When your Tax Assessor isn’t.

Appraisal is defined as, "An expert or official valuation, as for taxation."

Which makes it apparent that what Bexar Appraisal District (BAD) is doing is absolutely the latter part of that definition.  They are not offering an "expert valuation", just an "official valuation".

To offer an expert valuation one must actually a) have knowledge in the subject matter and b) examine the subject.

So let’s look at how Bexar Appraisal District set the new valuation for my house. 

First, we must understand the Texas Property Tax Code, which states (in my words):

The  maximum increase in a homeowner’s assessed value is 10% per year times the number of years since the property was last appraised.

What that means is that if you did not get a property tax increase in 2007 (and you did not appeal), they can increase it 20% in 2008.  If your last increase was in 2004 (and you did not appeal any of those years between), they can increase your taxes 40% in 2008.  This is what our government calls a "cap".  I call it bull-cap.

Before I continue, and to make sure this post has more value then just a rant – if you pay personal property taxes in Texas, you must appeal your tax assessment every year – even if it did NOT increase.  If you appeal, and lose, then the next year the maximum increase is 10%.  If you do not appeal, your maximum next year increase is double that!

Plus, if everyone appeals every year we will break the system – they will be forced to fix it.  I know the cure might be worse than the problem, but I honestly don’t think that is very likely (or even possible).

To re-enforce why I believe this, let’s look at the "magic math" that my "assessors" performed when re-evaluating the annual taxes on my property (property they have not actually visited in at least 6 years):

"What would we have to assess this property at to make damn sure we get every penny of the ten percent increase we are allowed to charge?  $49,060?  Cool.  Assessment complete."

I DO NOT believe that was the intent of the "cap" passed by the Texas Government, and I do not believe that a "Tax Assessor" should be allowed this reckless, negligent, blatantly self-serving and morally criminal behavior.  Using the maximum value you can find to extract the absolute maximum amount of taxes is not performing an assessment. 

It is performing a theft.

It is also clear that no professional assessments are being done whatsoever.  Computer software is calculating how much the Government can take from you.  And then they take it.

The more I learn about our Property Tax system the more embarrassed I am that we have such a fundamentally misnamed, and morally bankrupt Government Agency.

Finally, I am actually talking to an Attorney about this – my thought is that the Bexar Appraisal District is not performing it’s stated function, which is:

Within this site you will find general information about the District and the ad valorem property tax system in Texas, as well as information regarding specific properties within the district.

Bexar Appraisal District is responsible for appraising all real and business personal property within Bexar County. The district appraises property according to the Texas Property Tax Code and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices (USPAP).

Bexar Appraisal District is responsible for the fair market appraisal of properties within each of the following taxing entities:

Instead, all they are doing is employing computer software to calculate the maximum possible revenue extraction from the tax-payers which fall under its jurisdiction.  This argument will be part of my appeal to BAD.  I will challenge them to demonstrate any mechanisms employed to "assess" my property.  I will also file a Freedom of Information Act request to see the internal workings of the computer software being utilized by BAD to set, monitor, adjust, analyze, or report on any aspect of the property valuations BAD has set for my residence.


  1. @Bruce – interestingly enough – if I do NOT pay my taxes then the Government will end up taking care of me, instead of me taking care of them. Either in a prison, or as a homeless, jobless bum. πŸ™‚

  2. Bruce Hughes says:

    Paraphrasing a dimly-remembered aphorism: If you think government is not based on coercion, try not paying your taxes–and see what happens.

  3. @Paul – if they want to tap my phones and send black helicopters because I want to overthrow my Tax Assessor then we really are in trouble!

  4. Paul Claessen says:

    “I am ready to overthrow them”

    In this paranoid 1984 Big Brother, wire-tap-anyone-you-like and check-every-email-ever-sent society we’re currently living in, you probably should be more careful with so forcefully expressing your disdain for your government.
    Secret Service agents may already be on your trail.
    The Men In Black will be knocking on your door soon!
    Be prepared to be hooked up to a polygraph any minute now.

  5. @Sisar – there are a number of solutions. It all depends on how much I feel like pissing off my Government. Right now, I am ready to overthrow them πŸ™‚

  6. @Ike – good point. I should also remember to wear my reading glasses – especially when reading information from “my government”..

  7. @Paul – I’m not willing to just “roll over” on this one. In law, you are innocent until proven guilty. Taxes should adhere to the same formula, I think. I don;t give a rat’s ass what my neighbor’s house sold for – one block away a lot 1/4 my size (zoned commercial) sold for almost a million dollars. You can not just use geo-data when setting valuations. If you can, why do we need a Government Entity to enforce it? A simple web service like Zillow.com could be retained to do it (and probably at a fraction of the cost)

  8. Clearly the fault is yours. Being unsophisticated in the art of typography, you would have failed to notice that you’re mistaking of g’s for s’s in the letterhead. You’re actually dealing with the Tax Aggressors Office.

    Common mistake.

  9. $49,060 is a lot of money! I’m sorry this had to happen to you…hopefully, you’ll find a solution soon.

  10. Paul Claessen says:

    I’m a bit skeptical about your claim that an appeal (regardless of its outcome) restricts your next year’s assesment to a max of 10%. That does NOT follow from your stated rule that they can tax 10% times number of years since last raise.
    I also don’t think you will find a law or rule that forces BAD to actually appraise each and every building in the county. It’s all based on statistics: if the average actual sale prices in a certain neighborhood went up 12% in a certain year, then it’s reasonable, IMHO, to appraise the houses in that neighborhood for 10% more than last year. There will of course be ‘exception’ cases, which is why they have this elaborate appeal system. Sounds fair to me.

    If you can get a fair amount of actual sale prices of homes in your surrounding street and can PROVE that the increase in relation to a prior year is LOWER than what they appraised you for, then, as far as I can trust the stories I have heard, they WILL adjust the appraisal.

    I also heard, that that is the ONLY way to get them to give in! To have a hearing and just be mad and bitch and moan will do NOTHING: there is some hard work expected from you to come up with real, good, solid and well documented data! If you can’t PROVE with a lot of numbers that their appraisal was off, then going to an appeal hearing will be fruitless.

    Going after their methods will cost you time and money and won’t do any good.
    Even IF it turns out that they simply try to get the maximum, without any regards to actual market conditions (which I doubt you will find!), then, while not meant by the tax code, it’s still not illegal.

    Anyway, the county tax collector/assesor is an elected position: vote for someone else next time if you don’t like the way this assesor works! πŸ˜‰