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Comprehensive Guide to the Tarrant County Appraisal District (TAD)

January 15, 2021

Tarrant County Overview (TAD)

Tarrant County Appraisal District (TAD) is the fourth largest appraisal district in Texas, responsible for $260 billion in property valuations. In 2019, Tarrant County taxes totaled $5.28 billion, with TAD operating with a budget of 0.49% of total taxes, higher than comparable counties of Dallas and Travis. TAD’s residential property values are the starting point for your Tarrant County property taxes; however TAD does not set your tax rate. The values set by TAD set the standard for the taxable value of your property, at which the tax rate is applied. A lower taxable value means you pay less in Tarrant property taxes. 

There are two essential ingredients to a successful residential protest, and it is important you or your agent effectively implement these arguments to maximize your chances of reducing your tax burden.

You can find your most recent property evaluation for Tarrant county by visiting the TAD site here and entering your property information. 

Tarrant Appraisal Process  

The Texas Property Tax Code allows Tarrant CAD to appraise one third of its residential properties each year.   Thus, any one property’s appraisal may remain unchanged from year to year and TAD is not required to notify you if your value remains unchanged from the previous year.  For example, in 2020 Tad only increased values on 207,410 properties, out of 662,100 residential parcels; the rest either decreased or remained unchanged.  On average, residential values were up only three to five percent in 2020. Based on the strong Tarrant County housing market in the second half of 2020, we anticipate TAD will propose larger value increases in 2021, substantially increasing your potential Tarrant property taxes.

(TAD does not set the amount of taxes charged against your property; that is done by the seventy-three jurisdictions that use TAD’s valuations to set Tarrant County tax rates which will suffice to fund their operations.  But if you can obtain a lower valuation by appealing your value to the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board you will pay less property taxes.)

The Property Tax Appeal and Hearing Processes

Your rights to protest are guaranteed in the Texas Constitution, and it is within your right to protest your property value every year. They hearken back to “No taxation without representation.”  Your right to protest to the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board is your most direct form of representation because it affects your unique property.  Homeowners who don’t protest in April waive their right to fight for equal taxation.

It is important that you protest your property value every year. If you do not protest while others do and they obtain reductions one result is that you will pay more to make up for their property tax savings.  The tax rate set by the taxing jurisdictions will need to increase to offset the aggregate reductions granted to successful protesters.

The protest process is complex. Many owners neglect to use all the relevant grounds for appeal to the Appraisal Review Board.  For homeowners these include both Value Above Market (comparable sales) and also Inequality of Assessment (comparable assessments).

You can find more information here on the types of protests you are entitled to, as well as a detailed account of the different types of property values and terms you will encounter during the protest process.

Mass Appraisal Techniques

To evaluate at least one third of $260 billion in property values each year, TAD uses Mass Appraisal techniques which evaluate properties in large batches rather than individually.  Mass appraisal is only an opinion. It’s an estimate of value using statistics and logical analysis of data, not separate appraisals unique to each individual property.

But the Texas Property Tax Code (Section 23.01) specifies individual characteristics that affect a property's market value must also be evaluated in determining that property's value.  Thus, the basis for a taxpayer’s protest is that individual characteristics of the property were not sufficiently considered when TAD used mass appraisal techniques.  That is the heart of your argument.  To win a property tax reduction at the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board an owner or agent must demonstrate how those characteristics differentiate the property from the mass and justify a lower value. You know your property best. 

Property Values and Types of Protests

The appraisal district is tasked with appraising all properties at 100% of market value, fairly and equally among all comparable properties.  This raises two questions which when combined can become the essential elements to your protest to reduce your property taxes:

  • What is market value for your property?
  • Is your property being appraised fairly and equally compared with others of similar kind or character?

While we saved coverage of the differences between your market and appraised values for another post, it is important you understand where the district is acquiring their values on your property before you file a protest. 

Once you understand the various types of Tarrant property values, you can begin to craft a case based on evidence specific to your property. Comparable sales are the gold standard when arguing your case for Value Over Market.  It is vital to get accurate comparable sales based on recent sales history of properties the Tarrant appraisal district would consider similar to the property in protest. Property Tax Protest uses a unique algorithm to identify the best comparable properties for your case, improving your chances of a successful protest. 

Fair and equal taxation (also sometimes called Equity) is the second element that’s essential to your successful protest.  It works in combination with market value because it is determined after the market value standard and when successful, resulta in a value below market.  To qualify you must include Inequality of Assessment or Equity as a basis for your protest; otherwise you waive that right. 

