Tax Code Chapter 41A gives property owners meeting certain criteria the option of requesting binding arbitration as an alternative to filing an appeal of an appraisal review board (ARB) decision to state district court. Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding this program and what is required for property owners to qualify.
Generally, in binding arbitration, an independent, neutral arbitrator hears and examines the facts of an appeal and makes a decision that is binding on both parties. More specifically, binding arbitration, in the context of property value disputes, creates a forum in which both parties to a dispute present their positions before an impartial third party, who renders a specific award that is enforceable by law and may only be appealed as provided by Civil Practices and Remedies Code Section 171.088, for purposes of vacating an award.
A property owner may request binding arbitration if:
Binding arbitration is not available if:
An ARB is a neutral, impartial group of individuals appointed by an appraisal district board of directors or a local administrative district judge to resolve formal disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district.
ARB hearings typically run from June to August. The ARB listens to both sides and rules on property owner protests. An ARB issues an order determining the outcome of a property owner's protest.
A request for binding arbitration must be filed with the appraisal district within 45 days of the property owner receiving the order of determination. Please do not file the request with the Comptroller of Public Accounts - you will probably miss the 45-day deadline.
Since 1991, judges of state district courts were allowed to appoint arbitrators in certain cases. Binding arbitration was allowed if the property owner and the appraisal district both agreed to the process and nonbinding arbitration was permitted without the consent of the appraisal district. The 2005 Texas Legislature changed the law to expand the arbitration process. The law now allows certain property owners who are dissatisfied with a value decision of an ARB to request binding arbitration without filing a lawsuit in district court.
The property owner must complete Comptroller Form AP-219, Request for Binding Arbitration, and file the form and the required payment with the County Appraisal District within 45 days of receiving the order of determination. The form must be accompanied by a money order or a check issued and guaranteed by a banking institution, such as a cashier's or teller's check, made payable to the Comptroller of Public Accounts in the amount required based on the type of property and the ARB's determination of the property's market or appraised value. Personal checks, cash or any other form of payment not mentioned above cannot be accepted by the appraisal district.
Please do not file the request with the Comptroller's office - you will probably miss your 45-day deadline. The Comptroller's office cannot process the request without the appraisal district's certification. The Comptroller's office cannot forward your request to the appraisal district and must return the request and payment to you. The Comptroller's office is not responsible for misfiled applications.
You should receive Comptroller Form AP-219, Request for Binding Arbitration, and a notice of the property owner's rights with the order of determination issued by the ARB. If you do not receive Comptroller Form AP-219, Request for Binding Arbitration form and think you qualify for arbitration, contact your county appraisal district.
Binding arbitration for contiguous properties is an appeal that allows a property owner who has two or more pieces of contiguous property to be heard in a single arbitration. To qualify, the properties must be contiguous to one another and must belong to the same property owner. When applying for arbitration for contiguous properties, the owner should identify on the arbitration application that he or she is requesting arbitration for contiguous properties and identify all contiguous properties to be considered for arbitration.
The appraisal district must certify the application and forward the request and the money order or cashier's check, along with a copy of the order of determination, to the Comptroller's office within 10 calendar days. Some appraisal districts may contact you concerning your request during this period.
To request binding arbitration, the property owner must include a cashier's check or money order payable to the Comptroller of Public Accounts in the required amount based on the type of property and ARB's determination of the property's market or appraised value. The deposit must be delivered with the application by certified first-class mail or hand delivery to the appraisal district; not to the Comptroller's office. Regardless of the outcome, including withdrawal of your request or denial of your request, the Comptroller's office retains $50 of the deposit for administrative costs.
If the property owner wins the dispute (the arbitrator sets a value for the property nearer to the owner's opinion of value than the ARB's determination as shown on the request form), the property owner will be refunded his or her deposit less the Comptroller's $50 fee for administrative costs. The appraisal district is then required to pay the arbitrator's fees. If the arbitrator's assigned value is not nearer to the owner's opinion of value than the appraisal district's value, the arbitrator is paid from the property owner's deposit. If the arbitrator charges less than the full deposit, any remainder will be refunded to the property owner.
The chart below indicates the amount of property owner deposit required and the amount of arbitrator fee allowed based on the type of property and the ARB's determination of the property's market or appraised value.
|Property Type||Appraised or Market Value||Deposit||Arbitrator Fee|
|Residence homestead||$500,000 or less||$ 450||$ 400|
|Residence homestead||More than $500,000||$ 500||$ 450|
|Not residence homestead||$1 million or less||$ 500||$ 450|
|Not residence homestead||More than $1 million but not more than $2 million||$ 800||$ 750|
|Not residence homestead||More than $2 million but not more than $3 million||$1,050||$1,000|
Note: Tax Code Section 41A.05(b) allows the Comptroller's office to retain $50 of the deposit to cover administrative costs.
Once the property owner's request for binding arbitration has been processed, the Comptroller's office will mail the property owner a letter with instructions on how to access the arbitrator registry online (a hard copy of the registry is available on request) and Form 50-706 Appointment of Arbitrator that allows the property owner and the appraisal district to agree on up to three arbitrator choices. The property owner and the appraisal district have 20 days to agree on an arbitrator. The appraisal district must return the completed form to the Comptroller's office.
When the property owner gets the letter and the form, locate the arbitrator registry on the Comptroller's website at Arbitration Registry Search and make your selection for qualified arbitrators willing to arbitrate in your area. Use the Help feature to assist in using the registry. Choose up to three arbitrators, fill in their names and taxpayer identification numbers on the form and deliver the form to the appraisal district. You may want to contact the appraisal district to find out how it processes the form when received. Practices among the appraisal districts vary. The appraisal district is responsible for returning the signed form to the Comptroller's office. The appraisal district may decline to agree with any or all three choices you have made.
