How to save money on your property taxes

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis Central Appraisal District is holding a town hall Saturday to let homeowners know about saving money on their property tax bills. TCAD’s main message is “Don’t leave money on the table!”

If you’re a property owner, depending on your qualifications, you can claim homestead exemptions.

Different types of exemptions include:

  • General Residence Homestead Exemption
  • Person Age 65 or Older (or Surviving Spouse) Exemption
  • Disabled Person (or Surviving Spouse) Exemption
  • 100 Percent Disabled Veteran (or Surviving Spouse) Exemption
  • Disabled Veteran or Survivor Exemption
  • Donated Residence of Partially Disabled Veteran (or Surviving Spouse)
  • Surviving Spouse of an Armed Services Member Killed in Action Exemption
  • Surviving Spouse of a First Responder Killed in the Line of Duty Exemption

Simply put, if you have an exemption, you take your home’s assessed value, subtract the exemption amount and get a new, lower taxable value. That, in turn, lowers how much you pay in taxes.

Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler told KXAN they send out letters to homeowners who may qualify. Every year, they reach out to 15,000-20,000 property owners.

“A lot of new homeowners may not be aware of things they can claim,” Crigler said. “I think, sometimes, there are some agencies that’ll send out mailers and ask people to pay them to get an exemption, and that’s not true. You do not have to pay to file an exemption.”

She explained you can fill out an application on your own and send supporting documents to TCAD to obtain an exemption. This can be done by mail or online.

“Any property owner that owns a home that is their principal place of residence, and they owned it on Jan. 1 can apply for general homestead exemption,” she said.

New exemption rules can help you save more

New this year, homeowners over the age of 65 and disabled homeowners could save even more because of a change in the law.

Before this year, homeowners had to choose which exemption to apply across the board. Now, homeowners can choose which exemption to use for each taxing entity and look for the greatest savings.

TCAD told KXAN it identified 22 taxing entities where the local option is different from the state-mandated exemption.

Affordability concerns remain among homeowners

Many homeowners said, however, while they’re grateful for exemptions, it’s not the solution to Austin’s affordability issue.

We spoke with Vanessa Calabria who owns a home in Tarrytown. She bought her house 20 years ago. Her first tax bill came out to just over $5,000.

“You’re buying it based on what you’re making. You think you can afford it, so what happens when through the years… now, my property tax bill was $13,500 last year,” she said.

Calabria has always had a homestead exemption, starting with that very first bill.

According to TCAD, an average homeowner saves about $750 on their property tax bill if they have a general homestead exemption.

Crigler said, “Any money that you can save is good money. Don’t leave money on the table.”

Calabria said, however, that barely makes a dent, considering how quickly people’s property values are rising. “It’s something I’ve had to accept. I have to hustle more. I have to make more money. My husband has to make more money,” she told KXAN.

She’s also worried about how updating the city’s Land Development Code will affect her property value, and in turn, change how much she’ll have to pay in taxes.

We’ve asked city officials about that many times, but they’ve always said they don’t know yet because it’s too early to tell.

“They can’t guarantee what they’re putting in place is going to make your property values more affordable, property taxes more affordable,” Calabria said.

TCAD doesn’t control how much homes sell for, but it’s required to assess property values based on market data.

Many homeowners said homestead exemption makes a small difference, but nothing else is helping to make homes more affordable.

“I have paperwork, documentation, from years and years and years of it nothing but going up, for the past 20 years,” Calabria said.

Town hall happening Saturday

You can attend a town hall Saturday to learn more about homestead exemptions.

It’s at 10 a.m. at the Conley-Gurerrero Senior Activity Center on Nile Street.

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