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Budget for Closing Costs – Property Taxes, Legal Fees and Such

You probably spent a good bit of time getting disciplined to save money for your home purchase. You need to carry this financial discipline through the escrow period or you could run into problems.

closing, closing costs, escrow, notary, legal, property taxes

You probably spent a good bit of time getting disciplined to save money for your home purchase. You need to carry this financial discipline through the escrow period or you could run into problems.

Budget for Closing Costs – Property Taxes, Legal Fees and Such

When you decided it was time to purchase a home, you went through a number of steps to get your finances in order. You probably reviewed your credit report, cut down on credit card balances and reigned in your spending. A monthly budget was probably also an item you stuck to, probably with some aggravation. Once you have an offer for a home accepted, it is important that you keep budgeting for the closing costs associated with the purchase. Here are a couple of odd little fees that can show up and drive you nuts if you are not careful.

Being required to pay property taxes can be a nasty little surprise. After all, you do not even own the home yet! The requirement, however, comes because of the nature of how property taxes are paid. They are not paid every month, so the seller has prepaid the taxes beyond the period they will own the home. They will want that money back! You can negotiate this point as part of the purchase, but you need to be aware it is out there.

In some states, it is a legal requirement that you have a lawyer represent you in a real estate transaction. This requirement primarily exists in the East. Regardless, attorneys are expensive and you need to have money set aside to pay their fees. In truth, retaining a lawyer is a good idea since they tend to sniff out any questionable issues in the transaction. Fees can run you from a couple hundred bucks to thousands of dollars.

In addition to the above, there are a lot of small fees associated with closing. They can run from several hundred dollars paid to the escrow company to $20 or so for notary fees and so on. If you do not keep an eye out, they can add up quickly to a few thousand dollars.

Closing on a home can be aggravating with all the costs you have to pay. It will all be worth it when you walk into your new home the first time.


How property tax laws could affect you

A simple guide to property tax law.

property, property rental, buy property

Although it's a bit easier now than it used to be, what complicates matters is the number of laws that dictate what you can and can't do. And change is frequent - it seems as though every budget brings a change to tax laws. That can add even more complication for you.

You may not have come across them before, but there are a number of property tax laws that apply to you and any investments you make into property. They tend to affect income from rental properties, plus any profits you make from selling houses you own.

Use this simple guide to wade through property tax and understand how it could affect you.

First off, the good news. If you're selling a property that is your main home, you won't pay tax on it, as long as you satisfy certain conditions.

There's nothing in the conditions to scare you. You have to have bought the property and spent money on it primarily for use as your home rather than with a view to making a profit. The house also needs to have been your only home during the time you owned it, and you have used it as a place for your family and no more than one lodger to live.

There's also a condition that won't expose you to property tax unless you have a huge amount of land. The garden and area of grounds sold with the house can't exceed 5,000 square metres, which is about one and a quarter acres. This includes the site of the actual house itself.

The law continues to say that if you are married or in a civil partnership and not separated, you and your spouse or civil partner can only have one home between you. And there is some good news - even if you don't meet all of these conditions, there is still a chance you will be entitled to property tax relief on your property. It's something you should talk to an accountant about.

So what if you have a second home - will you be liable for property tax on that? It's not such an unusual question these days. Buy to lets are becoming a more and more popular investment, and any tax laws that affect the profit you make from a sale will affect your future lifestyle (especially if you are investing in property for your retirement).

For property that's not your main home, you will normally be charged capital gains tax if you make a profit when you sell the house (and by a profit, the Inland Revenue means you make more money than you paid for it in the first place).

In the current tax year (2007-2008), you are allowed the first £9,200 of your total taxable gains to be tax free. And there are a couple of other conditions to help reduce your tax bill.

First off, when working out your profit, remember you can deduct some of the costs of buying, selling and improving the property.

If you are unlucky and make a loss, you may be able to set that off against other profits you make. This is handy way to reduce your liability to property tax if you are a property developer who buys and sells houses regularly, and gets one wrong!

Finally, if you are living together you can transfer property to your husband, wife or civil partner without having to pay any capital gains tax. Unfortunately you can't give it or sell it cheaply to your children or anyone else; this will potentially make you liable to be charged tax.

Remember to get professional advice from a qualified person before taking any action. Don't rely purely on information contained in this article.

