What to do if you didn't get a property tax bill

February 2, 2010 4:32:25 PM PST
Time has officially run out for homeowners who want to pay their property taxes without paying a penalty, unless they are among the thousands that never got a tax bill. For them the deadline doesn't apply. There were so many property tax protests this year that not all of them were settled in time to send out a tax bill. If you still have not gotten a tax bill, there's some good news. You've got some extra time to pay without penalty.

The day after the property tax payment deadline is pretty slow at the Harris County Tax Assessor's office. While most property owners have paid their bills, 35,000 never got one at all.

Homeowner Russ Egan said, "I have not received anything from the tax authority, from tax collector or anything."

Egan was among a record number of Harris County residents who protested their 2009 property tax appraisal. So many protests were filed that the appeals process was not finished in time to mail out tax bills.

Until a value is certified, property owners have no way to tell how much they'll owe. For those without a bill, the tax payment deadline simply does not apply, but the clock starts ticking as soon as they do get a bill.

Judge Martha Hill Jamison with the Harris County Tax Assessor's Office explained, "By law you will have 21 days to pay your bill after you receive it and that date should be reflected on your bill when you receive it."

About 390,000 protests were filed with the Harris County Appraisal District in 2009. Some property tax owners got a bill but are in the process of appealing their values to district court.

"Go ahead and pay your tax bill conditionally," advised Judge Jamison. "You have a choice of paying the full amount or just the uncontested part, that is, you know the value is at least a certain amount."

Fearing the deadline, Egan paid what he believed would be the assessed value on his home. Now the certified value has been posted and is less than what Egan paid. Egan can get a refund, but he'll have to fill out a county form first.

"If it is money back in my pocket, I'll go along," he said.

If you paid in more property taxes than the certified amount, you'll get a letter from the tax assessor's office with a form to fill out. Fill it out and mail it in to get your money back.