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Document Type

Student Article

Abstract

The Texas Constitution mandates that taxation shall be equal and uniform, and that property shall be appraised at market value for the purposes of ad valorem property taxation. While valuation methodology is crucial to property owners in such a context, the “Comparable Properties Standard” embodied in Sections 41.43(b)(3) and 42.26(a)(3) of the Texas Tax Code appears to allow wealthy property owners to unconstitutionally manipulate the appraised value of their property for ad valorem taxation purposes and shift their tax burden to other taxpayers. Unless the Texas legislature enacts a mandatory sales price disclosure statute, or directly amends or repeals the Comparable Properties Standard, such unconstitutional results will continue to diminish revenues for taxing units and shift the tax burden from the wealthy to Texas’ lower and middle-class taxpayers.

While scholars and practitioners have previously expressed the need for a Texas mandatory sales price disclosure statute in order to reduce inequity in other valuation contexts, City of Austin v. Travis Central Appraisal District (“City of Austin”) highlights the longstanding complaint that the Comparable Properties Standard, absent mandatory sales price disclosure, has distorted the appraisal process for ad valorem taxation purposes. With millions of dollars of tax revenue at stake, and a continuing shift of the tax burden from the wealthy to other Texans, the Comparable Properties Standard presents serious concerns that may ultimately affect Texans for years to come. Through the framework of City of Austin, this Article analyzes Texas’ difficulties in implementing an equal and uniform system of ad valorem taxation throughout the state, exposing the ways in which wealthy residential and commercial property owners exploit the Comparable Properties Standard in order to reduce their tax burden, and highlighting the necessity of mandatory sales price disclosure to ensure constitutionality in the ad valorem taxation process.

First Page

361

Last Page

382

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