For further information please visit our website at or ring us on 01733 427177.


Appealing Business Personal Property Tax Assessments in Texas

"Collecting more taxes than is necessary is legalized robbery." These words of wisdom, spoken by the 13th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, still ring true in today's society for homeowners and business owners. Robbery may seem like a harsh word, but what would you say if someone tried to sell you one-year-old motel sheets for 90% of the original cost? Based on the appraisal district's depreciation schedule, this is a fair deal.

texas property tax, appeal, poconnor

"Collecting more taxes than is necessary is legalized robbery." These words of wisdom, spoken by the 13th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, still ring true in today's society for homeowners and business owners. Robbery may seem like a harsh word, but what would you say if someone tried to sell you one-year-old motel sheets for 90% of the original cost? Based on the appraisal district's depreciation schedule, this is a fair deal.

Most people would not consider this a fair deal and either reject the offer or request a lower price. This should be the same thought process when the appraisal district overassesses your business personal property (BPP). Texas law requires business owners to report BPP, personal property used for the production of income, to the appraisal district for assessment and taxation. Although there are no criminal penalties for not complying with the law, there is a penalty of 10% of the taxes. For example, if you have a BPP account assessed for $100,000, your annual BPP taxes are $3,000, based on a 3% tax rate. The 10% penalty for this BPP account would be $300 ($3,000 times 10% equals $300).

The huge range of assessed value for business personal property (BPP) makes obtaining substantial property tax reductions highly probable. It is not unusual for the range of assessed value for BPP accounts for similar properties to vary by 5,000%! For example, furniture and computers for companies within the same office building sometimes vary from $1 to $50 per square foot. Market value and unequal appraisal are two options for appealing BPP assessments. Given the inequity in BPP assessments and the subjectivity of valuing BPP, property owners have a high probability of success when properly prepared for a BPP assessment appeal. Protest both market value and unequal appraisal.

How to appeal?

To appeal your BPP, you can either use the Comptroller's form, or send a letter to the appraisal review board (ARB) on or before May 31st of each year. The protest letter to the ARB should identify the property and the reason for your protest (section 41.44d of the Texas Property Tax Code).


• Since the appraisal district's staff tends to become more motivated to resolve appeals later in the season versus earlier in the season, it is better to appeal or protest on May 31st or shortly before the deadline date.
• Even if you do not receive a notice of assessed value for your BPP account, it is still important to send a written notice of appeal or protest. The appraisal district does not have to send a notice of your assessed value if the value does not change by more than $1,000. If the notice of assessed value gets lost in the mail, and you do not send a protest notice, you lose your right to appeal for the current year.
When sending a notice of appeal to the ARB, also send the appraisal district a House Bill 201 request. House Bill 201 refers to section 41.461 of the Texas Property Tax Code that allows property owners to obtain a copy of any evidence the appraisal district plans to use at the ARB hearing 14 days before the hearing. This request prohibits the appraisal district from using any information that was not provided to the property owner 14 days before the ARB hearing.

Market Value, Book Value & Comptroller Schedule

Three popular options for describing value for BPP are: market value, book value, and the Comptroller's schedule. Market value is defined in section 1.04(7) of the Texas Property Tax Code that reads as follows:

"Market value" means the price at which a property would transfer for cash or its equivalent under prevailing market conditions if:

(a) exposed for sale in the open market with a reasonable time for the seller to find a purchaser,
(b) Both the seller and the purchaser know of all the uses and purposes to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used and of the enforceable restrictions on its use, and
(c) Both the seller and the purchaser seek to maximize their gains and neither is in a position to take advantage of the exigencies of the other.

Let's compare the differences in value resulting from using market value, book value and the Comptroller's schedule. The BPP for a typical motel room includes items such as bedding, linens, window air-conditioning unit, towels and a television. Based on market value, after one year, these types of items could probably only be sold for 10% to 30% of the original cost. Book value, based on federal depreciation schedules, indicates a value of 80% of the purchase price after one year. The Texas Comptroller's schedule for BPP for motels has an eight-year life with 10% depreciation for the first seven years. Hence, the Comptroller schedule indicates one-year old hotel furnishings are worth 90% of their original purchase price. This is clearly inconsistent with market value for these items.