The Comptroller's office will contact the agreed to arbitrator(s) to determine if the selected arbitrator agrees to hear the dispute. If all three agreed to arbitrators decline to hear the dispute, the Comptroller's office will randomly select an arbitrator to hear the dispute.
You should immediately inform the Comptroller's office in writing or by email about any discrepancies or outdated information concerning an individual on the arbitrator registry.
If the property owner and the appraisal district cannot agree on an arbitrator within 20 days of delivery of the appointment form, the Comptroller's office will randomly select and appoint an arbitrator to hear the dispute.
The Comptroller's office is prohibited by rule from giving advice or direction on a matter relating to a pending arbitration. Comptroller staff members are responsible for maintaining the arbitrator registry, processing the requests for binding arbitration, remitting payment to the arbitrator when appropriate and/or refunding part of the property owner's deposit, if applicable.
You may ask for a withdrawal of your request for binding arbitration up to 14 days before the first scheduled hearing. If you request the withdrawal 14 or more days before the first scheduled hearing, the Comptroller's office will refund the property owner's deposit, less the Comptroller's $50 fee for administrative costs.
If you request a withdrawal 13 days or fewer before the first scheduled hearing, the arbitrator will be paid from the property owner's deposit. If the arbitrator's fee is less than the deposit, the remainder of the funds will be refunded to the property owner.
You must request a withdrawal in writing to the Comptroller's office, the appraisal district and the arbitrator if one has been assigned. An oral request for withdrawal will not be accepted. Requests for withdrawal to the Comptroller's office can be mailed to P.O. Box 13528, Austin, Texas 78711 or hand delivered to 1711 San Jacinto, Austin, Texas 78701. The requests can also be faxed to the Comptroller's office at 512-463-8354 or emailed to email@example.com .
The appraisal district may reject the request for arbitration if the requisite cashier's check or money order is not provided by the property owner. This is the only reason the appraisal district may reject a request. All other determinations must be made by the Comptroller's office. Each request for arbitration must be accompanied by a deposit in the required amount as set out in the Arbitration Deposit and Arbitrator Fee Schedule.
There are a number of reasons why a request for arbitration could be rejected. Some reasons are:
The Comptroller's office will refund the deposit for a rejected request for binding arbitration, minus the Comptroller's $50 fee.
The arbitrator is encouraged to contact both the property owner and the appraisal district by telephone to arrange a date, time and location for the arbitration. The arbitrator must manage the arbitration according to Tax Code Section 41A.08 and Comptroller Rule 9.804.
The arbitrator is required to provide a set of procedures that will be used in the arbitration proceedings. The arbitrator will also follow certain provisions of the Tax Code and the Civil Practices and Remedies Code.
After hearing both sides, the arbitrator must render a decision and complete Comptroller Form 50-704, Arbitration Determination and Award. The arbitrator must mail the form to the Comptroller's office and may mail, fax or email copies to the property owner and the appraisal district. In addition to the mailed original award, the arbitrator may fax or email a copy to the Comptroller's office. After the Comptroller's office receives this form, the Comptroller's office will send either a payment to the arbitrator or a refund to the property owner, or in some instances both, after retaining the $50 fee for administrative costs.
The parties to arbitration may represent themselves or be represented by an attorney, a licensed real estate broker or salesperson, a certified real estate appraiser, a property tax consultant or a certified public accountant. These agents must have written authorization (Comptroller Form 50-791) signed by the property owner. Note: a lawyer does not have to have this authorization.
The arbitration proceedings are binding. An arbitration award may be vacated under limited situations (Civil Practices and Remedies Code Section 171.088). An appeal of the arbitrator's award in district court cannot be filed if you are simply dissatisfied with the value determination.
The integrity of the arbitrator registry is very important. Therefore, all parties should become familiar with Comptroller Rule 9.804 and applicable provisions of the Tax Code and Civil Practices and Remedies Code. The Comptroller's office is not the licensing or certifying authority for the arbitrators on the registry. The Comptroller's role is to place an arbitrator's name on the registry after receipt of an application with accompanying qualifying documentation to be on the registry. Only complaints concerning whether the arbitrator meets the statutory requirements to be on the registry should be directed to the Comptroller's office. All other complaints should be directed to the appropriate licensing or certification authority.
Failure to follow Comptroller rules, relevant provisions of the Tax Code and Civil Practices and Remedies Code, or the arbitrator's procedures could have negative consequences, including but not limited to the following:
The property owner may request to have the arbitration in person, by teleconference or by submitting written documentation to the arbitrator. However, unless the property owner and the appraisal district both agree to arbitration by submission of written documents the arbitration will be conducted in person or by teleconference. An arbitrator may require that the arbitration be conducted in person.
The Comptroller's office does not have the authority to delay your arbitration. You must contact the arbitrator directly to make this request. Any such arrangement involves the property owner and the arbitrator. The Comptroller's office is not a party to this decision. Comptroller rules encourage arbitrators to conclude all arbitrations within 120 days of being assigned to be the arbitrator.
The arbitrator is responsible for arranging the location and time of the arbitration, and will presumably work with the parties involved in that decision. In-person hearings are to take place in the county where the appraisal district office is located and from which the ARB's determination was issued; however, the arbitration can be conducted elsewhere, if the parties agree.
The chief appraiser may only correct the appraisal roll if the arbitration award is below the order of determination.
The decision of the arbitrator is final and binding on both parties. By arbitrating the dispute you agreed to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
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