For Texas business owners, real and personal property taxes can be a financial burden. Texas has no income tax, so over 50 percent of all state and local tax revenue comes from property taxes. Local governments set tax rates, and business owners may find themselves taxed by several different agencies -- the school district, city , county, hospital district, junior college district, and water district, among others. This means large tax bills for businesses that own substantial real or personal property. However, with intervention, this can be reduced.
Local governments use property values to determine the amount that a business owner is taxed, and Texas law specifies that the taxes must be equal and uniform. Business owners may qualify for exemptions or their property value may have decreased, qualifying them for a decrease in taxes. However, local officials will not automatically make this change. Texas business property owners have the right to file a property tax protest to ensure that their taxes are equal and uniform as required by law.
The attorneys at Brusniak Turner Fine LLP are dedicated to reducing real and personal property taxes for Texas business owners from start to finish, from filing the initial protest to fighting for your business in the Supreme Court of the United States. Our attorneys have the experience to litigate your case at all levels. Whether you own a small local business or operate a Fortune 100 company, the attorneys at Brusniak Turner Fine LLP will aggressively fight for you.
Why File an Appraisal Protest in Texas?
Texas business property owners may file a protest for several reasons, including but not limited to:
- Changes in the appraised or market value of your business property;
- Unequal appraised property value compared to other properties in the area;
- Exemptions that may apply to your business property;
- Agricultural or timber appraisal; or
- Change in land use.
The property owner as of January 1 of each year may file the protest. If your business leases property and you are required to pay the property taxes, you may file the protest if the property owner does not. Your assessed property taxes should be paid up-to-date when you file the protest and throughout the process.
Informal Hearings with a Texas Appraisal Review Board
The process for protesting your business property taxes begins with filing a form with your County Appraisal District (CAD). The deadline to file is May 15 each year. In some cases, you have until 30 days after a notice of appraised value is mailed to you. The Appraisal Review Board (ARB) may also accept a late protest for good cause. However, determining "good cause" is at the ARB's discretion. The ARB is a board of citizens who hear property tax protests and determines if changes should be made to the business's property tax appraisal.
After you file the form, you meet informally with CAD to try to resolve the business property tax issue. If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to file a written Notice of Protest with the ARB requesting a hearing. This hearing can be in the evening or on the weekend if necessary. The ARB will notify you in writing of the date, time, and place of your hearing. If you cannot attend at the designated time, you may send your attorney to represent you. Alternatively, you may appear by conference call or submit a written affidavit.
Just like a trial, before your hearing you have the right to review any evidence that CAD plans to submit. You are also required to give CAD any evidence that you plan to submit, but this may happen before the hearing or immediately after it begins. The evidence may be on paper or stored in a "small portable electronic device" such as a USB drive. The ARB keeps this evidence.
The ARB hearing is informal. You submit your evidence to the Board and CAD submits theirs. You or your attorney may cross-examine the CAD representative. The ARB considers all evidence when making its decision, but CAD has the burden of establishing the business property's value by "a preponderance of evidence."
After the ARB makes its decision, the Board sends you a written copy of its decision by certified mail.
Appealing to a Texas District Court
If you do not agree with the ARB's decision, Texas law gives you the right to appeal to the District Court.
The District Court process begins when your attorney files a petition with the court within 60 days of the ARB's decision. You are listed as the Petitioner, and the appraisal district is the Respondent. The appraisal district has 20 days to file its answer after it is served with your petition.
Discovery is the next part of the court process. This is where your attorney gathers evidence from the appraisal district to build the strongest case on your behalf, and the appraisal district asks for evidence from your attorney. Discovery can occur in several forms, including interrogatories (written questions answered under oath in writing), requests for production (a legal request for written documents and/or electronically stored information), and depositions (questioning under oath).
If the lawsuit does not settle out of court, your case goes to trial. This may be a jury trial or a bench trial decided by a judge. The jury or judge hears the trial de novo -- meaning that it considers the evidence presented at trial, and the ARB's hearing is not admissible evidence.
If the jury or judge finds in your favor, you may also be awarded attorney fees.
Alternatives to a District Court in Texas
You have two alternative ways to appeal the ARB's decision, besides filing in a District Court.
One way is through binding arbitration. Both sides present their cases to a neutral arbitrator who hears the evidence and makes a binding decision enforceable by law. Business owners may choose this option if their real or personal property value is less than $5 million and they have not filed in a District Court. The business property owner must file for arbitration within 45 days of receiving the ARB's decision.
The second way to appeal the ARB's decision is to file with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). You may do this if the value of the business's real or personal property is over $1 million and the appeal is about unequal appraisal, appraised value, or market value of the property. This process begins with filing a Notice of Appeal by Property Owner with the chief appraiser of the appraisal district within 30 days of receiving the ARB's determination. You must also file a $1,500 deposit within 90 days. A qualified administrative law judge hears the evidence and makes a determination.
Hiring an Experienced, Resourceful Appraisal Protest & Appeals Attorney in Texas
Filing a business property tax protest requires persistence and strict adherence to deadlines. Without an aggressive litigation attorney in your corner, your business could end up paying more taxes than it should.
The attorneys at Brusniak Turner Fine LLP are updated on all the current business property tax laws and will fight for equal and uniform taxes for your business, whether you operate a Fortune 100 company or a small local business. Your attorney will stay on top of your Texas property tax protest and appeal from filing the first paperwork through the judicial process. We will not settle until your business is taxed an equal and uniform amount as required by Texas law.
If you have questions about a business property tax protest in Texas or if you are ready to file, contact our office today at (214)-295-6095.