Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Property Tax Protests at record levels

During my recent visit to the County Tax appraiser, I asked if the number of protests were up this year. “Yes”, the appraiser responded, “we set a record.” I figured it was because of the economy and the housing crisis, but what surprised me was that he thought it was a result of tax consultants sending out flyers advertising they will protest for you in return for half the tax savings. He showed me a couple of the flyers and yes I had received one of them. I’ll admit it did make me re-think the situation and research my neighborhood valuations.

That’s when I found that my property was overvalued in comparison. It would have been easy to call the tax consultants and let them do the work, the hearing, etc. Then the appraiser said, “but they would do the same thing that you have done.” Ah, gee, thanks Mr. Appraiser.

Maybe the tax consultants would have gotten a little more, but by the time we split the tax savings, it wouldn’t have mattered. The appraiser then went on to say that some of the firms want a portion of your tax savings for the next five years!

I decided to protest my own property taxes not just to avoid splitting the money, but also for the experience. And, I was a little nervous going in. One of the first things the appraiser said was, “I see you called in earlier.” I think he could tell I was taken aback that my call had been recorded and he responded apologetically with, “it’s just a question.”

I had to laugh. Okay, so I am a little paranoid based on a few horror stories that I have heard from folks who couldn’t get their taxes adjusted at all and their meetings ended in harsh words and slammed doors.

When I mentioned that I had never been to a hearing, the appraiser kindly volunteered more information about how the hearing is conducted and also that a group of retired folks sit on the appraisal review board. He said it was a decent job with good pay and even suggested that I apply! IMO, I think that might be an unpleasant job, since I doubt if too many people are happy to be at a hearing protesting their taxes.

It reminded me of what my dad used to say about his auto parts business. He enjoyed everything to do with automobiles, but he said that when most folks come in they are not in a good mood because their car is in need of repair. He thought that it would be much more pleasant to be in a business where people are happy to come in to your store and spend their money on wants (toys) rather than needs (car parts).

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