A large number of property tax appeals combined with computer glitches continue to create problems for the Tarrant County Appraisal District in Fort Worth, Texas. With payment deadlines approaching, hundreds of property owners still haven't received their 2016 tax bills.
This year, about 103,000 taxpayers appealed their property tax assessment, double the usual number of protests. Some appeals were withdrawn and others were settled with the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) before going to the Appraisal Review Board for a formal hearing. TAD Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said only 40%-50% of the protests filed actually ended up going to the review board.
Property owners who requested a formal hearing had the opportunity to appear before a panel of three citizens. The panel then recommended a final value, which had to be approved by a quorum of the 85 members of the appraisal review board. If approved, a final order was sent by certified mail. If the owner still didn't agree, they had the option to seek arbitration or take their case to court.
Tarrant Appraisal Review Board Chairman Olen Frazier said his agency has issued about 56,000 final orders and has about 1,300 left to issue. Considering that Tarrant County has about 1.6 million accounts, Frazier said his office has done a good job. "Looking at the totality of what we did send out in final orders, I think we have a fairly good track record," he said.
Troubled Computer System
The Tarrant Appraisal District's computer system has experienced problems since it was purchased in 2011 for $1.9 million. Records show the TAD has withheld payments and received an $800,000 refund after the vendor failed to deliver a properly functioning system on time.
Earlier this year, computer software was blamed for a laundry list of problems that led the county to issue $12 million in property tax refunds.
Bills Running Late
Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright explains that without a final order on an appeal, he can't issue a property tax bill. Even though tax bills do not become delinquent until February 1, many taxpayers prefer to pay property taxes before the end of the year to qualify for a federal tax deduction.
Of course, just because a property owner doesn’t have a bill doesn't mean they don't have to pay their taxes on time. Wright said his office is working to help owners estimate their bill to avoid incurring penalties and interest.
TAD Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said stated, “We want to make sure everyone has the correct value on their property each and every year, and we are working to make sure that any decision made by the review board is reflected on the tax bills.” Since TAD had more protests this year than in past years, Law indicated, “We’re still researching exactly what caused the mistakes and if that was a computer problem.”