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Dear Tax Doctor:
What are the typical arguments that the city makes for raising the value of the improvement when there have been no upgrades to the property since the previous evaluation?  Also, what are the best counters to the city arguments other than comps.  Thank you.

Christopher McGuire, Vice President, Briggs Freeman | Sotheby’s International Realty

Dear Christopher,

If you see an increase to the improvement value of your home and no improvements were done to the home, it is likely due to an increase in the average selling price of comparable homes around you. The improvement value is the easiest value to increase and lower. Lowering/increasing land, on the other hand, is a far more difficult because it has the domino effect—change one and you must change them all.

Your best ammunition to fight this is to bring in Comparable Sales. Texas Law requires that the homes be appraised at 100% of market—nothing better indicates market than comparable sales. You can also bring in pictures showing condition issues, but you can’t argue condition every year—your home doesn’t depreciate THAT quickly.

Tiffany Hamil –PS folks! The deadline is next week for filing your property tax protests! That means you have only a few more days to ask the Tax Doctor!

The Tax Doctor

Meet Tiffany Hamil Mackey. She is a Dallas attorney who wants to get tough on taxes — property taxes, that is. Tiffany is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and received her Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Texas Wesleyan School of Law. She attended the University of Florida, one of the top three tax programs in the nation, for her Master of Laws degree in Taxation. Yep, we’ve brought out the big guns here this year once again. Tiffany has helped thousands of property owners fight their appraisals and lower taxes and she is here for the next few critical weeks to take your questions.

By now, of course, you have received your appraisal. My guess is that few went up, few went down, most stayed the same. But look closely at what they did your values: did land go up while improvement went down? The deadline for protesting is June 1. Once again this year,  you can protest on line. When it comes to property taxes, foreclosures are your friend. Once again the chief appraiser may not exclude comparable homes that sold at foreclosure in any of the three years preceding the tax year. So that foreclosed home down the street may help lower your property value and this is one time when you embrace it.

State law also states that we can use homes sold within the last 24 months as comps, and the chief appraiser cannot exclude comparable homes that have declined in value because of the economy.

Also this year — we can arbitrate all residential homesteads and some real and personal property valued at $1 million or less and ALL residential homesteads.

That’s kind of complex, we’ll ask Tiffany to clarify.

So go get your appraisals, get yourself up off the floor, and write us here for The Tax Doctor: the Tax Doctor is IN.