Are Texas property taxes fair?

We reported earlier in the week that the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) issued a white paper intended to prove that homeowners are not subsidizing unfairly valued commercial property in the Texas property tax system.  A survey of Austin insiders published in Texas Weekly (TW) today shows why TTARA may be trying to get out front on this issue. 

TW frequently does surveys of people it describes as Austin insiders; an assortment of lobbyists, former legislators, political association executives and others who make a living knowing what's going on in Austin.  The answers to a couple of this week's survey questions demonstrates the conventional perception that business property tax owners get a better deal than homeowners on property taxes.  The insiders seem convinced that unfairness prevails.

67% of them opined that the property values used for taxation in Texas are NOT fair.  A few quotes from the survey emphasize the issue that TTARA tries to address in their white paper.

    "It's not fair for average homeowners to have more of the burden shoved onto them because commercial property and high-dollar homes are not paying their fair share."

    "By fair, do you mean that commercial/industrial gets all the breaks and games the systems while residential owners get screwed?"

    "Residential values are generally fair, but business estimates are driven way low by professional tax consultants."

About the same percentage of insiders that said the system was not fair, specifically agreed that home appraisal values were too high and that industrial and commercial property values were too low.

One insider made the point that has been debated for years, and so far rejected by legislators:

    "Mandatory sales price disclosure would certainly improve the process."

There seems to be very little support for mandatroy sales price disclosure aong homeowners or business property owners.  Why is that?  Perhaps another insider quote explains why, even if it is a bit illogical:

    "Well, my house is valued a couple hundred thousand bucks below the market, so maybe I should say no [to the question of fairness]. But based on my tax bill, you bet I think it's fair. If anything, it's valued too high."

My guess is that homeowners would think it a great idea to require business property owners to disclose sales prices as long as the homeowner gets a pass.  As always, fairness is in the eye of the beholder and all of us humans are basically subjective beings more influenced by our own perespective than anything else.

Remember the TW survey asked for opinions, whereas TTARA's paper is based on documented research, but we all know perception is more important than reality – especially in politics!

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