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Taxman's Tips

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $ 200 Billion in devastation throughout much of Southeast Texas. We were all touched by this storm in some way.

If you experienced property damage due to Hurricane Harvey please be aware that regardless of whether a mass reappraisal is triggered for flood damaged properties for the rest of 2017, your property’s 2018 property tax assessment will still be set on January 1st, as it is every year.

UNREPAIRED DAMAGES to your property as of January1, 2018 will be prime evidence for your 2018 property tax hearings. Pictures of flooded property, exterior water lines, etc. in the wake of Harvey is visual evidence that is very useful too! Ongoing discussions in the wake of Harvey about new flood maps for neighborhoods affected by flooding is also an important issue!

This is the type of evidence that can be used in hearings to reduce your 2018 value:

  • DATE STAMPED PHOTOGRAPHS – Provide photos of flood damage to your property and structure at the time of the flood and ongoing repair work not completed as of January 1, 2018
  • INSURANCE ESTIMATE – If you have insurance and have filed a claim, send us a copy of the adjuster’s estimate
  • QUOTES/INVOICES/RECEIPTS – Send us any documentation for planned or completed repairs related to flood damage
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Documentation related to flood damage
  • ENGINEERING REPORT – related to flood damage

If you are a customer please remember to refer to your BTA-ID and Property Address on any information submitted. We will only use the evidence that will help you in a hearing.

If you have any other property tax questions or concerns, please contact my:

 

Account sign-up for 2017 hearings

Bettencourt Tax Advisors, LLC on-line account sign-up for 2017 commercial and residential hearings has been extended through midnight Monday, May 30th for Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Montgomery counties. My BTA Team has had great results in the early hearings. Don't miss out, sign up today!

Please go to the sign up page and follow the directions.

Do you think your property tax value should be lower than your Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing result?

You can still litigate or arbitrate your property tax value.

To watch a video about BTA's Litigation and Arbitration Services, click on the link below:

"Taxman's" Tip: Litigation and Arbitration Video


To learn more about the Litigation and Arbitration process,
read Paul's article from the September 2016 edition of REDNews by clicking on the box below.

"Taxman's" Article on Litigation and Arbitration

REDNews, Your Commercial Real Estate Marketing Source, September 2016, p. 20

 

Litigation and Arbitration are a Viable 3rd Step in the Property Appeal Process

The clock is ticking...
You only have 45 days to file Arbitration, or 60 days to file Litigation, from the date of your ARB Final Order!

 

Did you get a bad result at your county appraisal district ARB hearing?

  • Filing a Judicial Appeal or Arbitration can save you nearly 10% more on average!
  • BTA has specialized in Litigation and  Arbitration for the past 5 years.
  • BTA's Senior Property Tax Consultants and Tax Agents are especially trained in the BTA Way on Judicial Appeal Methods to save you money on your tax bills.

 

Sign up with the best Arbitration and Litigation Teams in the business!

CommercialServices@btanow.com

Late Sign-ups are now open on line for Harris County properties only. Please proceed to the sign-up page and follow the directions to sign up!

Bettencourt Tax Advisors, LLC (BTA) will be accepting on line sign-ups for residential and commercial properties in Harris County only. Please go to the sign up page and follow the directions.

If you would like to sign-up a commercial property only in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, and Montgomery counties, contact CommercialServices@btanow.com

2016 is seeing property tax valuations increase around the state.

Taxpayers have had the opportunity to let their voices be heard at the Texas State Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform & Relief. Go to http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/Senate/commit/c632/c632.htm to view videos of past meetings around the state including the hearing on May 10th held at the University of Houston with over 600 citizens and government representatives in attendance. It was revealed at the May 10th Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reduction hearing that 2015 property tax final valuations in Harris County increased an astonishing 28.6% overall from the previous year.

As you may know, property tax valuations increased throughout the Houston metro area in 2016. The residential property value increases in many neighborhoods are in the 3-11% range with over half of Harris County affected. The commercial sector is seeing across the board increases close to 20% on noticed value for the third year in a row. In the surrounding counties, expect to see continued increases in property tax valuations. Galveston County has already shown significant increases in beachside property and condominium noticed values. Property tax valuations are continuing to go up and BTA's experienced team is already at the appraisal districts fighting to reduce these values.

Average Percent Change by Market Area 2016:
http://hcad.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=dda161e26ce3400bb45a7b2cbbf01055

Heat Map-Concentrations of Recent Residential Sales 2016:
http://hcad.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a32e8cdfc5e549c79d46bdb99e54f719

Boom, Recession, Recovery 2007-2016 for Residential Properties:
http://gis.hcad.org/2016/ResMed4_5_2016Ntcd.pdf

Boom, Recession, Recovery 2007-2016 for Commercial Properties:
http://gis.hcad.org/2016/ComMed4_5_2016Ntcd.pdf

 

2015 Harris County property tax valuations are increasing for a larger base of property owners than in 2007!

Both residential and commercial property owners will feel the effects throughout Harris County. For graphic representations of these increases go to the HCAD links below.

