Before 1979, the Texas Constitution required all property owners to pay property taxes. Exemptions were few and, with the exceptions of government property, along with that belonging to churches, schools and other properties exempted by federal law, most other owners were taxed on the property including automobiles, household furniture, stocks, bonds and cash in the bank. Each tax agency in Texas could have its tax office and tax offices proliferated with most cities, school districts and numerous special districts establishing independent offices. Accordingly, Texas had over 3,000 separate tax offices, each following its own standards and local practices. Properties were often listed on different taxing entities rolls at dramatically different appraised values and assessment ratios were also applied with no uniformity between entities.
In 1979, the 66th Texas Legislature, reacting to a chronic and growing problem of inequitable and unfair taxation, passed new legislation in Senate Bill 621 requiring that a centralized agency is established in each county for the purpose of appraising property for ad valorem tax purposes. These organizations, called “Central Appraisal Districts” consolidated the appraisal function of all taxing units into one office in each county and were organized to ensure that property taxation was fair and equitable as well as accurate. The Central Appraisal District (CAD) appraises each property in the county. Individual taxing units use those values to calculate tax liabilities in their jurisdiction. Each CAD is headed by a chief appraiser who manages staff, prepares budgets, administers applications for exemptions and oversees the day-to-day district operations. The Tax Code prescribes appraisal standards and appeal procedures and ensures regular review of each appraisal district by a state agency.
Today the Travis Central Appraisal District appraises property in all of Travis County. We cover an area of approximately 873 square miles and are responsible for almost 450,000 tax accounts.
Each year our agency is audited, including both our financial operation and our appraisal effort. Independent auditors conduct the financial audit. The Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division carries out a performance audit of our appraisal effort to determine the accuracy and equity of that endeavor.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Each Texas county is served by an appraisal district that determines the value of all of the county’s real and personal property. Generally, a local government that collects property taxes, such as a county, city and school district, is a member of the appraisal district.
Taxing entities are the local government entities such as cities, hospital districts, junior colleges, and municipal utility districts. Taxing entities provide services to the taxpayers they service such as schools, roads, police, fire, and other services taxpayers expect.
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Property is taxed by the authority of the Texas Constitution. The Constitution sets forth five basic principles for property taxes in Texas.
- Taxes must be equal and uniform. No single property or type of property should pay more than its fair share.
- Property must be appraised on its current market value meaning the price that it would sell for on the open market when both the buyer and seller seek the best price and neither is under pressure to buy or sell.
- Each property in a county must have a single appraised value. This is guaranteed by the use of the county appraisal districts.
- All property is taxable unless federal or state law exempts it from the tax.
- Property owners have a right to reasonable notice of increases in their appraised property value.
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