An ARB is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district. The ARB hears taxpayer protests. The ARB also hears issues that a taxing unit may challenge about the appraisal district's actions. In taxpayer protests, it listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser. ARB decisions are binding only for the tax year in question. ARB hearings begin around May 1. The ARB should complete most of the hearings by July 20. In the largest counties, this deadline may be later.
In counties with a population of 120,000 or more, members of the ARB are appointed by the local administrative district judge in the county in which the appraisal district is located. The board of directors appoints ARB members in all other counties.
To be eligible to serve on the ARB, an individual must be a resident of the appraisal district for two or more years before taking office. No special requirements are necessary. An individual cannot serve if he or she is closely related (second degree by blood or marriage) to an individual who is in the business of appraising property for compensation for use in proceedings in the appraisal district, such as a tax agent. Additionally, if he or she is a board of directors member, employee or officer of an appraisal district; a governing body member, officer or employee of a taxing unit; or an employee of the Comptroller's office, he or she cannot serve. In counties having a population of more than 100,000, an individual is ineligible to serve if he or she is a former board of directors member, former officer or former employee of the appraisal district; served as a governing body member or officer of the taxing unit (until the fourth anniversary of the date the person ceased to serve as a member or officer); or has appeared before the ARB for compensation in the previous two years.
The ARB must base its decisions on evidence. It hears evidence from both you and the chief appraiser.
Protest issues that an ARB can consider include:
Ask one of the appraisal district's appraisers to explain the appraisal. Verify that the appraisal reflects the correct property description, measurements for your home or business and lot, and any defects. Gather blueprints, deed records, photographs, a survey or your own measurements, statements from builders or independent appraisals to contest the appraiser's decision. Collect evidence on recent sales of properties similar to yours from neighbors or real estate professionals. Ask the appraisal district for the sales that it used.
If you protest the agricultural value of your farm or ranch, find out how the appraisal district calculated your value. Compare its information with that of local experts on agriculture, such as the county agricultural extension agent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other recognized agricultural sources. The Comptroller's Manual for the Appraisal of Agricultural Land (PDF) may be helpful.
Determine whether the property value is closer to market value than other, similar properties. Ask the appraisal district for appraisal records on similar properties in your area. Is there a big difference in their values? This comparison may show that your property was not treated equally. A ratio study or a comparison of a representative sample of properties, appropriately adjusted, for determining the median level of appraisal must be prepared to prove unequal appraisal.
First, find out why the chief appraiser did so. If the chief appraiser denied your homestead exemption, for example, obtain evidence that you owned your home on Jan. 1 and used it as your principal residence on that date.
If the chief appraiser denied a homestead exemption for part of the land around your home, show how much land is used as part of your residence.
If the chief appraiser denied a homestead exemption for age 65 or older, disabled persons, disabled veteran's, or spouse of military member killed in action, read about the qualifications for exemptions in the Comptroller's Texas Property Tax Exemptions (PDF).
Find out why the chief appraiser denied your application. Agricultural appraisal laws have specific requirements for property ownership and use. Prove that your property qualifies for special appraisal based on its productivity and intensity of use.
Gather your ownership records and management records or obtain information from local agencies that provide services for farmers and ranchers.
Is agricultural activity still taking place on your land? If you have taken only part of the land out of agricultural use, you may need to show which parts still qualify. If you are letting land lie fallow, show that the time it has been out of agricultural use is not excessive or is part of a typical crop or livestock rotation process for your county.
Provide records of deeds or deed transfers to prove ownership.
If you acquired the property after Jan. 1, you may protest its value before the protest deadline. The law recognizes both the old and new owners as having an interest in the property's taxes.
An error of this sort often is simply a clerical error. For example, the appraisal records may show your property as located in one school district when it actually is in another.
Some kinds of taxable personal property move from place to place quite regularly. Property is taxed at only one location in Texas. You can protest the inclusion of your property on the appraisal records if it should be taxed at another location in Texas or out of state.
You have the right to protest if the chief appraiser or ARB fails to give you a required notice. But unless you disagree with your appraisal, there is no point in protesting such a failure. Make sure that the appraisal district has your correct name and address.
A notice is presumed delivered if sent by first-class mail with a correct name and last known address. In some instances, notices are sent certified mail, and the date of delivery is shown on the return receipt card. The timeliness of communications is determined by the post office cancellation mark, a receipt mark of a common or contract carrier or other proof it was deposited with the carrier. If you prove that you did not receive the notice, the appraisal district must prove that it mailed the notice properly.
You cannot protest failure to give notice if the taxes on your property are delinquent. Before the delinquency date, you must pay a partial amount, usually the amount of taxes that are not in dispute. You may file an oath of inability to pay the undisputed taxes and the ARB will hold a hearing to determine if prepayment would constitute an unreasonable restraint on your right of access to the ARB.
You have the right to protest any appraisal district action affecting you and your property. For instance, the chief appraiser may claim your property was not taxed in a previous year. You may protest only those actions that affect your property.
The chief appraiser must publicize annually the right to and methods for protesting before the ARB, in a manner designed to effectively notify all appraisal district residents. However, try to discuss your protest issue with the appraisal office in advance. You may be able to work out a satisfactory solution without appearing before the ARB.
The ARB must notify you 15 days before your hearing of the date, time and place of the hearing. At least 14 days before the ARB hearing, the appraisal district must send you a copy of Property Taxpayer Remedies (PDF); a copy of the ARB procedures; notice of your right to postpone the hearing; and a statement about your right to inspect documentation and information.
You have the right to inspect and obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas and any other information that the chief appraiser plans to introduce at the hearing. If you request this information, the appraisal district may charge for copies, but the charge may not exceed $15 for residential property or $25 for non-residential property.
