By Bill Oakey – May 19, 2015
The City of Austin will decide within less than two weeks whether to formally challenge the tax appraisals of non-residential commercial properties. This would be a landmark event that comes as very welcome news. For far too long, commercial property owners have enjoyed the benefit of special loopholes under Texas law that allow them to gain property tax appraisals that often equate to only 60% of their true market value.
Texas is one of a tiny handful of states that do not require sales disclosure of properties after completed real estate transactions. This creates a tremendous burden on tax appraisal districts. It is much harder for them to determine actual market value of many commercial properties than it is for residential units. Residential units can be appraised in bulk, because of common characteristics in residential neighborhoods. But commercial properties vary widely in all sorts of respects, causing appraisals districts to face lots of challenges in trying to accurately estimate the market value of every building within their jurisdictions.
in Travis County, 90% of commercial property owners challenge their appraisals, and they often take their cases to court. The deep pockets of the big corporations dwarf the budget of the appraisal district, creating a very unlevel playing field. Many of the very same companies that receive tax subsidies to locate in Austin turn around and protest their tax appraisals, shifting the burden to residential taxpayers. The whole picture does not bode well for the beleaguered homeowners who have seen their tax appraisals shoot through the roof in the last few years.
A Great Big Thank You to Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Members Ann Kitchen, Ellen Troxclair Don Zimmerman!
These four City Council members have co-sponsored a resolution for Tuesday May 19th to formally challenge this year’s tax appraisals for large commercial properties. A final decision on whether to file a challenge must be made before June 1st. The City has been studying and preparing for this potential action since last year. Of course there are risks that tax collections might be delayed. Bold actions always come with risks. But a fight for fairness is always a noble fight! One might ask, why doesn’t the Texas Legislature pass better laws to close the loopholes enjoyed by the rich and powerful? (silly question).
And one might say that commercial property owners might just raise their prices to their customers if they were suddenly required to pay their fair share of property taxes. But I have a much different outlook on the situation. Why should good, hard working average citizens be taxed out of their socks, year after year, while the big boys skate by without paying their fair share? I’m not the least bit concerned about how tough the fight is. The fact that we have new people on the City Council who are bold enough to stand up for the taxpayers is something to celebrate. I support the City Council resolution. Let the battle begin!
You Are Invited to a Property Tax Appraisal Forum
Dear Travis County Resident,
Commissioner Brigid Shea invites you to the Property Tax Appraisal Forum on Tuesday, May 19th from 6:00-8:00pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Church (4700 Grover Ave; 78757).
The forum will provide information on the current status of tax appraisals and the efforts underway to ease the burden on homeowners. The speakers will address concerns and provide information that you may need for appeals and exemptions, as well as an update on current legislation.
Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner
Kathie Tovo, City of Austin Mayor Pro Tem
Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Assessor
Marya Crigler, Travis Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser
Dick Levine, Center for Public Policy Priorities
Leigh Murrin, Real Values for Texas
Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Address: 700 Lavaca, Ste.2.700, Austin, Texas
Twitter and Facebook: CommishShea
Mr. Oakey, if you are interested in doing so, would you address Ms. Kwiatkowski’s arguments starting about halfway through this fb thread? My knowledge was inadequate to evaluate them, and I was/am also busy with other things. https://www.facebook.com/arwen.tedhams/posts/1059326150762840?comment_id=1059924110703044¬if_t=like
Mr. Oakey, I linked to this post in a fb thread where Ms. Kwiatkowski would probably see it. She wrote at great length, once again arguments which are outside my area of expertise. Do you care to address them?
Sorry, forgot the link.
OK, worked that time.
“And one might say that commercial property owners might just raise their prices to their customers if they were suddenly required to pay their fair share of property taxes. But I have a much different outlook on the situation. Why should good, hard working average citizens be taxed out of their socks, year after year, while the big boys skate by without paying their fair share?”
I can see where this would help homeowners. Here’s my question, though. Aren’t apartment complexes considered to be commercial properties? If so, I don’t see how this will help the majority of good, hard working Austin residents who are renters..
Austin renters are certainly caught in a crippling cost squeeze. That problem needs to be addressed vigorously. But the gross unfairness of commercial property appraisals stands on its own as an imjustice that must be stopped. The affordabilty battle needs to be fought on every front. The path to solutions requires cooperation among many grass-roots organizations and individuals who represent the interests of both renters and homeowners. I strongly support efforts to help both groups, and will be reporting on all fronts.