Avoid These Five Mistakes When You Protest Property Taxes

June 19, 2024 |

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation reports that 30% to 60% of taxable property in the United States is valued too high. Even so, less than 5% of taxpayers attempt to protest property taxes. Of those who do protest, many fall victim to errors throughout what can be a lengthy and confusing process — errors that result in weak arguments and a lower likelihood of success.  

At Lane, we aim to empower commercial property owners with the insights they need to successfully protest property taxes and further grow their businesses. Here, we’ll look at some of the most common errors associated with protesting property taxes, and tips for moving your protests forward successfully. 


Mistake #1: Forfeiting the Opportunity to Protest  

Many property owners consider protesting their commercial property taxes, only to change their minds after looking into what the process entails. A protest can be intimidating and time consuming for those who don’t deal in such work regularly. However, when you approach the process correctly — and with the right team by your side — you can save your business thousands or more each year.  

It’s important to remember that the mass appraisal systems many county appraisal districts (CADs) employ result in errors more often than not due to the fact that they value large groups of properties at once. Remember, no other property is exactly like yours, so there’s no such thing as an apples-to-apples comparison. Appraisal districts may not be aware of factors that affect your unique holdings, including but not limited to needed repairs, vacancy rates, market rental rates and future development potential. This is one of the many reasons we recommend protesting your commercial property taxes annually. 

A common misconception about protesting property taxes — and a reason many property owners choose not to fight back — is the idea that it will add to the financial burden a company already faces. But you shouldn’t have to fear high fees. Although every tax firm operates in its own way, many such as Lane won’t require payment unless they can save your business money.  


Mistake #2: Ignoring Market Value Conditions  

The strongest commercial property tax protest cases are built on facts. Having an in-depth understanding of your area’s commercial real estate market and how it impacts your property values can go a long way toward fighting back against unfair valuations. If opting to fight high property taxes yourself, researching the current market — not just in your community, but in others nearby — can help bring your argument into focus. 

A good place to start is with your commercial property market value. That refers to the price you could expect your property to sell for on the open market. This value is determined by several of the following factors: 

  • Location and Accessibility: Buildings located in busy areas that get a lot of visibility and are easily accessible can be higher in value. 
  • Physical Attributes: This includes architectural style, building size and layout, use of windows, security systems, regular upkeep and quality of construction. 
  • Income Potential: A building’s worth can be increased by its ability to generate income through factors such as rental rates and occupancy rates. The more net income your property generates, the higher its value.  
  • Changing Market Conditions: This can include factors such as interest rates, what buyers are interested in and the temperature of the economy. 
  • Environmental Factors: If your business partakes in energy-efficient practices such as water conservation, waste reduction and renewable energy programs, you can potentially expect reductions in property taxes. 


Mistake #3: Insufficient Property Data  

As we’ve mentioned, the best property tax protests are driven by data. One of the most important steps in fighting high property taxes is to gather as much information as possible before a hearing. You know your commercial properties better than anyone else, and you will need to educate the appraisal review board (ARB) about all aspects of your buildings and business.  

Gather evidence that adequately illustrates your properties’ condition, use and past valuations. This detailed information helps to highlight any factors that make your properties unique — and can help strengthen your argument. Pertinent evidence includes: 

  • Tax Records 
  • Prior Appraisal Information 
  • Repair Estimates 
  • Property Surveys 
  • Deed Records 
  • Neighborhood Market Data  
  • Photographs Showcasing Property Conditions 
  • Property Damage Documentation 
  • Profit & Loss Statements 
  • Rent Rolls


Mistake #4: Waiting Until it’s too Late to Protest 

The typical deadline for filing your protest is May 15, or 30 days after receiving an appraisal notice. If you can provide a good reason for missing the local deadline, you may be granted a late hearing. However, failure to present adequate cause could result in loss of the right to protest your property taxes that year.  

If you’re handling the protest on your own, make sure to adhere to the submission dates and give yourself plenty of time to collect data. If you’ve enlisted help from a firm such as Lane, ensure they have ample time to gather information and build your case. Remember, your firm is tasked with more than mere data collection. Its work involves developing a strategy tailored to your unique properties and situation, preparing for potential counterarguments and consulting with legal experts and stakeholders. Put simply, the sooner you start, the better. 

Lane Tip: Our Commercial Property Tax Calendar pulls important dates you need to know into one convenient place. Download your copy from our Resources page. 


Mistake #5: Protesting Property Taxes on Your Own 

As a business owner, you have your hands full. Not only does a protest require extensive research, planning and strategy development, but success is contingent on adhering to strict deadlines. Shifting protest responsibilities to a professional firm can help save you time, money and sanity.  

Property tax experts have spent years studying legal strategies for protesting property taxes, and deal in such work every day. At Lane, we have more than 100 years of combined experience under our belts, in addition to a network of strong relationships with real estate professionals and county representatives. Our experienced team has seen hundreds of different tax situations, and we have the time to prepare and present a strong case on your behalf.  

If you have questions about any of the above, or if you’re interested in learning the best ways to position your case for success, feel free to reach out to our tax experts at any time. Your Lane team is here to help and ready to unburden your business.

Wondering How to Protest Property Taxes?

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Lane Property Tax Advocates has been serving the greater Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas areas and beyond for over 10 years - and we can help you, too.
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