When you first move to a new town, you have a lot of questions. Where’s the best grocery store? What’s the best way to get around? What’s the best place to get a bite to eat? One of those questions is rarely “How do I pay my property taxes?”, but it should be. Every place is different, and Amarillo’s tax structure can catch new residents by surprise. Here’s what you need to know.
Property taxes in Texas are assessed at the local level; this means that how much you pay depends heavily on where you live. You can be taxed by the county you live in, your school district, and the city you live in. For example, living in Amarillo, you’d pay property tax to the city of Amarillo, your local school district, the Amarillo College district, the local water district, and taxes to both Potter and Randall counties.
If that sounds like a lot of taxing bodies, well, it can be, but take heart in that each charges you well below one percent of the total value of your property. In 2011, the total percentage came in at under three percent for most of the city. But that can change greatly from year to year.
How Rates and Values Are Determined
Property taxes in Texas work backwards from how you may be used to, and it’s really best described by using the calendar. Your property is put into an appraisal district and is appraised by the board, giving your house a value for January 1st. Appraisals generally last until the middle of May. Homeowners who disagree with the appraisal can protest, with the hearings starting on May 15th. In August and September, the budgets for each taxing body, and thus the tax rates, are set based on the appraisals, with the bill generally arriving in October.
As a rule, these rates are posited as based on every $100 of your property’s value. It sounds complicated, and expensive, but in reality once you see it in practice it makes a lot more sense. Using nice round figures for simplicity, if the city of Amarillo charged you a dime for every $100 of your home’s value, and your home was worth $100,000, you’d be paying them the princely sum of $100 in property taxes.
Run the numbers before, not after.
What to Ask About Property Taxes
Remember, there’s only so much anybody can really know about property taxes, due to the way taxes are determined in Texas, so this year’s rates may not realistically reflect next year’s. But one thing you can know is who can tax you and where.
Texas law allows for more than just cities and school districts to tax you. For example, water districts can have different tax rates depending on whether they’ve recently completed projects. Historically, tax rates for each school district can vary wildly; if you don’t have children, you might look into a district with a lower overall tax rate.
Before buying any home, ask about who can charge you property tax, and why they can do it. If you can limit your tax burden before you buy, that’ll make you a lot happier in October.Google+