Rahul Patel

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HOUSTON—From El Paso to Texarkana and from Brownsville toAmarillo, Texans are fired up this summer about property tax bills.Property values in numerous counties have increased by doubledigits this year, resulting in big jumps in the taxes propertyowners are expected to pay, according to RahulPatel, attorney and managing partner with Patel | Gaines, a locallaw firm.

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“The appraised value from your local county appraisal district isn't the last word if you don't wantit to be,” Patel tells GlobeSt.com. “Property owners across Texashad until May 31 to file an official protest of their property'svalue. In many cases, such a protest results in a lower valuationand, in turn, a lower tax bill.”

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Appraisal review boards will be working all summer to resolvethose protests. However, not every protesting property owner willwind up being satisfied with the review board's decision. Whichleads to a final option: filing a lawsuit, says Patel.

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“No one files a protest secretly hoping they'll end up suingtheir appraisal district,” Patel continues. “But with more than 1.8million parcels of property to assess in Harris County alone, it'sinevitable that some valuations are still going to end up offtarget after a protest and a hearing with the appraisal reviewboard. Even the best property tax consulting firms out there don'twin every protest.”

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Especially in the case of many commercial and industrialproperties, taking the appraisal district to court is the last hopeof achieving a realistic and fair valuation. For a commercialproperty valued in the millions of dollars, a significant reductionin the valuation means big cuts in the final tax bill. Thousands ofsuits are filed against appraisal districts statewide each year andmany produce major tax savings as values are reset to be fairer andmore equitable.

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And filing a lawsuit often is less time consuming and lesscostly than expected, Patel says.

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“Essentially, the property owner argues that their property issimply valued too high for the market, or that comparableproperties are valued lower and that this disparity is unfair,” heexplains. “It's not unusual for a relatively simple lawsuit toresult in a six-figure cut to a commercial property's final taxbill.”

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Patel offers a critical point to remember: suits must be filedwithin 60 days of receiving the appraisal review board's finaldecision.

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“Beyond 60 days, you're stuck with the review board's number,”he cautions. “So, if you filed a protest, do your homework and dothe best you can to reduce your valuation to a fair level. But ifyou don't get the relief you believe you deserve, taking yourappraisal district to court can be an effective way to remedy thesituation. It's worth at least a discussion with a reputable realestate attorney.”

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Patel is also a founder of Citizens for Appraisal Reform, anonprofit organization devoted to legislative change, correctionand improvement of appraisal practices, and an equal and uniformtax system for all property taxpayers–residential, commercial andpersonal.

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of GlobeSt.com. She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.

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