June 21, 2019
After much deliberation, it appears that property owners and their tax agents will not be suing the Travis Appraisal Review Board. Previously, property tax agents had threatened to do so after board chair Betty Thompson announced that protest hearings from June 4 would be disregarded with a new hearing scheduled for June 29. Unsurprisingly, property tax consultants who represented clients that day were disgruntled and did not want the results they had obtained that day to be thrown out. This has been an already tough year with Travis County ditching informal negotiations across the board.
Travis County Reverses Course on June 4 Hearings
Following the uproar, the Travis Appraisal Review Board recently held a meeting behind closed doors where they spent an hour with their attorney. They then voted to accept the results of all hearings on June 4. Any hearing that was scheduled for June 4 but not yet heard will be rescheduled to June 29.
In a press release, the Travis Appraisal Review Board (ARB) attempted to explain the reasoning behind the initial decision to throw out decisions from June 4 and reschedule. In the press release, the ARB implies that there was a misunderstanding.
The Tax Code Explaining the Decision
In Tax Code Section 41.67(d), it reads: “Information that was previously requested under Section 41.461 by the protesting party that was not made available to the requesting party at least 14 days before the scheduled or postponed hearing may not be used as evidence in the hearing.”
In the ARB’s press release, they attempt to use this tax code to their favor, implying that it was unfair for TCAD to not be able to present its evidence, even if that evidence was not given to the property tax protestor. The press release states: “That would have meant agents could dictate reductions in value unopposed.”
Another statement within the press release reveals even more information. It reads: “Going forward without District evidence in thousands of cases could have had a tangible impact on tax revenues that fund schools, emergency services and various taxing entities in the county.”
A Former Assessor-Collector Weighs In
Bill Aleshire had a response to this press release. As an attorney, former judge, and former tax assessor-collector for Travis County, he said:
“I’m hoping soon we’re going to see a retraction or correction of that statement from the ARB chair because of the profound implications. If she really believes and tells ARB members that the chief appraiser has to win a protest hearing in order to prevent negative funding for education and emergency services, what ARB member in their right mind would not side with TCAD in a protest hearing? The fact is that the statement is not true, because when a governmental body adopts the effective tax rate the revenue stays the same.”Former Judge and Tax Assessor-Collectoy Bill Aleshire
As for right now, the issue seems to have dissolved but this is not the first change that has given trouble to attorneys or property owners this year. How other changes will impact relations in the coming months is yet to be seen.