Texas HB 252

Homestead Exemption


Texas HB 252 Homestead Exemption


Texas HB 252 & Homestead Exemptions
by Jesse L. Blalock - March 28, 2011

Texas HB 252 Homestead Exemption
Texas HB 252 - Homestead Exemption fair or just another way to raise taxes on some?

Texas House Bill 252, while adding safe guards to help prevent homestead exemption abuse, also contains wording that in an under handed way lends credibility to the comptroller’s contention that the acreage allowed under the homestead exemption must be used in some required manner, such as a yard.

The definition of a homestead at 11.13(j) of the tax code does not specify, or define that the acreage must be used in any particular manner, other than your residence must be on the land.  Nor, is the authority granted to the comptroller or the chief appraisers to set requirements.

Allowing 20 acres to be claimed as his homestead because a property owner has the financial means to maintain a 20 acre yard, yet excluding the property owner that does not have the means to maintain a 20 acre yard from claiming the maximum is not meeting the constitutional requirement of fair and uniform.  It is allowing one group because of their financial means to claim the maximum acreage allowed, while denying the less well-off group from claiming the maximum.

The comptroller contends that the acreage must be used in some qualifying manner, but when you call the comptroller’s office no one will provide you with what those qualifying requirements are, other than as a yard.  The chief appraisers are using these vague usage requirements to set their own requirements.  These requirements are not uniform, and in most cases change when the person sitting in the chief appraiser’s chair changes.

Attorney Gen. Op. No.’s JM 40 and GA 0752 deal with some of the issues.  GA 0752, while not giving an opinion on usage, lists cases of law that deal with the usage issues. 

House Bill 252 should not be allowed into law in its present form.  We do not need a change in the law to lend credibility to a contention that already violates the state constitution.  The issue of usage requirements needs to be addressed by the legislature.  That is the only way to ensure the issue is settled in a fair and uniform manner for all property owners.