Changes needed in Texas property tax systems

John Adams wrote that we are a “government of laws, and not of men.”  Yet many times when I am at appraisal districts tax consultants complain to me about these “state created principalities” (appraisal districts), blatantly break the law.  For example, most appraisal districts (districts) do not recognize fair and equitable appeals informally or formally in Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearings, even though The Texas Property Tax Code (Code) and case law gives taxpayers and their agents that right.  Thus. taxpayers are forced to into litigating on the same properties year after year after year because they can not receive relief prior to judicial review. 

In Bexar County taxpayers / agents have and are faced with litigation by the Chief Appraiser if he doesn’t like an ARB ruling.  I spoke to the chief appraiser about this about four years ago about this practice and he told me that he was forced to do because the Bexar County ARB was making rulings not based on the facts.  Is that to say they are breaking the law?  If so, why didn’t he contract the Bexar County DA’s office to solicit criminal prosecution?  Why doesn’t he appoint new ARB members?  Why did the the Texas legislature pass legislation to prevent him from suing his own ARB on the rulings involving assessments of $1,000,000 or less?  The legislature saw that he was inflicting an unwarranted hardship on homeowners thus they step in against him.  What about commercial property owners?  They continued to be sued along with the Bexar ARB.  This is abusive behavior by the Chief Appraiser of Bexar County needs to curtail his by the legeslature.

For many years tax consultants denied informal hearings in Travis Countybecause the former chief appraiser, Mr. Cory disliked taxpayer’s representatives?  Taxpayers were not denied these hearing only tax consultants who had been hired by the property owner.  Is this not discrimination?

The administration of the Collin Central Appraisal District has developed an approach to curtail the number of appeals to their Appraisal Review Borad (ARB).  If a tax consultant does not accept an informal offer from the staff prior to the ARB, the staff will request that the ARB reinstate the original proposed valuation rather than the offer they tendered after reviewing information supplied to them by the consultant.  In-other-words, in some cases they could be recommended values to the ARB which are over market value and not fair and equitable.  Why are they taking such a punitive approach, which surely leads to more litigation?

Legislation has been passed in the past to attempt to remedy some of these points; however appraisal districts have just ignore them.  So, what can be done?

  1. At the very least the ARB’s must be separated from the appraisal districts.  ARB members must be appointed by person’s independent of appraisal districts.  A first step could be to separate the ARB’s from the five largest appraisal districts.  I believe that would send a message to the other 199 counties.  The current system is like a DA picking the judge and jury.
  2. We must change the Code in regards to Bexar CAD suing their own ARB and taxpayers over rulings they don’t agree with. 
  3. Additionally, chief appraisers serve at then pleasure of their board of directors (BOD).  Thus they BOD’s are accountable as well.  There must be mandatory term lengths.  They should be serious consideration to electing one BOD member.  District BOD’s need to reign in chief appraisers who do not adhere to the Code and case law.