If you’re like many commercial property owners, the decision to protest your commercial property taxes can be a stressful one. Not only are you embarking on a process that could have a very real impact on your bottom line, but said process also requires in-depth planning and property data. At Lane Property Tax Advocates, we’re big believers in the idea that virtually every commercial property owner should protest their taxes — and that they should do so every year. Here, we lay out a few common concerns property owners have when it comes to the protest process, and discuss reasons you should feel confident in your decision to move forward.
Concern: You’re in the Minority if You Protest Your Commercial Property Taxes
There’s a reason they say one is the loneliest number, right? Nobody likes feeling like they’re in a situation by themselves — especially when that situation involves a financial disagreement. Rest assured, though, that thousands of Texans take part in property tax protests each and every year. In fact, 2019 saw more than 415,000 property tax protests in Harris County alone. (And the vast majority of those protests proved successful in lowering assessed values.)
Remember, it isn’t just fellow commercial property owners you have on your side. If you opt to work with a professional property tax firm, you also have support from experts who deal with such issues every day. Not only will they be there to offer insight, but they’ll likely be glad to step in and handle the more uncomfortable aspects of the process, such as formal appraisal review board hearings, on your behalf.
Concern: You’ll Gain Unwanted Attention if You Protest Your Commercial Property Taxes
It’s natural to feel like embarking on a property tax protest would lead to uncomfortable situations — and might place you in the spotlight for reasons you simply don’t like. After all, no matter what type of commercial property you own, chances are you try to avoid conflict. The simple truth is, your county appraisal district, appraisal review board (ARB) and others involved in the process understand it’s a business decision, and nothing personal.
Think of it this way: Depending on your commercial properties and geographic location, the amount you pay in taxes can have a significant impact on your financial wellbeing. And if other aspects of your business would suddenly cost substantially more out of pocket — say, your mechanic tripled his prices or your cleaning service’s rates went up — you’d likely try to negotiate that price down or seek service elsewhere. The same is true when protesting your commercial property taxes. You’re simply taking steps to ensure you’re not overpaying — only paying your fair share.
Concern: It Takes too Much Time and Energy to Protest Your Commercial Property Taxes
The saying goes that time is money. When your schedule is already filled with meetings and paperwork and other business considerations, taking on yet one more task might not seem possible. (And it might not be, if you go it alone.) We encourage busy property owners to take on the process with help from a specialized property tax firm.
When you turn over the work to trained professionals who understand the intricacies of the protest process, you can rest assured you’ll have your bases covered — with little to no added time commitment on your end. A skilled team will go into the process knowing exactly which past records they need to pull, the best way to present your argument and even what to do if initial attempts aren’t successful. Although you might be asked to submit prior years’ financials, rental data, photos of the commercial property itself and even repair invoices or estimates, that’s typically where your work ends. (Easy, right?)
Concern: You’re More Likely to See Future Increases if You Protest Your Commercial Property Taxes
Many commercial property owners seem to believe that taking part in a protest places them on the fast track for additional increases down the line. As we’ve stated already, however, county tax and appraisal professionals understand that protesting is done solely to protect the property owner’s bottom line. In short, your decision to protest is nothing personal. Neither is the overinflated assessed value you’re being presented. (Even so, you should expect to receive unnecessarily high assessed values in future years.)
You see, due to the sheer number of properties county appraisal districts (CADs) are tasked with valuing each year, it’s impossible for them to look at each one individually. Instead, they opt for mass appraisal systems that compare your property with others nearby, regardless of considerations such as any damage your building might have incurred or even improvements that are incomplete. These imperfect systems result in high assessed values all the time — and it happens year after year. So, while you will likely continue to find yourself fighting inflated valuations as time progresses, it isn’t because of your decision to protest.
Concern: You Can’t Afford to Protest Your Commercial Property Taxes
Opening the mail to see your commercial property has once again been assessed well above what is fair can be disheartening. Contemplating fighting that assessed value — and considering how much you might owe if that fight isn’t successful — only adds to the stress. The good news is, many property tax firms don’t require any payment at all unless they score a “win” for you. We encourage asking specific questions about pricing to any firm with whom you’re considering doing business.
At Lane, for instance, the vast majority of our work is done on a contingency basis. That means you won’t receive a single bill unless our property tax pros successfully lower your assessed value. Flat fees do come into the picture for certain services, but they are rare. By doing business with a company like Lane, it’s likely that you’ll spend less money overall than if you’d opted to simply not protest. And who doesn’t like saving money?
When it comes to the factors that affect your overall financial standing, you should always stand up for what’s right. The good news is, as it relates to your commercial property taxes, you aren’t in it alone. Lane’s professionals are here to handle the time-consuming research and filing, guide you through negotiations and handle litigation and arbitration needs on your behalf, should they become necessary. If you have questions, or if you’re ready to get started, feel free to contact our team. We look forward to hearing from you and working together to unburden your business.