Inequality of Assessment or Equity is one of the most powerful but least understood arguments for a reduction.  It can be the most important part of your protest if your proposed value is already at or below market.  Many agents and most homeowners don’t know how to pursue Equity because it’s complicated and requires additional, tailored evidence. 

There are three arguments for relief under Inequality:

  • the appraisal ratio of the property is equal to or less than the median level of appraisal of a reasonable and representative sample of other properties in the appraisal district;
  • the appraisal ratio of the property is equal to or less than the median level of appraisal of a sample of properties in the appraisal district consisting of a reasonable number of other properties similarly situated to, or of the same general kind or character as, the property subject to the protest; or
  • the appraised value of the property is equal to or less than the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted. 

These are complex arguments.  You typically won’t know whether you qualify for a reduction under Inequality of Assessment until you make the protest and evaluate your own and the district’s evidence.  That’s one reason why Property Tax Protest files for its clients every year, whether their proposed market value increased year over year or not.

The law is weighted in your favor.  The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that value determined by Inequality prevails over value determined by market (“If a conflict exists between taxation at market value and equal and uniform taxation, equal and uniform taxation must prevail.”).  Thus, Inequality results in a taxable value below market.

Tarrant CAD Exemptions 

The Tarrant Appraisal District is also responsible for taxpayers’ requests for exemptions which reduce their tax burdens. 

  • The homestead exemption caps the amount by which the appraisal district may increase a property’s market value per year.  Thus, the homestead exemption helps the homeowner avoid large tax increases in a rising market and can lead to a capped value that is substantially less than your current market value.
  • The Homestead Cap Exemption is the most common exemption sought by property owners in Tarrant County; it was claimed by about a third of TAD’s residential properties in 2020.   

Paying Your Tarrant County Property Taxes

  • Tax payment is due by January 31 of the following year.  However, many owners obtain a deduction on their current year federal income taxes by paying before December 31.
  • Failure to pay property taxes when due will result in substantial penalties (starting February 1 at 15% of the amount due) and interest which will continue to accrue until full payment is made.  There is usually no compromise available to delinquent taxpayers.
  • Taxes due constitute a lien against your property and can, in rare instances, lead to foreclosure and loss of ownership.

If you have the Over 65 exemption or the Disabled exemption, then you may pay one quarter of your total tax by January 31 and one quarter each on March 31st, May 31st and July 31st without charge for interest or penalties.      

If you have the Over 65 exemption you may also defer payment of property taxes entirely until the property changes ownership, often through probate.  However, deferred taxes accrue interest at 8% per annum.  To avoid cumulative charges against the property it is advisable to protest unreasonable current year value increases since a successful protest will reduce the amount ultimately due when the property changes ownership. 

Are their Negative Consequences to Protesting Every Year?

No, in fact there are positive implications that will prolong the life of any reduction you obtain.  The Texas Property Tax Code specifies that “In the next tax year in which the property is appraised (following a successful protest), the chief appraiser may not increase the appraised value of the property unless the increase by the chief appraiser is reasonably supported by clear and convincing evidence. . . . The burden of proof is on the chief appraiser to support an increase...”  Texas Property Tax Code, Section 23.01(e).‍

Hire a Professional

Property Tax Protest will take care of the entire protest process by doing the following:

  • File a protest with the Tarrant County Appraisal District using all the grounds for appeal available to you.
  • Present arguments for your fair market value to the appraisal district and, as necessary, to the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board. 
  • Present arguments for Inequality of Appraisal as it applies to your property.  The Inequality argument is complex; many consultants don’t know how to present it effectively.
  • Make sure you pay only your fair share of property taxes, not more.
  • Continue the process automatically each year until you cancel the service so that you know you are protected against unreasonable increases in your property taxes.  It’s like an insurance policy with no advance premium. 

Options After the Appraisal Review Board Hearing

If you are not satisfied with the result of the Appraisal Review Board hearing you have further options with which Property Tax Protest can assist you.  You can:

  • Request binding arbitration (an arbitration that appeals the Appraisal Review Board’s decision).  Binding arbitration requires a deposit (up to $500 for most homeowners) which is returned to the owner if the arbitrator awards a market value closer to the owner’s request than to the Board’s. 
  • Property Tax Protest will share the risk of binding arbitration with you.  If the arbitrator’s award results in less savings than your deposit, Property Tax Protest will pay you half difference.  Clearly, Property Tax Protest will not take a binding arbitration case unless it believes you can win.
  • File a judicial appeal.  This is usually not cost effective for homeowners. 

Let Property Tax Protest Handle Your Protest.

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