Texas provides a protest process for property owners who want to challenge the assessment by their appraisal district. Unfortunately, the system for settling property tax disputes has come under fire by property owners, independent property tax professionals and the Legislature. They question the impartiality of appraisal review boards, which resolve disagreements between property owners and their appraisal districts. ARBs rely heavily on appraisal districts to operate. However, measures can be implemented to vastly improve the independence of ARBs.
About the Texas Appraisal Review Board
Settling property tax disputes has led to the public questioning the impartiality of Texas Appraisal Review Boards. If you cannot resolve your property tax dispute with the appraisal district then the state allows you to take your case to the appraisal review board. The ARB exists to settle property tax disputes between property owners and appraisal districts. This board consists of an impartial panel composed of your neighbors in your county. During your hearing, the board listens to your case. They have the authority to adjust your property tax value based on the evidence presented to them.
Although this sounds very straight forward, property owners, Texas lawmakers and independent property tax professionals question the boards’ judgment. They view them as an arm of the appraisal districts. This raises questions about the impartiality of the ARB in settling property tax disputes.
Settling Property Tax Disputes Raises Questions about ARB Impartiality
Texas rules clearly spell out that the ARB exists as a separate entity from the appraisal district and serves a different function. However, the current process of settling property tax disputes makes it understandable why people view the board as a mere puppet.
ARBs rely on the appraisal district board to select and remove its board members. The appraisal districts set the budget for ARBs and decide the board members’ compensation. Most of the training ARB members receive goes through the appraisal district. Last but not least, Texas Appraisal Review Boards and appraisal districts often share office space, even though, ARBs technically have the option to work anywhere they choose.
Changes to the ARB could improve how its perceived in the eyes of Texan taxpayers.
Restoring Public Trust in the Appraisal Review Board
The Texas Appraisal Review Boards should operate more clearly as a separate entity from appraisal districts when settling property tax disputes. Taking measures listed below would vastly improve how the public views the property tax protest process.
Board Appointments and Removals
ARB members get appointed and removed by the appraisal district board of directors. This authority should be eliminated and, instead, like the Harris and Fort Bend appraisal districts, turn over the responsibility to local administrative judges or another qualified group.
Budget and Payments
Appraisal district directors decide the ARB budget. Additionally, districts pay ARB members and even reimburse their expenses. Giving appraisal review boards control over their own budgets would help end questions about its impartiality.
Appraisal districts often train the board members. But the Texas Comptroller’s Office produced a training manual and in 2009 the Legislature created a training curriculum and required ARB members to complete it. Plain and simple, boards should not depend on appraisal districts for training.
Shared Office Space
Appraisal districts argue a separate ARB office would simply cost too much. They also assert it would lengthen the appeal process, jeopardizing tax rolls from being certified on time.
However, ARBs can work any place they want. Most boards, though, choose to meet at the appraisal district office. But if restoring public trust is paramount, the boards should work elsewhere.
Additionally, the Texas Legislature and Texas Attorney General’s Office took action to reign in disruptive and unwarranted appeals by property owners’ agents. That combined with an impartial ARB should help to minimize the number of property tax protests.
Texas allows appraisal review boards to hire its own attorney, if the appraisal district provides enough funding. If not, an ARB can use a county attorney. However, the ARB should be able to hire its own attorneys not employed by the appraisal district.
Get an Accurate Appraisal!
Settling a property tax dispute? Paramount Property Analysts can help. We will give you an accurate appraisal. Contact us today, we serve all of Texas!