Computer problems and a high number of successful appeals have left Tarrant County (Fort Worth, TX) owing taxpayers a multi-million dollar property tax windfall. The fact that this is happening at the end of the tax year is making matters even worse for the tax office.
The Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) converted its early 1980s main-frame based computer assessment system to a more modern system in 2014. The transfer of 1.6 million property records created a slowdown in the assessment of millions of dollars in properties for 2015. It also created many errors.
Comparing the TAD 2015 certified values to values from the State Comptroller, there was an estimated $5 billion difference. As a result, TAD’s governing board voted unanimously this year to spend $195,000 on an audit of the appraisal software.
Since previous bills and information in the system were incorrect, it continues to be an ongoing problem, according to Tarrant County Auditor Renee Tidwell. "As a result, the current refunds aren't just from this year, but for recent years as well," she explained.
Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright is trying to find the money to pay the refunds to taxpayers in the 60 day period required by law. If the deadline is not met, the collectors office will owe property owners a tax refund plus interest.
Payments to cities, schools and the county may be delayed to cover the refunds. "The refunds have to come first," Wright said. "That's the people's money. We legally owe it to them."
Tax bills scheduled to be sent out October 1 are expected to generate some of the needed revenues. Wright said he believes the refunds can be paid in the coming weeks and regular tax distributions to local entities will hopefully resume before the October 19 deadline for refund payments.