2015 Harris County Residential properties are up for nearly 90% of the homes in Harris County. Sales have been strongest for homes in the $80,000 - $500,000 range, as well as in neighborhoods with highly ranked schools.

Average Percent Change by Market Area:
http://gis.hcad.org/2015/Percent_Change.aspx

Heat Map_Concentrations of Recent Residential Sales_January 1,2014 through January 31,2015:
http://gis.hcad.org/2015/Sales.aspx

Boom, Recession, Recovery 2007-2015 for Residential Properties:
http://gis.hcad.org/2015/9yrs3sRes4_7_15Sm.pdf

2015 Harris County Commercial Property Reappraisals have continued their climb in property tax valuations:
APARTMENTS UP 22%
OFFICES UP 12%
RETAIL UP 21%
WAREHOUSES UP 23%
LAND UP 23%

Boom, Recession, Recovery 2007-2015 for Commercial Properties:
http://gis.hcad.org/2015/9yrs3sCom4_7_15Sm.pdf


Market Cap Reduction Program

"The 2014 market reduction program was very successful for BTA customers by industry norms."

The "Taxman's" professional team will be at the appraisal districts protesting your 2015 property taxes. As you may know, property tax valuations increased throughout the Houston metro area in 2015 with Harris county continuing their recent trend of double digit increases. HCAD increased residential valuations sharply, again, in 2015-- nearly 15% overall in just one year. Almost 90% of all homes in Harris County are affected. In the commercial sector certain markets are seeing increases greater than 20% -- APARTMENTS UP 22%, RETAIL UP 21%, WAREHOUSES UP 23%, and LAND UP 23%! Valuations are continuing to go up the fastest we've ever seen!

The esteemed Ben Franklin used to say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." BTA introduced the Market Cap Reduction Program in 2014 to offer our residential customers the opportunity to lower their market cap. (Market Cap = Preliminary Market Value - Preliminary Appraised Value) With values up nearly 15% on average, any reduction in market cap gives a homeowner the advantage of having a lower final value from which any potential increases may be calculated next year. A lower 2015 final value is important because the appraisal districts use mass appraisals every year to calculate property valuations in neighborhoods. When using the mass appraisal approach, a standardized percentage increase is assigned to the property tax valuations of homes in a neighborhood. The more BTA's team can reduce your property valuation this year, the lower your value will be next year when 2016's mass appraisal increase goes into effect and is applied to the previous year's (2015) final value.

The Market Cap Reduction Program is the ounce of prevention that Harris County homeowners need in the hot property market we are facing today. This program gives you the opportunity to lower your market cap at a very low cost of $2.50 for every $1000 reduction in market cap. (If the reduction goes below the capped amount the invoice will reflect the higher of the market cap amount or standard contingency fee.) An example of why the market cap program is so important: a large $40,000 reduction in market cap would only cost $80 this year, but without the reduction you may pay as much as $1000 more on your property tax bill every year. That is why it has been a must year to protest these ever higher market values in 2015.

Existing customers with capped accounts are given the opportunity to opt out of this program with an inactive/non-protest status if they choose to do so prior to the 2015 hearing season.


Houston's Boom Economy Pushes Property Taxes to New Heights!

By Paul Bettencourt

Last year the Houston Metro Area's "Boom" Economy created an incredible nearly 119,000 jobs, and the resulting "up" commercial and residential real estate market is the hottest one in the country. Property Tax rolls exploded based upon their January 1st, 2013 property valuation by the Harris County Appraisal District to new heights even after receiving nearly 200,000 protests; however, this summer the Appraisal Review Boards only made small reductions in hearings.

For example, all class "A+" Office Buildings Downtown where a lot of these new employees work in Houston saw their averages go "UP" by 53% in one year by HCAD! The Appraisal Review Boards reduced their values in hearings by 5% only, leaving values up an astonishing 48% net or by nearly half in just one year! That's billions of dollars to the tax rolls of both HISD and the City of Houston, and all the other residential and commercial value increases pushed their entire property tax rolls up 11.1% and 10.6% higher respectively in this year alone.

That is an astounding $138 million more for the Houston Independent School District and $102 million dollars more into the City of Houston coffers when taxpayers pay their bills by the January 31st, 2014 tax bill due date. Because of left over tax rate capacity from the Texas Legislature, HISD proposed another 4 pennies of TAX RATE increase that would drive the total tax revenue increase to nearly $180 million dollars more; with less allowances for refunds, this adds up to nearly a 15% INCREASE!!

That's where your "Taxman" stepped in to ask for tax relief for all taxpayers, because adding that much rate increase on top of a huge appraised valuation hike is like throwing gasoline on the taxpayer's checkbook! I presented the evidence of these increases using the Harris County Tax Office's last estimates already provided to the financial departments of both HISD, the City of Houston, and every other major taxing jurisdiction in Harris County.

