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Property Tax Report Card for the 85th Texas Legislature

by Foy Mitchell, Dallas, August 2017

 

Recently much media attention has been given to the special session of the 85th Legislature called by Governor Greg Abbot. The session ended with no significant changes in the Texas Property Tax Code as originally intended by the Governor and some legislative leaders.

 

What Didn’t Pass

 

Specifically lawmakers hoped to pass bills to limit the ability of taxing entities to raise property tax revenue without voter approval. Their hoped-for legislation would have limited annual increases in property tax revenue to no more than 4% in the Senate version of SB 1 and 6% in the House version of the same bill. Legislators were unable to come to agreement on this issue.

 

Basically, no significant changes were made in the Property Tax Code that would improve tax equity or make dependence on the property tax less. This is surprising considering the great deal of attention given property taxes by a special Senate Committee that visited numerous areas of the state in 2016 and the wide-spread commentary concerning high property taxes by various members of the legislature.

 

What Did Pass

 

Despite the failure to pass SB 1, changes were made to the Texas Property Tax Code in 2017. In the regular session, a number of bills were passed that hopefully will improve the overall administration of the Tax Code.

 

These bills gave attention to:

 

  • Synchronizing deadlines for tax code compliance

  • Giving taxpayers easier access to the appeals and arbitration process

  • Making the qualification for some personal exemptions easier

 

Texas is generally a low-tax state considering the total tax burden per capita ranks 42nd nationwide. Nevertheless, Texas ranks 7th in the nation for high property taxes. The Legislature will eventually address this fact. We may expect further legislative attention to these issues, either in another special session or most certainly in the 86th Legislative Session in 2019.