So, you received a valuation you know is too high, you gathered your data and sent your county property tax protest off. What happens next? If the process of protesting your commercial property taxes seems like something of a mystery, rest assured such is the case for many property owners out there. In an effort to help you unburden your business — and remain fully informed through the process — Lane Property Tax Advocates is here to shed a bit of light on what to expect once your county property tax protest is sent off.
Step 1: Your Case Moves on to an Informal Hearing
Once you complete your county property tax protest information and send it off to the right people, it’s time to keep an eye on the mail. You should soon receive written notice of the time, date and place of your informal hearing. This hearing works much like mediation, offering you and a staff appraiser the opportunity to discuss the appraised value and (hopefully) land on a lower value that works for you both. You’ll want to go in prepared, with information on everything from past valuations, to property damages or updates and even photos of the property itself. After all, while you’re building your own case, the appraiser is doing the same. The more convincing your argument, the better your odds of lowering your commercial property taxes.
If you reach an agreement, your commercial property tax protest has reached its end.
Step 2: If No Agreement is Reached, Your Case Goes to a Formal Hearing
Oftentimes that initial hearing isn’t enough to resolve your commercial property tax concerns. When that happens, your case moves on to the formal hearing stage, where you present before an appraisal review board (ARB). The premise is the same as with the informal hearing, in that both you and the appraiser present your cases, only this time the ARB will decide in someone’s favor once both sides have had their chance to speak and present evidence. Again, the more hard data you have to back up your case, the better. Simple he-said, she-said arguments typically aren’t enough to sway the board’s opinion in your favor. You’ll want to have a well-planned presentation ready to go.
If the ARB sides with you, that’s the end of your commercial property tax protest.
Step 3: Even if the ARB Rules Against You, There Are Options
It can be disheartening when a ruling doesn’t go your way, but it isn’t necessarily the end of the road. If you choose to pursue the issue further, you have 60 days following the ARB’s final value decision to take the requisite steps to begin arbitration or litigation efforts. That typically involves paying off owed taxes or process fees and submitting the proper paperwork. As for determining which route is best, that depends on factors such as the size and type of your property, as well as the amount of time and money you are able to invest in the process. We have a blog post focused specifically on arbitration and litigation. In general, however, litigation is the more formal of the options, involving numerous meetups in the form of mediations, settlement conferences and the like. (At times, litigation can move on to trial). Arbitration, meanwhile, is a more relaxed approach involving an arbitrator who listens to both sides and renders a final verdict with 20 days of hearing the case.
Every step of the county property tax protest process requires an organized, evidence-driven approach, a level head and an ability to present one’s case both calmly and thoroughly. Having an expert team like Lane in your corner — one that deals with these issues daily and understands the best way to prove a case — can significantly increase your chances of a successful protest. (Not only that, but such firms will handle the work for you, taking care of everything from filing, to appearing at hearings on your behalf and handling litigation and arbitration.) If you have questions about any of the above, or if you’re interested in learning how Lane can help you lower your property taxes, feel free to reach out. We would love to work with you!