St. Mary's Law Journal


Nathan Morey


Appraisal districts in Texas are implementing a system of taxation that is unequal and unfair. Texas counties, cities, and school districts depend on local ad valorem property taxes for revenue. Under the Texas Property Tax Code, the Code establishes appraisal districts to determine the value of taxable property. There is, however, a discrepancy between the cash value of the land and its appraisal value, especially when compared to commercial property and residential property. Commercial property and high-end residential real estate are often undervalued by appraisal districts throughout the state. Because commercial properties are under-appraised, the tax burden is being unequally shouldered by middle-class homeowners. Middle-class property owners’ homes are often valued at close to one hundred percent of their actual value. If the taxpayer wishes to protest the appraisal, the owner is not sophisticated and has few tools at his disposal to mount a meaningful protest. The procedural requirements and remedies outlined in the Tax Code appear to be inadequate when viewed against the backdrop of multiple studies that indicate the regular inequality of appraisals. While the Tax Code has made substantial improvements in the creation of more independent, accountable appraisal districts, it has failed to deal with the true problem—the extraordinarily difficult task of determining the value of property. The State of Texas must equip appraisal districts with the necessary tools to discover the market data needed to equalize appraisals throughout the state. The legislature has designated the remedies within the Tax Code as exclusive, an indication that it intends to constrain the courts' participation in the appraisal process, limiting the courts’ remedial action to the specific provisions of the Tax Code. Therefore, the surest way to bring about equality and uniformity to ad valorem taxation is to pass new legislation requiring mandatory sales price disclosure in Texas.


St. Mary's University School of Law