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Deadline to protest your Texas property tax appraisal is coming up: what you need to know

Just make sure you have a homestead exemption first.

HOUSTON — Texas property appraisals are going out again, and many are finding their property values went up, despite the pandemic.

The good news is you can protest your appraisal, and in fact real estate agents and financial experts say you should protest it every year to help keep your property taxes down.

There are some critical things you should know, however, including the deadline to protest for 2021 as well as why the homestead exemption is so important.

Why is the appraised value of my home important?

The assessed value of your property multiplied by the tax rate is what determines your property tax bill. Considering that, each year, hundreds of thousands of Texans protest these valuations in hopes of reducing what they will owe in taxes. But many others do not bother to contest the assessments, possibly because the process may seem intimidating or a lost cause.

When is the deadline to protest my property's appraised value?

In most cases, the deadline in Texas is May 15 or 30 days after notice of your assessed value is mailed to you, whichever is later. According to the state comptroller's office, if the appraisal district appraises your property at a higher amount than in the previous year, Tax Code Section 25.19 requires the appraisal district to send a notice by May 1, or by April 1 if your property is a residence homestead, or as soon as practical thereafter. You can file your protest late in some special circumstances — read more here on this page.

How do you protest your protest property tax appraisals in Texas?

You will find many how-to videos online about protesting your property's assessment. Along with these videos, you will also find many companies that will do it for you. Some of these companies require a small upfront fee to get the paperwork started — others will do the paperwork for free with no upfront cost at all. At the end, they get most of their money by taking a cut of the money you saved if they are successful in getting your assessment lowered, which in turn will reduce your tax bill due in January 2022. If they fail at lowering your property tax bill, you don't have to pay them — just read the fine print.

Want to file your own protest?

If you are dissatisfied with your appraised value or if errors exist in the appraisal records regarding your property, you should file a Form 50-132, Notice of Protest (PDF) with your county's appraisal office.

Some Texas counties will let you file online. You can also get more specific instructions for your Houston-area county here:

Other helpful info: A property tax attorney can answer your questions concerning heirship or making changes to an existing deed. You may also contact Lone Star Legal Aid at www.lonestarlegal.org or the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy Inc. at www.tsulaw.edu/centers/ECI for free assistance with these issues. 

Homestead exemptions are key — deadline is April 30th

Make sure your primary home has a homestead exemption on file — it is essentially free money. A discount on your home's property taxes, in short.

You don't have to file for this every year. If you are unsure about your property's homestead status, check last tax bill or look up your property's online record at your county's appraisal website.

Once you have a homestead exemption, your appraisal cannot go up more than 10 percent each year. If you have lived in your home since January 1st, you are eligible. If you did not sign up for it, it is not too late for this year. You have until April 30th to apply for it. But the state allows residents to apply for a late exemption even beyond then.

Remember: the process to file for a homestead exemption is always free and simple — don't fall for companies offering this as a paid service (read more here).

Check with your county's appraisal district on the specific instructions or for help (links above).

If you have damage from the Texas winter storm

Many of you had damage from the recent winter storm. You may be eligible to get an exemption for a portion of your appraised value. You must apply for that by May 28th. Click here to learn more from Harris County (although this information is helpful for all counties).

WFAA contributed to this report