Appraisal Review Board (“ARB”) hearings in Texas Property Tax cases - by Daniel L. O’Neil

by News Editor
in Blog
on 26 June 2016
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What is an ARB and why do they matter? The ARB hearing is the first and best bite at the apple you get in a contested property tax case to prove up the facts, argue the law, and explain why your rendition was correct and the appraisal by the County Appraisal District (“CAD”) was wrong.

This is part of our series on business personal property tax. Please take a quick look at our prior posts in the series if you are so inclined.

As a taxpayer you have the right to protest the excessive CAD appraisal before the ARB. There is a process to receive a hearing: you must file a written notice of protest which includes your name, address, a description/identification of the property, and the area of dissatisfaction with the appraisal. The deadline for timely making this notice is by May 31 or 30 days following mailing of the appraisal notice. The ARB and the CAD are powerless to do anything about the state tax rates, so that is not a good area to focus your dissatisfaction on since it is the same kind of frivolous argument to make to the IRS that the federal taxes are too damn high.

The ARB is supposed to be an impartial body whose main purpose is to hear and render decisions regarding property owners’ protests. At the ARB hearing the panel listens to the taxpayer (if present) and the CAD and then determines if a change in the appraisal records will be ordered. In counties with more than 120,000 people in population the local administrative district judge appoints ARB members – otherwise the appraisal district’s board of directors appoints them. So the ARB is supposed to be an independent, impartial group of citizens – however based on the selection mechanisms, ARB members are usually never a representative cross section of the community of course.

ARB members are not allowed to discuss your case with anyone outside of the hearing. The ARB members have to sign an affidavit stating that they have not done anything improper, such as communicating about your case to their buddies or husband.

Many business owners ignore the hearing since they feel like it is a waste of time, or they show up unprepared and are outgunned by the CAD representative who does this kind of thing all day every day and for years.

The CAD representative is not your buddy. They are going to try and trick you into turning over documents that will hurt your side. Don’t fall prey to their schemes as they say they are trying to help you out – they are an adverse party. They do not actually want to help you out. New friends don’t come that easy. Don’t be gullible.

Protest hearings are open to the public and anyone can sit in and listen to the case – unless upon joint motion from the property owner and chief appraiser there is a request for a closed hearing, which is a really good idea if any proprietary or confidential information will be disclosed at the hearing.

At least 14 days before your scheduled hearing the CAD will mail you a helpful pamphlet, a copy of ARB procedures, and a notification that you are allowed to inspect and obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas, and other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing. Just like the Brady file in a criminal case, they don’t deliver it to your house – you need to go on in to their office and make a copy of it.

Emotional pleas never go over well in ARB hearings. Stick to the facts and don’t waste time, being prepared makes sure you get everything in you need for the panel to consider it. You are time-limited so if you are rifling through papers you might find yourself cut off.

Once the ARB rules they send a written order by certified mail. At that point if you are still unhappy you have some options. Your options depend on what kind of case it is, and what the value is of the property in question. There are strict time limits do don’t delay in deciding what to do next after you are unhappy with the ARB decision.

We’re always around to help you decide what to do next when you are unhappy with the ARB decision – especially if you represented yourself at the hearing, or you just fired the contingent fee firm that represented you at the ARB hearing.