Monday, September 22, 2014

Texas Property Taxes are High ... and Due Soon

Water bird at the edge of a pond
Yellow Crowned Night Heron at the Park in Temple, Texas

Texas Property Taxes are Assessed in October

You may think of Halloween in October, but in Texas, we know that’s property tax notice month. Texas homeowners get a notice in the mail to pay property taxes by October 31 to avoid penalties -- or get a discount, however you read the notice. 

You already know that everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes property taxes. According to, the median property tax in Texas is $2,275 on the home value of $125,800. You’d think with all that farmland, Texas could make enough revenue taxing ranches and leave the homeowners with a postage-stamp square of land a little money to live on. It’s not to be, and property taxes, even with a homeowner’s exemption, will probably cost you $200 a month in Texas.

You may pay your Texas property taxes with your house payment each month as part of the escrow, or you may pay the taxes separately once a year, directly to the Tax Appraisal District for your county. 

If you’re paying with your house payment, you may not be getting all the exemptions available to you. There are a few exemptions allowed under Texas property laws.

Check your tax notice to see the appraised value of your house. If you don’t believe your house will sell for the amount of the appraisal, contact the local tax appraiser and ask questions. Compare the value of your home with similar homes in the neighborhood. The appraisal information is available online at official websites in Texas, but estimated values are also available through websites like Trulia and Homesnap. If your local appraiser doesn’t value your home based on similar homes in the neighborhood, complete the forms and request a hearing. You can contest the value. Here’s how it works.
See if you have a homestead exemption. If you live in the home and meet the qualifications, you can claim a homestead exemption and reduce some of your taxes. If your tax notice doesn’t show a homestead exemption, call the Tax Appraisal District and ask. Complete the homestead exemption forms and save a copy for yourself before you send them to the tax office. You are entitled to $3,000 in exemption from county property taxes and $15,000 in exemption for school district taxes.

Look for disabled or age 65 exemption, if you can qualify. This gives you an additional $10,000 exemption of the appraised value of the homestead, and maybe some other exemptions -- depending on whether the additional exemptions are adopted by the governing body of the taxing unit or a majority vote of the qualified voters of the taxing unit.

Texas also has a tax ceiling for senior citizens. Ask about freezing your taxes the year you are 65. It applies as of January 1 of that year, and will keep your taxes from increasing each year unless you make significant improvements. The freeze or ceiling applies to a surviving spouse living in the home if the spouse is 55 or disabled at the time of the spouse’s demise.

There is a disabled veteran exemption in Texas that also applies to the surviving spouse. If you or your spouse is a disabled veteran, be sure to check to see if you are getting the exemption. You are not eligible if you are remarried, and you can’t receive both the disabled veteran or surviving spouse exemption combined with the over 65 exemption.

Request the forms and send them to the appropriate office, along with any requested documents (probably a copy of your driver’s license and utility bill). Beware that there are people out there who want to do this for you FOR A FEE. They check to see who hasn’t claimed all available exemptions and offer to complete the form for you. You can do this on your own, and if you have any difficulty, the Appraisal District will assist you. You don’t need to pay for free services.

Pay your taxes in full by the end of October and get a 3 percent discount. End of November payments are reduced by 2 percent and end of December payments save one percent. Take advantage of all of the breaks, exemptions and reductions you can get to save a little money on your property taxes in Texas. Remember that you don't pay an income tax and enjoy your little piece of Texas.


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