Listed below are 2018 decisions and opinions concerning various property tax issues. The list does not include all opinions and decisions concerning property tax. The summaries are provided by the Comptroller's office as a public service intended solely as an informational resource. The summaries are not intended as substitutes for or interpretations of the opinions and decisions summarized and should not be relied upon as such. The information provided neither constitutes nor serves as a substitute for legal advice. Questions regarding the meaning or interpretation of any information included or referenced herein should, as appropriate or necessary, be directed to an attorney or other appropriate counsel.
In this landmark decision, the Texas Supreme Court held that article VIII, section 1(b) of the Texas Constitution – which provides that property "shall be taxed in proportion to its value" – does not mean "market value." As a result, the "legislature is 'free to adopt the mode of ascertaining the value of any class of property by such method as it might deem best.'"
The two issues in this ad valorem tax case concern the constitutionality of a method for appraising the value of heavy equipment – natural-gas compressors – as well as the taxable situs for this equipment.
The Galveston County appraisal district challenged the constitutionality of Tax Code Section 23.1241, the state law that applies to leased heavy equipment owned by dealers and "requires appraisal based on the lease revenue the compressors generated during the previous tax year divided by twelve." Compressors that are used by the owners themselves are appraised for tax purposes based on their market value as of January 1.
The appraisal district argued Tax Code Section 23.1241 violates the Article VIII constitutional requirements that taxation "shall be equal and uniform" under section 1(a) and that property "shall be taxed in proportion to its value" under section 1(b).
"The county argues," the court wrote, "that for constitutional purposes, 'value' under article VIII, section 1(b) means the actual market value a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the compressors at issue." In reviewing the text of this constitutional provision and its own case law dating back to 1907, the Texas Supreme Court held that neither required the legislature to tax only on market value. In quoting from its decision in Mo., K. & T. Ry. Co. of Tex. v. Shannon, the court wrote that section 1(b) "would seem to leave the Legislature free to adopt the mode of ascertaining the value of any class of property by such method as it might deem best." 100 S.W. 138, 144 (Tex. 1907).
The county also argued that the statute's "divide-revenue-by-twelve formula" violated the "equal and uniform" provision "because other compressors-those owned rather than leased by their users-are still taxed based on their market value." The supreme court saw "no argument" why the legislature's creation of two "different tax classes" regarding the same property – "[t]hose who own compressors for their own use and those who own them to lease out " – was impermissible.
On the issue of taxable situs for the compressors, the high court reversed the court of appeals' decision and held Tax Code Section 21.02(a) is "a default rule determining taxable situs for tangible personal property generally" and does not control the taxable situs of the compressors covered by Tax Code Section 23.1242. Rather, "sections 23.1241 and 23.1242 are read to create a comprehensive statutory scheme containing its own taxable-situs rules." As a result, the business location and storage yard to which the inventory of compressors was assigned was deemed to be the taxable situs for the compressors at issue.
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