Property tax appraisal values have been mailed out in Williamson County. I have seen a lot of questions about protesting property taxes because the values we have received from the Williamson County Appraisal District (WCAD.org) have gone up significantly again this year.
I just lowered my property tax appraised value from $402,874 to $367,011 (if I choose to accept that value) in 2 minutes without leaving my home. You may not get the same result but it’s worth a shot and I thought I would pass on some tips that might help you.
I used to think the process to protest my property taxes was confusing. Then I figured out the tax office has a system and by following directions it has been much easier for me.
This isn’t intended to get you a below market value appraisal but it will help if you have realistic expectations.
***I’ll explain in more detail later but the one big tip I can give you is the tax office is required to give you the list of properties they used to determine your value. I recommend not going to the office to protest without this information. ***
If you bought your home last year and your sales price was below the appraised value send your settlement statement to ExpressInquiry@wcad.org. They may lower it to the sales price or they may add a time adjustment to make your value slightly higher than you paid.
If you didn’t buy last year the following will apply.
You should have the option to protest online and I recommend starting there. Doing an online protest doesn’t mean you can’t reject the value sent back to you and proceed with a protest in person. You have nothing to lose.
I’m going to post screenshots of my online protest so you can see how simple it is. I don’t know if I will accept this value or not, I have 5 days to review the comps they provided to decide. Warning…if you don’t choose an option before the time is up your property will be assigned the original value and not the online offer.
The value they sent back is probably close enough where after I calculate the difference in taxes and marginal tax rate it may not be worth my time to go to the office to debate the difference.
To protest online go to wcad.org and click on Online Protests at the top of the page.
On the next page click on File Your Protest.
You may need to create an account on the next page and include your Quick Ref ID and Online Protest ID from the form you received in the mail.
Click on Click here to file a protest.
Most of your property information should be populated but if not you may need to fill in address, etc.
There are 2 reasons you can appeal. Based on market value or based on being unequal to other similar homes. Unequal meaning your neighbor’s home shouldn’t have a lower value than yours if the homes are the same. You should check Value is over market and unequal otherwise you can’t protest later based on criteria not chosen now.
Type in a value you feel is appropriate. You do not need to provide comps or any evidence to defend your value at this time.
Click Review Protest.
Click Submit Protest.
Some may receive an instant message and others will receive an email within 5 days from the appraisal district that containing a new value or rejecting your protest. You will have a choice to accept that value or make an appointment to protest your taxes in person at an informal hearing.
When you receive the results of the online protest you will have 5 days to decide if you want to accept that value or proceed to a hearing.
This is the important tip...When you receive the email or notice you should also receive the list of properties the appraisal district used to determine your value. It will say Comparable Sales Click Here.
It is helpful to look at this information before your informal hearing to see if they are comparing your home to a home that is substantially bigger, has more upgrades or a pool. Instead of asking a Realtor or someone else who is helping you to give you a CMA you should give that person the information you have received to analyze if it is correct.
If you do not receive the properties used (I didn’t last year) send an email to email@example.com saying “Please send me all the information that will be used at my hearing.” Include your property address.
One of the mistakes when protesting is going to an appointment with a CMA. That is not how their system works.
Last year I was successful reducing my value significantly by providing one comp they missed and more importantly showing that one of their comps that supported their value should not have been used.
Because I had that information before my hearing I could bring photos, etc to document why that property should not have been used. Without knowing about that property in advance they would have had an advantage.
At that point last year the appraiser tried to add another property he found to support their value. Because I know the rules I explained to him he could not do that because I have a right to know the properties used before my hearing.
Back to the process... if you do not receive a value you feel is accurate you will be assigned a date for an informal hearing at the WCAD office. You are allowed to reschedule this date once.
At the informal hearing you will sit down with an appraiser and present your case. Stick to the facts and don’t get emotional. They have spent months getting yelled at by other property owners so you will likely find the appraisers are more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you treat them with respect and calmly make your case.
Bring pictures of your home and the properties the appraiser used, Google maps and any other evidence that will support your case.
Ideally your comps should be from the same neighborhood. WCAD had a different definition of neighborhood than most of us. Within any neighborhood like Avery Ranch for example there will be numerous smaller neighborhood boundaries.
When you look at the tax record of a particular property it will give you the neighborhood code. Try to find comps with the same neighborhood code. If not go outside that neighborhood but you will want to have a reason for using that comp.
WCAD has told me they will have a map available this year that will make it easier to determine your property's neighborhood boundary but it is not available yet.
If you aren’t successful at your informal hearing you have the option of proceeding to the Appraisal Review Board. The ARB consists of 3 citizens who settle disputes between the appraisal district and property owners.
Per the tax code the appraisal district must prove their case with a “preponderance of evidence” but don’t be surprised if the ARB shows favoritism towards the appraisal district.
If you have an unusual property or if you don’t have the time to protest yourself there are several companies who will protest for you. Typically they charge a contingency fee of between 30%-50% of your savings. Be careful not to sign anything that automatically gives them the right to protest for you every year.
One final pro tip is about timing. If asked the people who do this for a living will tell you to wait until towards the end of the protest period. If I decide to reject my online offer I will reschedule my informal date to the last week they are scheduling. That way there is more information available for me to use in my hearing. The date they give to file a protest is May 2 for a homestead property but they will likely accept protests until May 31. If you want to wait until after May 2 you should call their office to double check.
I’m posting screenshots of my online protest so you can see what it looks like. It’s all public information.
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Posted by Eric Peterson on