I could tell at the meeting that the seven attending HISD Trustees had not seen the revised figures, as a lively debate took hold of the meeting for nearly an hour. It would have helped the taxpayers' cause for Greg Meyers to have been in attendance as he is a known budget questioner at the district, but the roll fell to Trustee Harvin Moore who spoke up and established in questions to the district's CFO that revenue estimates had gone up from 6%, to 8%, to finally that night 10% up over last year's property tax collections!

Based upon that answer, Trustee Moore offered an amendment to reduce the increase by a penny, saving District taxpayers $12 million dollars in their pockets. The astounding thing or two about all this for the reader to consider is:

1) Nowhere in established print media or on the Internet has anyone published the overwhelming facts that HISD is getting $168 million more dollars in property tax revenues, much less the City getting $102 million more dollars!

2) It took two folks, myself and Tammy Betancourt from the BOMA trade organization (no relation to the Taxman), coming to the HISD tax rate vote to bring this to light. A couple of good local TV news organizations carried these record tax bill increases, with one anchorwoman remarking, "Why not, everyone is interested in Taxes!"

The public needs to be told in advance and in plain English by effective public notices and unbiased serious media coverage how much more of their money is really flowing into governmental coffers, and at the same time the public needs to wake up and take this issue seriously! Next year, due to a record 28 months of Market Sales Activity, Houston home values will explode 10% or more almost wherever you own a home in the Greater Houston Area.

It means that government is going to get used to taking 10% more in property taxes two years in a row, and that is the beginnings of Bad Public Policy decisions all around. To be sure, HISD, like many Texas School Districts, doesn't keep all the local property tax revenues they collect due to so called "Robin-Hood" school financing formulas. However, what does happen is that local property taxpayers pay more each year and the State of Texas lowers what state aid it sends to HISD, backing up billions of dollars in the State Treasury if you include all school districts in the state over a two year biennium budget. There is a lot to do both locally and in Austin to try to get these property tax bill increases under control, and you'll find your "Taxman" doing his best on both ends for our hard pressed taxpayers!

Until then the bottom line is we can't let even local government grow 10% a year, otherwise the cost to taxpayers doubles in just seven years. That's at least twice as fast as population and inflation rates combined, and what will then happen is that you can pay off your banker's 30-year mortgage on your home but never pay off the Government Tax Collector.


Property Tax Services Offered by BTA

We believe that "It's All About the Taxpayers". In today's economic environment of rising property values, your best remedy is a successful property tax protest and appeal process.

Paul Bettencourt's team of State Licensed Senior Property Tax Consultants, Property Tax Consultants, and Customer Service Representatives are committed to helping you reduce your property tax liability. Our property tax consulting team at BTA has over 120 years experience in the property tax industry as well as over 5 decades working at the CADs. We also currently represent properties in 122 Texas counties and 6 states.

Basic Property Tax Services Available to All BTA Customers:

  • File Property Tax Protests
  • Market & Sales Analysis Program
  • Equity Assessment Program
  • GIS Mapping Technology
  • Attending Informal & Formal Hearings
  • Arbitration Support & Representation
  • Litigation Support & Management

Additional Property Tax Services Available to Commercial Customers:

  • Income & Cost Analysis
  • Business Personal Property (BPP) Renditions
  • BPP Inventory Appraisals
  • Cost Segregation
  • TCEQ Environmental Exemption
  • Annual Property Tax Budget Estimates
  • Pre-Acquisition Surveys

Litigation & Arbitration

The third step in the protest appeal process. Property value appeals are typically 25% of all civil litigation at the court house. If there is a strong case for a value reduction and the county appraisal district will not agree to it, Bettencourt Tax Advisors will provide litigation and arbitration management and support on your behalf. Paul Bettencourt attended every litigation mediation in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 to provide his assistance and expertise as needed.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of litigation or arbitration support and management, please contact BTA today!


Sign-Up Now

SIGN UP NOW, early hearings will be starting as soon as April 30th depending on the county appraisal district. Go to the Sign-Up tab above and follow the prompts. Then, just as important - Return your signed Contract and Appointment of Agent to complete the sign up process.

Signing Up is Easy! With your county tax number and property address in hand, go to our Account Sign-Up Page and enter the information we need to defend your property. We will be sending you confidential information, so please use a valid e-mail address. If you are a Commercial Client and have more than five properties or are interested in protesting your BPP, please call the office at (713) 263-6100 and ask for someone in the Commercial Department.

To learn more about our services, please click on either the Commercial or Residential buttons:

Commercial

Contact BTA to have "The Taxman" visit your organization or Trade Association. Paul Bettencourt will be happy to speak to your group about "Current Trends in the Economy and Property Taxes". Check out our "In the News" tab for links to see Paul in public discussions and interviews about property taxes, public policy issues, and other topics he has spoken publicly about.

Read some testimonials of what our customers have thought of the work we have done for them!