This Lawsuit Could Affect Property Tax Protests Across The State

Once-public data became privately controlled by software companies, leading to a lawsuit against Tarrant County tax appraisers over how property taxes are calculated.  

By Laura RiceApril 5, 2016 10:51 am| ,

Tax day is coming up but ’tis the season for something else, too – property tax assessment. Every Texas homeowner has wrangled with it at one time or another and property tax in Texas has grown at a rate three times faster than the median household income. For many homeowners, lodging a protest of a tax assessment is just an annual ritual.

But a lawsuit involving public records could make it harder for homeowners to win those protests.

Yamil Berard, reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says this case comes not from Tarrant County, but from Travis County – Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton is the defendant in the lawsuit.

Berard says the lawsuit is against the Tarrant Appraisal District by a software company that provides cost data for the appraisal district.

“The plaintiff in this lawsuit – the software entity – says that release of this data would create a propriety conflict, that it would put them at a disadvantage as a business,” she says. “On the other (side) is a property tax agent representing thousands of commercial clients around the state.”

She uses this data to present to the appraisal review board to protest the values of commercial owners she represents.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How private companies came to control this data, which had been available publicly for a number of years

– The cities’ and counties’ stake in the property tax assessment as a revenue stream

– Why these complaints have started in lawsuits over commercial property taxes rather than individual homeowner taxes