Friday, May 10, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Tax wranglers may once again sue appraisers

Once again a battle is brewing between firms seeking to help property owners lower the appraised value on their property and the Travis Appraisal Review Board. The issue boils down to scheduling of hearings with no regard for the fact that an individual tax consultant can only attend one hearing at a time.

On Thursday, an attorney for Texas ProTax Austin outlined the company’s grievances with the ARB’s plans for hearings in a letter to Betty Thompson, chair of the Appraisal Review Board.

“Despite your continued refusal to meet with us to discuss scheduling formal ARB hearings, ProTax has continued to try to develop a feasible plan for the 2019 protest process, even though we are having to do so in a vacuum,” wrote attorney Debra Bawcom.

ProTax has increased its available agents by 40 percent over last year, while at the same time restricting advertising and turning away new customers, she wrote. “That reduction in efficiency was required by the significant and regrettable change the Chief Appraiser made by virtually eliminating the informal settlement process that has been in place for many years. For example, ProTax settled over 90 percent of its protests last year without the need for formal ARB hearings.”

However, in a letter to property tax agents, chief appraiser Marya Crigler suggested that the agents should use the informal resolution process.

Attorney Bill Aleshire, who has represented ProTax, told the Austin Monitor that Crigler has totally changed the informal process by eliminating face-to-face meetings. The new process, he said, means that the tax agent or taxpayer must submit their evidence in writing and wait for what he called “a lowball offer” from the appraiser.

After ProTax agents were unable to represent all their clients last year because of being scheduled in multiple venues at the same time, ProTax filed suit. The issue never went to court because the appraisal review board settled with ProTax and scheduled the hearings in January, Aleshire said.

Thompson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Austin Board of Realtors is also continuing in its dispute with the Travis Central Appraisal District. ABoR revealed last week that TCAD had purchased Multiple Listing Service information from the ABoR vendor.

A statement from ABoR says its attorney “sent a cease and desist order to the Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD), calling on TCAD to stop the unauthorized use of Austin/Central Texas Realty Information Service (ACTRIS) data in any form or fashion. We also demanded the destruction of any existing ACTRIS data in use by TCAD. Unauthorized access to proprietary Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data by an appraisal district is unacceptable.”

TCAD and the Travis Appraisal Review Board work together but are separate entities.

Photo by Google Maps.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin Board of Realtors: The Austin Board of Realtors is an 8600-member organization for real estate agents in the city. It maintains the city's Member Listing Service (MLS) database. ABoR is also a charter member of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation. As such, they have donated CoTMF. CoTMF is the parent organization of the Austin Monitor.

Marya Crigler: Marya Crigler is the Travis Chief Appraiser.

Texas ProTax Austin

Travis Appraisal Review Board

Travis Central Appraisal District: The tax appraisal district for Travis County.

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