculous but let me tell you: I think DeSoto is John’s secret sauce — DeSoto here I come!