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How the System Works
About the System
There are three main parts to the property tax system in Texas:
  • An appraisal district in each county sets the value of taxable property each year. The chief appraiser is the appraisal district's chief administrator and is responsible to a board of directors for its operation.
  • An appraisal review board (ARB) settles any disagreements between you and the appraisal district about the value of your property.
  • Local taxing units, including the county, cities, school districts, and special districts, decide how much money they will spend each year. This in turn determines the tax rate they need to set and the total amount of taxes that you and your neighbors will pay.

The Process
The system has four stages: valuing taxable property, protesting values, adopting tax rates, and collecting taxes.

Property Appraisal
January 1 marks the beginning of property appraisal. What a property is used for on January 1, market conditions at that time, and who owns the property on that date determine whether the property is taxed, its value, qualifications for exemptions, and who is responsible for paying the tax.

Processing Tax Exemption Applications and Protests
Between January 1 and April 30, the appraisal district processes applications for tax exemptions, agricultural and timber appraisals, and other tax relief. Around May 15, the appraisal review board begins hearing protests from property owners who believe their property values are incorrect, or who feel they were improperly denied an exemption or agricultural / timber appraisal. The ARB is an independent panel of citizens responsible for handling protests about the appraisal district's work. When the ARB finishes its work, the chief appraiser gives each taxing unit a list of taxable property known as the appraisal roll.

Adopting Tax Rates
Usually in September or October, the elected officials of each taxing unit adopt tax rates for their operations and debt payments. Typically, each property is taxed by several taxing units. For example, every property in Harris County is taxed by both the county and a school district. Taxes may also be payable to a city or special district, including such entities as municipal utility districts, rural fire protection districts, junior college districts, and others.

Tax Collection
Tax collection starts in October and November as tax bills go out. Taxpayers have until January 31 of the following year to pay their taxes. On February 1, penalty and interest charges begin accumulating on most unpaid tax bills. Taxing units may start legal action to collect unpaid property taxes once they become delinquent.