Taxes are not something that anyone likes to deal with. While there is no state income tax in Texas, there are hefty property taxes in many cities, and these can cause stress and confusion for many people. If you’re struggling with the opaque tax system or a hefty property tax bill, don’t panic! You can get help to pay property taxes and avoid falling into the trap of fines and penalties.
A Brief History of Property Tax in Texas
The property tax system in Texas has been through many changes over the years. Property taxes have historically been important for the state. For the first century after its independence, property taxes accounted for between half and three-quarters of the state’s tax receipts. In 1982, the government abolished state property tax and management of such taxes was left to the local offices. The state still manages tax relief, however, and as taxes can be rather high in some areas it pays to understand how relief works.
Tax Relief and Homestead Allowances
Homeowners in Texas can apply for a homestead exemption on their primary residence. This is called a homestead allowance. A homestead can be a structure (such as a condominium or home) on owned or leased land of up to 20 acres, but it must be owned or part-owned and must be that applicant’s primary residence. Homestead discounts are calculated based on the percentage of the property owned by the applicant.
Discounts available include:
- A $25,000 homestead exemption on school taxes
- A $3,000 exemption on county taxes in areas where this is applicable
- Local-option exemptions for those aged 65 and over and those with disabilities
Getting Help With Property Taxes
If you’re facing a property tax bill that is higher than you expected, or you don’t have the funds to pay your taxes, you have options. Your first step should be to contact your local office to discuss a payment plan. Most local offices would be happy to come to an arrangement because they want to get paid. They would rather get money in installments than face the risk of the debt going delinquent.
It’s easier to come to a payment arrangement if you contact the tax office when the bill arrives. The longer you leave it, the less open to negotiation the office is likely to be. If you cannot reach an amicable arrangement to pay your bill, working with a tax specialist could be the next logical step. You can get help paying property taxes in the form of a payment plan, a loan, an appeal, or tax relief directly from the local authority. A tax advisor can highlight the options available to you and give you peace of mind that your financial issues can be resolved.