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Travis County property owners to start receiving tax appraisal notices

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Property tax amounts this year appear to be trying to keep pace with the Austin sky line. Monday, members of a local tax appeal team are gearing up to fight the hike.

The staff at the Texas Pro Tax Austin knew the calls for help would be coming. They're getting about a 100 a day.

"It's been busy our phones started ringing last Thursday and Friday when everybody were receiving their notices and they've been ringing off the hook since," said Debra Bawcom, a senior tax counselor.

Bawcom says their team of 11 agents represents 13,000 clients. The firm is compensated based on how much a client's tax appraisal is reduced. Others charge a flat fee or by the hour.

The Travis County Appraisal District sent out just over 320,000 notices last week. The deadline to make a protest is May 31st. Last year 75,000 were filed.

"We actually encourage everyone to appeal their property tax we actually think you don't know unless you go down there and look at the evidence and look at what the Appraisal District is looking at. We'd look at sales in the area with the Appraisal District look at how properties are appraised in your area and equity approach and see how you compare to your neighbors and you don't necessarily know if you don't go in and talk to the Appraisal District," she said.

The support staff spent Monday morning preparing packets that may be used to challenge the property tax appraisal notices. For those who chose to fight alone and not hire a tax firm Bawcom offers this advice.

"To really get to whether or not your value is fair you really have to put in some homework on it," she said.

The District has certainly done its homework and most of it has been written by Austin's Economic Rebound

Preliminary values have increased in Travis County by 12 percent.

Factors fueling that include a low unemployment rate and a 5 percent apartment vacancy. Housing starts are up 30 percent and the average sales price of existing homes increased 5 percent from a year ago.

Clarice Urban is among those who got a case of sticker shock in the mail.

"I wasn't really surprised since my daughters had said theirs had gone up. I was surprised it went up that much, $20,000. Yes, yes, so I don't know," Urban said.

It's estimated that 100,000 homeowners are eligible to file a protest electronically in Travis County.

Last year 75,000 appeals were filed.

If you hire a property tax counseling firm, remember to ask for references and also how the firm is compensated. Some get paid based on how much a client's tax appraisal is reduced. Others charge a flat fee or by the hour. Remember do your homework.

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