December 20, 2023 626 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY — The Presidio County Appraisal District (PCAD) plans to conduct a homestead tax exemption audit in the new year in order to find and correct instances of homeowner’s claiming dual homestead exemption.
“The reason that this came to rise is because this past year, we have come across a few accounts that we noticed had homesteads in other counties,” said Chief Appraiser Cynthia Ramirez.
Appraisal district staff also came across instances where two married individuals were each claiming a separate homestead, she said, which is also illegal under Texas law.
According to the state comptroller, only a homeowner’s primary residence qualifies for a homestead tax exemption. The home must be owned by an individual and not a business. The exemption, in turn, provides state, and often local, tax relief.
This past legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that requires county appraisal districts to conduct homestead exemption audits every five years. Ramirez said the last time one was conducted for Presidio County was in 2017.
This past fall, a voter initiative to increase homestead exemptions on school property taxes from $40,000 to $100,000 passed, giving the initiative renewed importance, said Ramirez. Individuals over 65 receive even higher exemptions.
Starting in February of 2024, the company True Roll, which specializes in these types of audits, will assess about 1,500 homesteaded properties in the county. The process will take around six weeks, said Ramirez, and after results are in, letters will be sent out to those not in compliance. Other appraisal districts around the state will also be notified, she said.
The date which the dual exemption began will be noted, and homeowners will have to pay back taxes on whichever property they no longer choose to homestead, explained Ramirez.
“Say, for example, that in 2010, they applied for [a homestead tax exemption] in Ector County, and they already had it here. Then we’ll go back and remove the homestead for those years they shouldn’t have had it,” said Ramirez.
An issue that has cropped up in the city of Presidio specifically, said Ramirez, is that of people passing away or moving with those homes remaining vacant. The PCAD is only made aware of people passing away through obituaries, so if they never receive one, they have no way of knowing if the homestead exemption still applies, said Ramirez.
“We’re being notified that, ‘Hey, this lady doesn’t even live here anymore. She passed away in 2020,’ and she still has a homestead exemption,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez said she is not sure how many individuals they will find that are out of compliance with the homestead tax exemption law, but passing off the task to True Roll will help lessen the workload on the small appraisal district office, and ultimately, result in more tax collections for the school districts, cities and county.
“I think this might be really helpful for the district and also for the county because there’s only five of us. We don’t have the manpower to actually go through and do something like this,” said Ramirez.
The cost of the audit totals around $14,000 and is being paid for with surplus funds from the appraisal district’s 2022 budget, said Ramirez.
The audit will also reveal if property owners are using their homestead as a short-term rental property, said Ramirez. While it is not illegal, explained Ramirez, those who rent out their homesteaded properties only receive a percentage of the full exemption.