When protesting, you may appear in person, send someone to represent you and present the protest, or send a sworn affidavit containing your name, the property's description, and your evidence or argument specifying the appraisal district or ARB determination you are protesting.
If you send someone in your place, you must give written authorization to the person to represent you before the ARB. You may use the Comptroller’s Appointment of Agent for Property Taxes (PDF) form to notify the appraisal district that you authorize someone to appear on your behalf. No form is necessary if you are designating an attorney, mortgage lender, employee, or a person who is simply acting as a courier.
You may contact the appraisal district or the Comptroller’s office for an Affidavit of Evidence to the Appraisal Review Board (PDF), but you do not have to use this form. If your letter contains all the information required, you may have your letter notarized and send it to the ARB.
The ARB must provide hearing times for protests in the evening or on a Saturday or Sunday. You should contact the appraisal district to see when these hearing times are available.
If you have not designated an agent to represent you before the ARB, you are entitled to one postponement without showing cause. You can also request a one-time postponement for additional time to prepare for your hearing.
The ARB may grant additional postponements if you can show reasonable cause or the chief appraiser can agree to a postponement.
The ARB must postpone a hearing upon request if the hearing starts two hours or more after its scheduled start time for parties not represented by an agent or if the protest is reassigned to a different ARB panel.
Below are suggestions to prepare for your protest before the ARB.
The ARB's hearing procedures must be posted in a prominent place in the room in which hearings are held. An ARB typically meets at the appraisal office. Generally, an ARB does not have its own staff or office. It may, however, employ legal counsel or use the services of the county attorney. An ARB may also retain an appraiser certified by the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board for instruction in valuation.
ARB members cannot discuss your case with anyone outside of the hearing. Generally, protest hearings are open to the public and anyone can sit in and listen to the case. A closed hearing is allowed on the joint motion of you and the chief appraiser if either intends to disclose proprietary or confidential information at the hearing.
ARB members are prohibited from communicating with other persons about a property under protest. Each ARB member must sign an affidavit stating that he or she has not discussed your case with anyone. An ARB member who discusses your case outside the hearing must remove himself or herself from your hearing. An ARB member who communicates on specific evidence, argument, facts or the merits of a protest with the chief appraiser, appraisal district staff, a member of the appraisal district board of directors, or a property tax consultant or attorney representing a party to the proceeding outside the hearing commits a criminal offense (Class A misdemeanor).
The ARB may place time limits on hearings.
The ARB has no control over the appraisal district's operations or budget, tax rates for local taxing units, inflation or local politics; addressing these topics in your presentation wastes time and will not help your case.
Stress key facts and figures. Write them down in logical order and give copies to each ARB member. You are required to give a copy of your evidence to the appraisal district staff at or before the hearing. Photographs and other documents are useful evidence.
The ARB listens to both you and chief appraiser before making a decision. It is not a case of you against the ARB and the chief appraiser.
Appraisal district staff must take an oath to tell the truth. The ARB will ask you to take an oath as well before you present evidence. All testimony must be given under oath.
The chief appraiser has the burden of proving your property's value by a preponderance of the evidence presented at the ARB hearing. If he or she fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must determine in your favor. Additionally, if the owner of a property under protest with a market or appraised value of $1 million or less submits a properly conducted, recently completed and certified appraisal of property value to the appraisal district at least 14 days before the hearing, the appraisal district must provide evidence which clearly refutes the independent appraisal. If the appraisal district fails to do so, the ARB is required to rule in your favor.
The appraisal district has the burden of proving your property's value by clear and convincing evidence if your property's appraised value was lowered in the preceding tax year; your property's appraised value in the preceding tax year was not established by written agreement between you, your agent and the appraisal district; and you file information sufficient to demonstrate the appraised or market value of your property and that it was unequally appraised. If the appraisal district fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must rule in your favor.
The Tax Code provides for late ARB hearings to correct errors, including property appraised more than a third above its correct value. You must file a written request and meet certain requirements for the ARB to grant a late hearing on an approved value.
For the current and previous five tax years, the ARB may correct a clerical error; multiple appraisals of a property; inclusion of nonexistent property on the appraisal roll; or an error in which property is shown as owned by a person who did not own the property on Jan. 1 of that tax year. A clerical error is a mistake in writing, copying, transcribing or entering data, but not in reasoning or judging a value. Multiple appraisals, also called double taxation, refer to taxing the same property more than once in the same tax year. Nonexistent property is property that does not exist at the location or in the form described in the appraisal roll.
For the current tax year, the ARB may grant late hearings to correct certain over appraisals; correct values based on a joint motion of you and the chief appraiser; and hear from owners who were not sent required notices. Such late hearings require you to file written requests before the delinquency date of Feb. 1.
Before an ARB decision on a late hearing can take place, the owner must pay some of the current taxes due; usually those not in dispute. The owner may file an oath of inability to pay the undisputed taxes, and the ARB will decide if prepayment of the taxes will be an unreasonable restraint on the owner's right of access to the ARB.
If you win a value reduction in a late ARB hearing, the taxing units will refund the difference in the tax payment and the correct amount of taxes. For an over appraisal hearing to take place, the property must not have been the subject of an ARB hearing and determination earlier in the year.
You must show that the approved appraised value exceeds the correct value by more than a third. If prove that the value is in error but less than one-third wrong, the ARB may not order a value reduction. If the owner proves at least a one-third error, the ARB will reduce the value. You must pay a 10 percent penalty based on the taxes on the correct value for the late filing. For a joint motion hearing, the ARB must approve a change when you and the chief appraiser agreed to the change in writing.
Following rules adopted by the ARB, the chief appraiser may change the appraisal roll at any time to correct any inaccuracy that does not increase the amount of tax liability.
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