2021 Homestead Exemptions

Taxes. Nobody likes them; everybody pays them. I’m sure when you considered buying a home you heard about the potential tax savings. Now you own a home and pay your own property taxes. You want to pay as little as you have to, because who would want to pay more? The good news is that you can reduce your property taxes by claiming a homestead exemption!

What is a homestead exemption?

A homestead exemption (HS) removes a slice of your home’s value from being taxed. A homestead is a separate structure, condominium or manufactured home on owned or leased land up to 20 acres. To qualify for a homestead exemption, you must:

  • Own the property
  • Use it as your primary residence as of January 1 of the year in which you are applying (2021 – so you had to close in 2020)
  • The address on your driver’s license must match the address you are claiming the HS exemption on.

When can I claim my homestead exemption?

You can file your regular homestead exemption application between January 1st and April 30th each year. You can first file for your homestead exemption on January 1st of the year following when you purchase your home. For example, if you purchased your home in 2020, you can now file in 2021. If you did not close until January of 2021, you must wait to file until 2022.

How much is my homestead exemption in Texas?

Texas law requires school districts provide a $25,000 exemption for property tax. So if your home is appraised at $100,000 and you qualify for a homestead exemption, you pay school taxes as if your home was worth $75,000. Taxing units also have the option to offer a separate exemption, which will vary based on where you live. For example, Williamson County offers a $3000 exemption for the special tax collected to farm-to-market roads. With your HS exemption, your county cannot raise the appraised value of your home by more than 10% each year, even if the actual value is greater. With the current rate of appreciation for many homeowners, this has saved many people a lot of money over the past few years!

What other exemptions are available in Texas?

The most common other exemptions claimed are the Senior Exemption (Over 65), Disabled Exemption and Veteran’s Exemption. Both the Senior Exemption and Disabled Exemption requires school districts to offer an additional $10,000 HS but one cannot qualify for both. When you turn 65, you may also qualify for a “tax ceiling” on your school taxes; that is, the school taxes on your home cannot increase as long as you own and live in that home. The Veteran’s Exemption is available to disable veterans and the surviving dependents and entitles a disabled vet an exemption equal to his service-connected disability, up to 100%. Here is a list of most of HS exemptions. Exemptions other than the homestead exemption do not have to be filed between January and April and can be filed as soon as you qualify for them.

How do I apply for my homestead exemption?

You can apply for FREE for your HS exemption by completing and turning in the correct form to your local county tax office. For Williamson County, you can also apply online. When you purchase a home, you will likely receive many official looking pieces in the mail offering services to file your HS exemption for you for a fee. THIS IS A SCAM. Please save yourself some money by filling out and mailing in the form yourself!

If you have questions about your homestead exemption, property taxes or any other real estate question, contact us and we’ll get back to you right away. I hope you have found all of this information helpful!

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Property Tax Protest FAQs

About this time of year, we get a lot of questions from clients, friends and family about property taxes, property tax protests and exemptions. We’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions to help, but you can always reach out to your best TJ Lewis Real Estate agent to help!

How do I protest my property taxes?

There are different steps and stages to protesting your property taxes, but most start with filling an appeal online on your county’s appraisal distract website.

What am I protesting?

You are protesting your homes valuation, not the amount of your taxes or your tax rate. You cannot argue the tax rate – that is set by the different taxing entities (state, county, ISD, MUD, etc.) and is usually between 2-3%. The amount of your taxes is Your VALUATION (minus any exemptions) x Your Tax RATE. So if your valuation is $400,000 and your rate is 2% than your taxes for the year are $8000. What you are protesting the your valuation – the amount the county is saying your home is worth.

What property tax exemptions might be available to me?

The most common property tax exemptions are the exemptions for homestead, disability, senior citizen, agriculture and disable veteran. Here is a link to a video explaining a lot of details about exemptions.

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How do I know if I should protest my property taxes?

This is best determined by comparing the valuation from the county with the current home market. Your valuation is based on the a single date – January 1st of that year – and it is compared against the values for similar properties for the previous year. If you are using sold comparable sales data, you can only use properties that sold in the previous calendar year. For example, for protesting your taxes this year, you would compare it to sales in 2019. To determine the fair market value for your current property, contact a top TJ Lewis agent.

Can I protest my property taxes on my own?

 

Yes, you can but sometimes it is worth it to hire a professional to help you with the process. There are a number of local companies that specialize helping homeowners with protesting their taxes. Their fee is usually a percentage of the tax savings that they earn for their customers and they can also tell you if it is actually worth it to protest your taxes.

Why do my taxes go up?

Your taxes go up for two reasons. First, your taxes increase because your tax rate goes up. From time to time, counties increase taxes to pay for bonds and similar programs. School districts adjust their tax rates to track with their budgets. Many of these rates require local votes and others have caps from the state government. The second reason your taxes go up is that your home’s valuation has increased. Your taxes are based on home much your home is worth – when your home is worth more, you pay more in taxes.

How does a Homestead Exemption protect me?

A homestead exemption protects you in two ways – it exempts you from paying taxes on a percentage of your homes value thereby reducing your property taxes. The exemption also places a 10% cap on the increase a county can make on the valuation of your home each year.

How can I protest my property taxes?

 

There are three main types of property tax appeals – a market appeal, an equity appeal and an appeal based on characteristic correction. A market appeal is based on the believe that your homes valuation is not in line with the current market value of your home if you sold it (remember, you have to use the previous years data for this). An equity appeal is based on the values the county has assigned to similar properties or yours. If they have valued other homes similar to yours at a lower level, you can appeal based on this inequity. An appeal based on characteristics is made when the county has incorrect measurements or structures added to your home. If the square footage they have recorded for your home is higher than the actual square footage, you can argue for a reduced property tax valuation based on the incorrect data. Another example would be if their notes list a pool, shed or other structure in your backyard and have increased your value based on this when you do not actually have that structure, you can get an adjustment based on the county having these characteristics incorrect.

What is the difference between a online/E-File protest and an informal/formal hearing?

 

The online/e-file protests are done completely online and are a lower risk/lower reward system. They take less time as they are done online but any reductions in your value are usually less than what you might be able to get with the in-person informal/formal reviews. However, the online protest cannot result in an increased valuation, something that could happen through the other way. The informal/formal reviews require you to meet with different people at the appraisal board but can usually net you a higher reduction. They can result in an increased valuation if the board feels your value is actually too low. The tax protest professionals are especially good in these reviews.

These are a few Frequently Asked Questions about property tax protest and we hope this has been helpful for you! If you have specific questions about your home, your homes value or protesting your property taxes, contact your top TJ Lewis Real Estate agent and we would be honored to help!