Protesting Your Harris County Property Taxes
Information On How to Reduce Your Property Taxes
This is not the official Harris County Appraisal District website.

Data Compiled by O'Connor & Associates
from Public Information
  Harris County
Operations Data
  Harris County Helpful Budgets and Manuals
  Property Tax
  Market Research
  Federal Tax Reduction
  Harris County Property Taxes
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Harris County Appraisal District

Harris County Appraisal District

Appraisal districts are assigned the task of locating and accurately valuing all taxable property within the county. Personal property not used for the production of income is not taxable. However, real property, business personal property and mineral interests are taxable unless they are subject to an exemption. For example, real estate owned by the government (such as Harris County or Houston) is typically exempt from taxation.

HCAD serves the following cities: Houston, Bellaire, West University, South Houston, Baytown, Tomball, Katy, Bunker Hill, Deer Park, El Lago, Friendswood, Hedwig Village, Humble, Jacinto City, Kemah, La Porte, Missouri City, Pasadena, Pearland, Seabrook, Spring Valley, Webster and a number of other cities and tax entities.

The appraisal district values properties for all tax entities in the county. Each tax entity utilizes the assessed values established by the central appraisal district. Prior to the current system of one central appraisal district, each tax entity established its own values for property taxes.

Hire O'Connor and Associates to Protest Your Harris County property taxes.

