Are You Getting All Your Texas Property Tax Breaks?

Not happy about your Texas property tax bill? Here are your options.

As you are likely all too aware, your Texas home is subject to annual property taxes. Like any homeowner, you want to make sure that you are not paying more into the system than required.

How can you reduce your Texas property tax burden? There are two primary avenues for doing so. The first is potentially available to all homeowners. The second depends on whether you meet certain qualifications. If you meet those qualifications, you can seek tax relief using either or both methods.

Appeal the Taxable Value of Your Texas Home

You might know that the Texas authorities compute your property tax by multiplying your home’s taxable value by the tax rate. But you might not know that Texas has 254 counties, each with its own county assessors, each of which have their own processes for "assessing" (valuing) local properties.

Both property tax rates and home values are determined by these local state government officials. Property tax rate information for your county, along with contact information for local assessors, can be found on the website of the Texas Comptroller's Office.

Here's an example of how assessment and valuation affects homeowners: Imagine that George and Barbara own a home in Austin, upon which the assessor has placed a taxable value of $200,000. If the tax rate in their county is 1%, George and Barbara will owe $2,000 in property tax. Believing that their valuation is too high, they appeal the $200,000 figure. The appeals board reduces that value to $150,000. Now, George and Barbara owe only $1,500 in property tax on their Texas home.

If you believe that the tax assessor has misjudged the value of your home, or if the taxable value is higher than that of similar homes in your neighborhood (of similar size, condition, and so on), you might wish to contact your Texas county assessor to pursue an appeal.

Claim All Texas Property Tax Breaks to Which You're Entitled

Texas law allows for reduced property taxes if you meet certain requirements. Specifically, Chapter 11 of the Texas Tax Code provides various "exemptions" to property taxes, depending on the specific regulations within your county. The chief programs in Texas are summarized here.

  • Basic homestead exemption. Texas law requires school districts to offer a $25,000 exemption on residence homesteads. Counties have the option of also offering a separate residence homestead exemption of up to 20% of a property’s appraised value (but not less than $5,000). For more information, see Tex. Tax Code § 11.13(a) and (n).
  • Senior citizens and disabled people. If you are disabled, or are 65 years of age or older, you can get an additional $10,000 exemption from school taxes in Texas. Some taxing districts may allow an additional exemption. For more information, see Tex. Tax Code § 11.13(c).
  • Disabled veterans. You qualify for an exemption of up to $12,000 if you are a disabled veteran. The exact amount depends on your age and disability rating. The highest exemption, of $12,000, applies to vets who are 70% disabled, or are 65 or older and have a disability rating of at least 10%, or are blind in one or both eyes, or have lost one or both limbs. For more information, see Tex. Tax Code § 11.22.
  • Veteran’s surviving spouse. A disabled veteran’s surviving spouse, who has not remarried, is entitled to the same exemption that the veteran was at the time of his or her death. An exemption is also available for the surviving spouse, and minor children, of a military person who dies while on active duty.

You can learn more about property tax exemptions on the Comptroller's website. Contact your county tax appraiser for complete details on these and other Texas exemptions, including any required forms you need to complete and the deadline for filing them. Contact information for your county appraiser is available from the Texas Comptroller.

Depending on the complexity of your situation, you might want to seek legal help. To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Texas, check out Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

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