"I protested my property taxes several times, and my tax rate was not lowered. So I don't see the point of doing this."
Those words to The Watchdog are from Tom H. after I announced my #EverybodyFileAProtest campaign.
Since then I'm hearing dozens of reports from taxpayers about their experiences this month in property tax hearings.
I want to share those voices with you. Keep in mind these voices you'll hear are from various counties. There's no one way to do this — which is part of the problem. But this illustrates the random, unfair nature of the state system. It's guesswork that's negotiable. That's a silly way to run a tax system.
When these protesters talk of lowering their numbers, they mean they've lowered the taxable value of their home in negotiations with the appraisal district — not their final tax bill. The tax value is multiplied by the tax rate set in the coming weeks by cities, counties, school districts, hospital and college entities.
I'm using initials because most of us are hesitant to publicly wrangle with our appraisal district. We're afraid of repercussions.
But these folks believed me when I told them their annual tax statement is the one bill they get each year that's negotiable. As I've said, this is a sucker's game. If you don't protest, you lose without trying. These people tried.
Numbers are up. In Collin and Dallas counties, for instance, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reports that the number of protests increased by 10,000 compared with last year. Wow. (The protest deadline has passed.)
At the conclusion, I'll share an important tip to help you win.
"This year they did not raise my appraisal value, but I protested online. They denied that. I thought, no way will they lower. Just got a certified letter in the mail. They did lower! Success." — T.S.
"I used the online negotiating form that allowed me to suggest a proper value. It was immediately accepted, and I saved thousands of dollars in taxes." — J.P.
"Our house went up $42,000 in value. We protested and only got it reduced $3,000." -- L.S.
"Your advice worked for me. Taxes stayed at 2016 rate." -- D.W.
"I was able to settle with them online in a matter of seconds for just a $300 increase in our property value." -- J.L.
"Got mine reduced by 10 percent. Thank you, Dave." -- M.H.
"I did it! And I asked the lady how many people come down here and do this. She said very few." -- B.J.
"I spent 15 minutes and received $30K off valuation. It was an easy online 15 minutes. Well worth it." -- L.J.
"I spent 30 minutes and nothing. Worth a shot, I guess." -- V.M.
"First time to protest. Our experience wasn't so great. Dropped it 4.6 percent." -- C.P.
"The reduction will save us roughly $1,000. The whole discussion took less than five minutes, and though it still isn't as low as I think it should be, I can go back again next year to dispute it some more." -- R.S.
"The results are in. I won! Built my case on property taxes in our area and used the appraisal district's own information to show that our taxes had increased way too much." -- T.H.
"I used their online site and it was simple and easy. Thanks for encouraging us." -- D.M.
"I filed an e-protest. To my dismay I didn't get a counter offer but a day to appear in person. I was debating whether to show up or not. The next day I received an offer close to my original offer. I do believe because of your articles, they are overwhelmed." -- R.H.
"I did it! Filed an e-protest online and lowered my value $11,000. I will do this again." -- J.S.
"Well, I lost my case even after doing a ton of research." -- E.L.
"We ended up getting $29K knocked off the value. And I didn't even need to go to the appraisal district. It was all handled via mail. I am thrilled I did this by myself without the help of a professional tax protester. Thank you for challenging us to file tax protests!" -- J.M.
"I protested online. Got $26K knocked off in 10 minutes!" -- B.R.
"The appraiser looked at my evidence and agreed it was too high and adjusted the valuation to something reasonable. Had I not read your columns, I would not have thought to follow through with this." -- D.J.
"The appraisal district is leading with an artificially high value in many cases and when the protest is filed, they are offering the homeowner the value they should have started with. They offer you some relief, but only if you ask." -- T.C.
Final tip: Thank you, K.C., for reminding me to tell everyone that Texas law allows protesters to gain a copy of the appraisal district records of your property before your hearing. Know what they have on you.
Write a letter stating that under the Texas property code, you request a copy of the data, schedules, formulas and other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at your hearing. If they don't give it to you at least 14 days before your hearing, they can't use it as evidence.
Dallas Morning News staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
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The Watchdog Desk works for you to shine light on questionable practices in business and government. We welcome your story ideas and tips.
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Write: Dave Lieber, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265