Paying your annual property taxes in Harris County can be a significant burden. For the average homeowner, high tax bills can mean sacrificing other investment opportunities or beloved hobbies like travel. Texas counties collect most of their revenue from property taxes, and Harris County is no exception.
Fortunately, Harris County homeowners can take steps to reduce their taxes. Ensuring that you apply for and receive proper exemptions is a start. However, more considerable savings can come through successfully protesting your home’s assessed value.
There are two critical components of property taxes in Harris County. First is the local tax rates imposed by taxing districts such as schools. Second, there is your home’s individual assessed value. So, if your home is assessed at $200,000 for tax purposes and the local school district has a tax rate of 1%, you will pay $2,000 annually for school district property taxes.
Other services, like police and fire departments, roads, and local parks and services, are primarily funded through property taxes. The bills can add up quickly. But the only part of the calculation that varies for you individually is your home’s assessed value.
The Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) is responsible for annually determining the value of every property in the county. The district looks at public records for your home and compares your house with recent sales of similar properties. However, due to the enormous number of properties that require an assessment, the value the district comes up with often differs wildly from your home’s actual fair market value.
If your house has fewer bedrooms than recorded in public records, your assessed value will likely be incorrect. Similarly, the appraisal district can’t know about a leaky roof or unrepaired water damage. And if your assessed value is too high, you’ll pay too much in taxes.
Even if your home’s assessed value is mainly correct, Texas homestead exemptions can reduce your tax bills. An exemption reduces the assessed value that is applicable for local tax rates. Every school district in the state must offer a $25,000 exemption for homeowners.
For instance, consider the example $200,000 home above. If you qualify for a $25,000 exemption, your local tax rates will be applied to a $175,000 value ($200,000 minus the $25,000 exemption). At a 1% tax rate, your post-exemption bill will be $1,750, a savings of $250 annually.
Non-school district taxing districts can also choose to offer homestead exemptions up to 20% of your home’s value. For instance, Harris County offers a 20% homestead exemption on your county taxes.
The HCAD accepts residential homestead exemption applications between January 1 and April 30. To qualify, you must own your home as an individual (versus through an investment vehicle or company), and it must be your primary residence.
With a few exceptions, the appraisal district requires the address on your Texas Driver’s License to match the address for which you are applying for a tax exemption.
Beyond the residential homestead exemption, Harris County offers other homeowner’s property tax exemptions designed to assist specific groups. These exemptions include:
Review the Harris County Appraisal District website or speak to an experienced local tax professional for further specifics on exemptions.
Ensuring you apply for and receive all the homestead exemptions you are eligible for is crucial for reducing your tax liability. However, even with all the exemptions in place, if your home’s assessed value is incorrect, you will still be overpaying your annual property taxes.
You can file a formal protest once you receive your yearly notice of the house’s assessed value from the HCAD. Every homeowner in Harris County is entitled to a hearing before the HCAD Appraisal Review Board (ARB). The HCAD has recently allowed informal meetings before a hearing and virtual hearings.
An informal meeting with an appraiser is an excellent opportunity to highlight deficiencies in the assessment process, such as incorrect public records. However, having professional representation when meeting with the HCAD can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful property tax protest.
Sign up today and let the experienced team at Watchtower Protest handle your protest for you. We have years of experience, and we can identify and clearly explain the reasons why your home’s assessed value should be lowered. And best of all, you don’t pay Watchtower a penny unless your protest is successful!
This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about filing a Texas Do It Yourself (DIY) property tax protest.