AUSTIN (KXAN) — Property tax appraisals are on their way to Central Texans.

Texans’ deadline to file a protest is coming soon on May 15, or no later than 30 days from the mail date of your appraisal, whichever is later.

Austin property tax attorney Lorri Michel spoke with KXAN to share property tax insight as Central Texans navigate their appraisals.

Note: Answers were edited for length and clarity.

What are the different property tax exemptions available?

Lorri Michel: For most homeowners, there is one exemption for sure that they want to make sure that they get on their property: it’s the homestead exemption. That will do two things. It will lower the taxable value—the value that they actually pay taxes on—and it will limit the increase that the property value can go to 10% per year.

Then, there’s what we call the over-65 freeze. That’s a really important exemption for people aged 65 or older who own a home, and that is significant because your school tax is frozen with that exemption. The school tax is the largest portion of your property tax.

[Two other exemptions include the 100 Percent Disabled Veterans and Surviving Spouses exemption and the Disabled Veterans and Surviving Spouses exemption.]

What’s the difference between a market value, an assessed value and a taxable value?

Lorri Michel: Property in Texas is to be appraised at its market value. That’s defined as what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the property, or what would your property sell for in an unforced transaction.

You’ll see also typically the appraised value, or the taxable value, on your appraisal notice. That’s the value that you’re going to pay taxes on. That’s the value after exemptions. Taxable and assessed values are really pretty much the same value.

So you want to keep an eye on both, and then you want to look and make sure that the exemptions that you’ve applied for and qualify for are applied to your property because that affects the amount that you’re going to pay taxes on.

How do local tax rates play into property appraisals?

Lorri Michel: The property tax system in Texas has two components. One is the appraisal district’s value on a property. The higher the value, naturally, the higher the tax. So, you want to watch and make sure the value that the appraisal district is putting on your property is correct.

The second component is the tax rates that are set by the taxing units, for example, the city, the county, the school district, the community college and the hospital district.

When do you recommend a homeowner or property owner seek help with their appraisal?

Lorri Michel: Just start with the basics and make sure the appraisal district has your name and address correct so that you’re getting the notices that you’re entitled to receive and that you’re following the instructions and the deadlines for protesting.

I’m a property tax professional, so I’m a big proponent of hiring a property tax professional for your property and for your home. There are several good local property tax consulting firms in the area that I would recommend hiring to watch the value, to make sure that the numbers are right, and to make sure that you’re being treated fairly and equally.

The property tax is a significant tax in Texas, so you want to make sure that your rights are being protected. It is somewhat of a complicated system, and so that very often means hiring a professional.

Is there something you wish property owners better understood about the process?

Lorri Michel: Deadlines matter. So don’t miss your deadline.

And those notices that you get…pay attention, read them.

If you think you’re over-appraised, always be prepared to assert what you think is the proper and lawful value of your property. Also, pay attention to your taxing units. What are they doing with their budgets? What are they doing with their tax rates?