Tips for Appealing Your Property Taxes in Harris County
  • The most meaningful way to reduce your property taxes for your home is to obtain a homestead exemption. Most homeowners receive about a 20% reduction from obtaining a homestead exemption. In addition to the standard homestead exemption, there are exemptions for over 65, disabilities, disabled veterans, and energy-saving devices. The over-65 exemption freezes the level of school taxes and is portable if you move.
  • Reduce property taxes by appealing annually. Property tax appeals are an iterative process. Annual appeals produce the lowest level of assessment. You can file a notice of appeal by utilizing the comptroller's form or by sending a letter to the Harris County Appraisal Review Board. Protest both market value and unequal appraisal in your annual property tax protest. Most protests only address market value. Appealing unequal appraisal allows you to review the fairness of your tax assessment in comparison to the assessed value for similar nearby properties.
  • For a nominal cost, you can receive the HCAD hearing evidence. Obtaining the Harris County Appraisal District evidence (House Bill 201 information) greatly increases your chances for success at the Harris County Appraisal Review Board hearing. When you request this information, it limits HCAD's ability to present any other information at the hearing. This information will also likely be helpful in preparing for your hearing. It typically has information regarding comparable sales, the appraisal districts description of your property and the income approach for income properties.
  • One of the appraisal districts responsibilities is to maintain a database regarding each real property parcel within the county. This information for each property is summarized on what is referred to as a "record card". HCAD's record card has data for your property such as building area, land area, year built and condition. Research the Harris County Appraisal District "record card" which has information used to value your property. There are often errors with factors such as land area, building area, year built, year remodeled, grade (quality of construction) and CDU (condition, utility and desirability).
  • Consider the options of appealing your property taxes with regard to both market value (excessive appraisal) and unequal appraisal (unfair assessment compared to similar nearby properties). Considering both options at least doubles the likelihood of having a successful property tax appeal. Market value is the price for which your house would sell. Unequal appraisal is whether you are overassessed compared to your neighbors. When preparing for your Harris County Appraisal Review Board hearing you should gather information on market value and unequal appraisal
  • Obtain comparable sales data for the sale price, building size, etc. for properties similar to your property. Comparable sales are the cornerstone of market value. Sources of comparable sales data ate in the House Bill 201 package obtained from the Harris County Appraisal District and MLS sites. When reviewing comparable sales, considers factors such as the location, size and age. Most appraisal districts have criteria such as grade, condition and level of remodel. When preparing for your hearing, attempt to select sales which are similar with regard to these factors.
  • Unequal appraisal using assessment comparables (the assessed value of other properties) has only been clearly authorized by the Texas Property Tax Code since 2003. Unequal appraisal is often effective in reducing property taxes. Even if your assessed value is below market value, you can appeal based on unequal appraisal. Unequal appraisal is a relatively new option for appealing your property taxes. The informal appraiser may be reluctant to consider unequal appraisal. The appraisal review board is sometimes unwilling to consider unequal appraisal.
  • Unequal appraisal occurs when the Harris County Appraisal District has assessed your property at a higher level than similar properties. The best comparables are the same property type (i.e. house for a house) and are similar with regard to size, age, location, quality and year built. You can research assessment comparables on the Harris County Appraisal District website. Attempt to include homes that are similar with regard to building construction grade, condition and level of remodel when selecting assessment comparables.
  • Sales chasing is when assessors focus on the purchase price for a recently purchased property but do not revise the assessment for similar properties. Unequal appraisal can be particularly helpful for recently purchased properties. Harris County Appraisal District appraisers are reluctant to reduce the assessed value, when it is below the recent purchase price, even if it is unequally appraised. However, the impartial Harris County Appraisal Review Board is required to consider appeals on both market value and unequal appraisal. If you recently purchased property, and the purchase price exceeds the current assessed value, be certain to appeal on unequal appraisal. Unless there is a truly compelling story, it is typically difficult to sell the concept that you paid an above market price.
  • Preparing an unequal appraisal analysis can be simple and straightforward. It does not need to involve a voluminous amount of research or a complicated presentation. An unequal appraisal analysis is typically presented in a table or matrix format. Important components of an unequal appraisal presentation include a reasonable number of comparable properties (about 2 to 10) that are appropriately adjusted. These properties are usually considered to be properties that are similar in regard to the quality and quantity of improvements.
  • Real estate appraisers can prepare an objective and unbiased appraisal to determine the market value of real estate. Appraisal districts are typically receptive to adjusting the assessed value to the market value reported by an appraisal report prepared by an independent appraiser. Independent appraisals can be a significant expense. However, in some situations they can effectively document the impact on value of a variety of adverse factors. Obtaining an independent appraisal can effectively document market value and will receive meaningful consideration from the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser and the Harris County Appraisal Review Board panel members.
  • Recently built properties are usually valued based on HCAD's estimate of cost as of January 1. If the cost of improvements completed through January 1 is less than the assessed value for improvements, the appraisal district will be receptive to reducing their value. For recently built properties, the Harris County Appraisal District appraiser will want to review actual construction cost. A cost segregation report prepared by a qualified appraiser can separate personal property from real property. Cost segregation is a powerful technique to reduce federal income taxes for real estate investors. It can also identify and value assets that are considered personal property for state property tax purposes.
  • Real estate owners sometimes assume the appraisal district appraiser is reluctant to reduce the assessed value. This typically is not true. Appraisers understand that initial values are generated using a mass appraisal process that does not generate precisely correct values. The appraiser is compensated based on salary and his compensation does not change if he reduces your assessed value. Most HCAD appraisers are willing to make changes if provided reasonable evidence. At the hearing, spend a few moments developing a rapport with the appraiser. Be polite with the appraiser - the appraiser is not opposed to reducing your property taxes.
  • Organize your thoughts and documents before the ARB hearing. Your presentation to the Harris County Appraisal Review Board should be kept between five to ten minutes, since the entire hearing only lasts 15 to 20 minutes. During your presentation, focus on the reasons you believe your property is over assessed based upon either market value or unequal appraisal. Attempt to consider evidence the appraisal district is likely to present and to explain why your evidence is more persuasive. If your property recently sold for more than its current assessed value, address that issue rather than letting be appraiser address it and make it appear that you were attempting to hide information from the appraisal review board.
  • Binding arbitration is a new option made available in 2005. If you are not satisfied with your results from the appraisal review board hearing, you can request binding arbitration. When compared to a judicial appeal, advantages of binding arbitration include a lower cost, informal process, speedier resolution and the loser pays provision.
  • Binding arbitration allows property owners an informal and inexpensive option if not satisfied with the Harris County Appraisal Review Board's decision. Binding arbitration is available for owners of properties with an assessed value of $1 million or less (after the Harris County Appraisal Review Board hearing) who are only appealing on market value. Binding arbitration can't be used for appeals on unequal appraisal, business personal property, minerals and exemptions.
  • Successfully appealing your property taxes is a gratifying experience. There are few other options for negotiating with the government to reduce your taxes. In most cases, the tax savings are worthwhile in comparison to the time required to file an appeal, prepare for and attend the hearing. Many property owners initially handle their own appeal for several years and then hire a consultant. Although you can appeal on your own, hiring a consultant to appeal on your behalf is risk free because there is no flat fee and no upfront costs; you only pay a portion of the savings. There is no fee if there are no savings.
Useful links:
  • Who is on the Harris County Appraisal Review Board?
  • Market data regarding occupancy rates and rental rates can help in preparing for an appeal for commercial property. Data regarding comparable sales is also helpful. Comparable sales data can be obtained from the appraisal district, real estate appraisers, and online data services.
  • Business personal property rendition and appeals - Many business owners ignore business personal property issues. Owners of business personal property are required to render their property annually. Failure to file a rendition results in a 10% penalty.
  • Protesting commercial property taxes. If you own commercial real estate, you should consider appealing annually. Based upon either market value or unequal appraisal, it is likely you can reduce the property taxes for your commercial property.
  • Exemption form - Homestead exemptions are important for homeowners. In addition to the standard homestead exemption, consider whether you are eligible for an over-65, handicapped, disabled veteran or energy conservation exemption.
  • Hire O'Connor - Risk free option to reduce your property taxes. You can successfully appeal your property taxes. However, if you are not going to appeal your property taxes, why not let us do it for you. There is no fee unless we are successful.
  • Property tax frequently asked questions - This is a good place to start if you have limited knowledge regarding appeals. Many frequently asked questions are answered in detail on this page.
  • Key property tax dates - Filing deadlines, etc.
  • Texas property tax laws - Complete version of 2006 Texas Property Tax Code. You may also want to see the portion of the site that addresses the Texas Property Tax Code explained. It provides an in-depth explanation for many sections of the Texas Property Tax Code.
  • Substantial error appeal form - If you missed the normal appeal deadline, this can help. There are multiple options for filing property tax appeals after the May 31 deadline. You can request that the chief appraiser join you in correcting an assessed value using 25.25h. You can appeal an error with regard to the description of your property utilizing 25.25c. If you did not have a protest hearing, you can file a 25.25d protest if your property is more than one-third over assessed. This 25.25d appeal must be filed by the tax delinquency date (typically January 31st).
  • Property tax hearing affidavit - To send written evidence if you can't appear at the hearing in person. The affidavit must be notarized and must be received at the appraisal review board by or before the scheduled time of your hearing. Include any relevant evidence supporting your claim with the affidavit.
  • Property tax binding arbitration request - For owners of real estate up to $1,000,000. Binding arbitration can be an effective option for owners of real estate assessed at $1 million or less. Binding arbitration procedures are typically resolved more quickly than lawsuits in state district court. Binding arbitration should be less expensive than a judicial appeal.
  • Property tax rendition form - To render Business Personal Property; due 4/15. There are no criminal penalties for not rendering business personal property. However, there is a 10% penalty (10% of the property taxes ultimately due) for not timely filing a rendition.
Links & Resources