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Austin Loses Appraisal Challenge

by Kevin Kirkpatrick, San Antonio, December 2016

 

Once again, the City of Austin has lost its unprecedented lawsuit challenging the Texas tax code. The Third Court of Appeals agreed with an earlier ruling that said the city lacks the legal authority to challenge the constitutionality of the state's property tax system.

 

Background

 

Austin sued the Travis Central Appraisal District (TCAD) and owners of commercial and vacant properties in an attempt to order a reappraisal for 2015.

 

The lawsuit challenged the "equal and uniform" provisions in state law that allows property owners to win value reductions by proving that their appraisal exceeds the median value of comparable properties. City attorneys argued that these provisions result in commercial properties securing lower appraisals, which shifts more of the tax burden to residential properties.

 

The city also requested that the court declare the current tax appraisal system "fails to provide appraisal districts with the tools necessary to assess properties at market value." The suit asked for mandatory sales price disclosure for all real estate transactions.

 

Lawsuit Inappropriate

 

In the latest ruling, Justice Scott Field ruled the city was inappropriately trying to use the courts to challenge the state's property tax appraisal system.

 

Judge Field wrote, "Austin may bring its concerns about tax policy to the attention of the Legislature, but has no standing to pursue such a debate in this court. The city's constitutional challenge is a transparent attempt by a taxing unit to debate an issue of tax policy that is within the prerogative of the Legislature, rather than the Judiciary."

 

Austin must pay for all costs relating to the appeal. Officials weren't immediately able to provide an estimate on how much the total will be.