Appraisal Review Board Hearing (ARB)
The ARB hearing panel consists of three impartial citizens selected and paid by the appraisal district. The age of most ARB members ranges from fifty to eighty. There is an unfortunate bias in the system since the ARB members are selected and paid by the appraisal district, but most ARB members are reasonable people who want to make appropriate decisions.
Like the appraisal district appraiser, the ARB does not set tax rates or tax policy. The members are also not responsible for the effectiveness of local government. It is unlikely to help your case if you complain to the ARB members about either the high level of property taxes or the poor quality of some aspect of local government.
The ARB will expect you to make your presentation in about three to ten minutes. They will typically wait patiently while you make your presentation and may have questions after you conclude. An appraiser from the appraisal district, who may or may not be the same person who attended the informal hearing, will represent the appraisal district at the ARB hearing. The appraiser will comment on the evidence you presented and will often present other information the appraisal district has available. If you requested a House Bill 201 package for your property, it substantially limits the evidence the appraisal district appraiser can offer at the hearing. The ARB members may have questions after the appraisers presentation. Then the property owner will be given a final opportunity to rebut evidence presented by the appraisal district appraiser and quickly summarize the evidence. The ARB members strongly prefer you not repeat your entire presentation at this point.
After hearing the evidence, the ARB members will confer and make a decision. This decision is not subject to negotiation and they will not revise the decision if further evidence is presented. When this decision is announced, the hearing is effectively over. The ARB will send a letter two to four weeks later summarizing their decision and notifying the owner of a 45 day limitation from the date receipt of the ARB decision to either request binding arbitration or file a judicial appeal.
Binding Arbitration or Judicial Appeal
Beginning September 2005, owners of properties with an assessed value of $1 million or less may file a request for binding arbitration. The owner must file with the appraisal district no more than 45 days after receipt of the notice of the ARB's decision. The binding arbitration option is interesting because it includes a loser pays provision. The appraisal district pays for the arbitrator's fee if the final value is closer to the owner's opinion of value, and the owner pays for the binding arbitration if the final decision is closer to the appraisal district's opinion of value. Binding arbitration was passed to provide an alternative to judicial appeals, which can be expensive to prosecute.
Many owners pursue judicial appeals to further reduce property taxes. In 2005, O'Connor & Associates filed over 1,200 judicial appeals on behalf of property owners in the state of Texas. The judicial appeals can be expensive if the property owner and attorney don't understand the process and have a plan in place to minimize the cost of legal and expert witness fees. Judicial appeals are typically successful. However, success requires cooperation from the property owner, such as providing responses to questions, documents and a deposition if requested. The judicial appeal is meaningful as an option to minimize property taxes since it reduces the base value. This is important because the appraisal district and ARB consider the base value in the subsequent year when setting the administrative hearing value.