Recently, I have gotten several phone calls from folks regarding property tax issues that might have been avoided had they understood required actions and upcoming deadlines. I thought it worth highlighting a couple of key situations today.
Filing Open Space or Agricultural Use Valuation Application
The deadline for filing open space, ag use, and wildlife management valuation applications is before May 1. The Chief Appraiser may, for good cause, extend this deadline by up to 60 days, but obviously the more prudent route is to be sure and file applications by the deadline. [For more background on the differences between and requirements for open space, agricultural use, and wildlife management use valuation, click here.] This applies to landowners in several situations.
First, if your property is qualified under “agricultural use” rather than “open space,” a yearly application must be filed before May 1. (Most land in TX now qualifies under the “open space” standard rather than the traditional “ag use” standard.)
Second, if a landowner wishes to have his property qualified for open space valuation and it has not previously been considered as such, the one-time application must be filed before May 1.
Third, if a landowner wishes to change the land from open space use to wildlife management use, he or she must notify the Chief appraiser of this desired change before May 1.
Finally, a landowner who purchased property in the last year that previously had the open space valuation exemption is required to file a new application before May 1. For example, say Bill purchased ranch land in Texas in August 2016. The land has been used for cattle ranching for decades and has always been valued as open space land for property tax purposes since the prior owners filed their application years ago. If Bill wants to continue to have his taxes determined based upon the open space valuation approach, Bill will have to file an application with his County Appraisal District before May 1 this year. If he fails to do so, he will likely not receive the open space valuation appraisal and, instead, will pay taxes based on the fair market value of his land. This will almost always result in a significant tax increase. Recently, Braun & Gresham law firm published a great list of questions to ask when purchasing land in Texas.
Property Tax Protest
Texas landowners should be expecting to see the familiar annual Notice of Appraisal in their mailbox sometime this spring. It is important that a landowner carefully review the notice when it is received and determine if there is any information that he or she wishes to dispute. The law allows a landowner to protest a number of issues including the market or appraised value of property, whether any exemptions should apply, qualification for alternative use valuation (such as ag, open space, wildlife, or timber), which local governments should be taxing the property, or changes in land use.
The deadline for filing a protest of the information contained in the Notice of Appraisal is May 15 for most property, or 30 days after receipt of the Notice, whichever is latest. This can bite folks who put the notice on the shelf until the subsequent bill comes and it is due in October and, only then, realize there is an error. By that time, it will likely be too late to protest.
The Texas Comptroller has forms for filing a protest and information regarding property tax protests available here and here. For additional information on the process that a protest requires, click here.