Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 2, 2014

Appraisal District ‘doing its job’

Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — The letter to the Editor criticizing the steps being taken by the Appraisal District to verify whether or not owners of 11 acres or less are making legitimate use of their ag exemption exudes naïvete, disingenuousness, ignorance and a failure to understand economics.  

The Appraisal District is not cracking down on anybody; the Appraisal District is doing its job.  The purpose of an ag exemption is to cut taxation slack on those who use their land for the agricultural benefit of the citizens of the state.  If they did not have the exemption the extra taxes paid would simply be passed on to the consumer.  

For every economic action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  I once had a man in my office, who was over 65, telling me he felt he should get more of a tax break due to his age and change in income circumstances.  

Using economics I made it clear to him that, if we reduced his taxes, somebody else would have to make up the difference:  those under 65.  The three county taxing categories, i.e., the county, the cities and the school districts, come up with an operating budget every year.  

Fluctuating property values and those budgets determine the tax rates.  The money has to come from somewhere.  If you reduce taxes for one guy you are going to have to raise them on another (action–reaction).  I have been in the real estate business for 25 years and have seen numerous examples of individuals claiming exemptions to which they were not entitled, e.g., claiming more than one homestead exemption, claiming an ag exemption when no agricultural work was even being performed.  

Since the letters went out I have had two past customers come in and ask if they could take the exemption.  One could and one couldn't; one was grazing animals and the other had a shaggy patch of woods that had no timber management plan.  

It was no big deal for me to help the one who qualified fill out his form.  If a person does not have the money to handle his exemption details, I doubt he has the money to be doing what is necessary to have an ag exemption.  

The question was asked:  "....what else are you going to do with your rural land in East Texas besides graze it, hunt it or sell timber off it?"  In my case I do none of that with my eight acres.  It is beautiful pasture that I mow two or three times a year just so I can enjoy how it looks.  I get to relax my mind when I am on my tractor.

Full disclosure, in the past I have served on the Board of Directors of the Cherokee County Appraisal District.  More to come.

Mike McEwen