Editor’s note: this is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the 2007 Allandale Neighbor; I think this information is just as useful this year.
Most of us recently received a notice of our property tax values, and it’s likely they went up. While rising property values are a boon if you decide to sell, they aren’t so desirable while you’re living in your house. So how do you keep your taxes low while you are living in your home? In this article, we’ll consider how Travis County assesses value and assigns taxes, how to keep your taxes low, and how you can dispute (and potentially lower) your taxable value.
How Travis County assesses value and assigns taxes
To assess each home’s value, Travis County relies on recent sales values for nearby homes, and for that information, the county relies on residents. New property owners receive information request cards asking for the selling price of their homes. Approximately 20 percent of these cards are mailed back to the county.
Based on this information, the county assigns precise values to neighboring properties– sometimes driving by homes, sometimes not. Tax rates are then applied based on specific assessments applicable to that home. Commonly, these assessments are limited to standard city and county taxes; but depending on neighborhood variations, there may also be one-time special assessment taxes for new public works, or ongoing taxes for Municipal Utility Districts. A rate chart for Travis County is available online at
http://www.co.travis.tx.us/tax_assessor/rates/current_rates.asp or by calling 854-9473.
How you can keep your taxes down
You can keep your taxes low by making sure you file any exemptions for which you are eligible; the homestead exemption that identifies your residence as your home is the most common. Other common exemptions include over-65 exemption for seniors and the veteran's exemption. Exemption filings are due by May 1 each year, and they only need to be filed once on each property for each individual. You can find more information about exemptions, as well as a link to the forms to use when applying for exemptions at http://www.traviscad.org/faq_exemptions.html.
How you can dispute your appraised value
You can dispute your appraised value for reasons that commonly lower property value: proximity to traffic, noise pollution, light pollution, construction, or simply because you don’t see that your surrounding neighborhood sales support the value that you’ve been assessed. You must dispute your appraised value by May 31 or no later than 30 days after when your appraisal was mailed to you, whichever comes later. To dispute your value, mail a dispute letter stating reasons for your dispute to: Travis County Appraisal District Office, 8314 Cross Park Drive, Austin, TX, 78754.