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Tackle your taxes: How to lower your property tax and even get money back

HOUSTON – As many of u/s are looking for ways to save money and make a little extra, check out your account with your local tax appraiser’s office. If you own the home where you live, you should have a homestead exemption applied to your account. It will lower your property taxes by 20%.

“Even if it’s $500 a year, $500 a year is a lot of money you can save,” explained real estate advisor David Atkins with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty.

Atkins makes sure all of his homebuyers apply for the homestead exemption to realize the savings.

“Doing things like that just gives them the extra liquidity to afford the things they want to do in the house, buy furniture, save up for a pool, whatever it may be,” Atkins told consumer expert Amy Davis.

How much you can save

If your home is valued at $100,000, you will save about $500 a year by applying for the homestead exemption. The more your house is worth, the more you’ll save on property taxes. If you have never applied and you have been living in your home for years, you can get the exemption retroactively going back two years. In that case, the tax office will refund you for the taxes that you overpaid.

If you have recently turned 65 years old, you can get another exemption that will lock in your land valuation.

“That was implemented to help the older individuals be able to stay in a neighborhood and not be taxed out of the neighborhood,” said Atkins.

You can also recoup the taxes you paid going back two years if you forgot to apply for the 65 and over exemption in prior years.

You must be living in the home on Jan. 1 the deadline to apply to get the exemption for that tax year is April 30.

Why your homestead exemption could go away

Even though we think we can set it and forget it, there is one reason why the homestead exemption can fall off and stick you with a much higher property tax bill.

“Say the appraisal district sends you your tax bill or another piece of mail,” said Atkins. “If it’s returned to them, you snooze, you lose. They presume that you’ve moved out.”

Atkins says the appraisal district will cancel your homestead exemption without alerting you.

“And therefore you have to contact the appraisal district to get it reinstated,” he explained.

If you live in Harris County, you can find out if you have the exemption at www.hcad.org. Just type in your address and look for exemptions in the column on the right side of the screen.

If you don’t have it, you can apply by filling out this application and mailing it to the appraisal district.

You can also file it electronically if you download the HCAD app on your phone.