There are a number of controversial issues related to how inventory is assessed. These include shrinkage, damage, functional obsolescence and economic obsolescence. For example, what is the market value of merchandise returned during the week after Christmas on January 1st (the effective date for valuation)? Since returned merchandise has usually been opened, damaged, missing parts or may be an unpopular item, it is worth less than cost in many cases. Market value is relevant in determining the assessed value for inventory for Texas BPP taxes.

Preparing A Summary For Your Hearing

The appraisal district would prefer to see a fixed asset listing, which includes the original cost and date of acquisition for every asset purchased. However, a fixed asset listing is not required. This is good news for small businesses that do not maintain a fixed asset listing.

Unequal appraisal

Assessed values for BPP accounts often range from ten-times to fifty-times on a per square foot basis for companies in the same industry. For example, real estate brokerage offices, which have 10,000 square feet of office space, may have assessments ranging from $10,000-$500,000. It seems unlikely that the computers and furniture in one brokerage office are 50 times as valuable as those in a competitor's firm on a per square foot basis.

Appraisal districts tend to accept the assessed value rendered by property owners. Many large companies render using fixed asset listings. Appraisal districts use the cost basis information and the Comptroller's schedule to calculate the "market value" for property. The valuations for these rendered accounts tend to grossly distort the actual value of these properties. Property owners who do not render have values on the lower end of the range of value. While it seems intuitive that appraisal districts would penalize owners who do not render by sharply increasing their assessed values, the practice is the opposite. Appraisal districts tend to reward property owners who do not render by leaving their assessed values at modest levels. This creates a disincentive to render. It also unequally taxes property owners who render with a fixed asset listing. These factors have caused a high degree of dispersion in BPP assessed values.

How To Appeal On Unequal Appraisal

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to appeal BPP utilizing unequal appraisal, a concept that is fairly new. Most property tax consultants and large property owners have not considered or utilized unequal appraisal regarding BPP. Appraisal districts are resistant to the concept of appealing BPP based on unequal appraisal. (It is inappropriate to tax property owners who render using a fixed asset listing at the highest level, based on utilizing the Comptroller schedule, when allowing property owners who do not render very lean levels of assessment.)

Preparing an appeal based on unequal appraisal for BPP is simple and straightforward. Start by obtaining information on the assessed value, and amount of office space/manufacturing or warehouse space for property owners similar to the subject property owner. This is typically done by using companies with the same Standard Industrial Code (SIC) as the subject property owner. You can obtain this information by sending an open records request to the appraisal district. When appealing, research the assessed value for your competitors. Compile data regarding the assessed value and building area for the subject and comparable accounts into a summary:
When should you appeal?

Appeal annually on market value and unequal appraisal. To effectively appeal on these two options, research unequal appraisal based on assessment comparables on the appraisal district's web site and evaluate the market value of your BPP. After reviewing both the unequal appraisal and market value options, determine your primary focus for appealing your BPP account. If neither market value nor unequal appraisal provides a basis for appealing your property taxes, you can withdraw the notice of protest or just skip the hearing.

Tips for your hearing (Informal & ARB)

Informal hearing

• First meet with the appraiser and politely explain the basis for your adjustment. Give the appraiser a copy of your evidence and explain it in a methodical way.
• The appraiser will review your information and the information he/she has available, and will then likely make an offer to settle. Consider the appraiser's offer and explain why your evidence is better than his/her evidence, and again request your value or a value between your value and his/her value.
• You will quickly learn the lowest value the appraiser is willing to accept. At this point, you need to either agree to that value or proceed to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing.
• If you settle the appeal at the informal level, you will not be able to pursue an ARB hearing or a judicial appeal. However, it does resolve the issue in a timely manner.

ARB hearing

• Introduction of the two parties at the hearing
• Explanation of the hearing process
• Property description (address any errors in the description of your property after the appraiser's description of your property)
• Property owner presentation
• Questions from the ARB panel members
• Appraisal district presentation
• Rebuttal and closing evidence from the property owner
• ARB announces its decision

Summary Points

• Annual appeals will minimize your BPP property taxes.
• There are huge differences between the market value estimated by the Comptroller's schedule and actual market value.
• Based on excessive assessments for BPP for companies who render using a fixed asset listing, a low percentage of property owners who render and the low assessed values for property owners who do not render, there are rich opportunities for appealing BPP by using unequal appraisal.


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