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Houston appellate decisions in delinquent tax appeals | property tax appraisal appeals - Houston case law |
Taxing units, entities, authorities: school districts (ISD) |
HOW DOES THE TAX ENTITY PLAINTIFF PROVE ITS CASE IN A TAX SUIT?
Tax Code subsection 33.47(a), which addresses evidentiary concerns in delinquent tax cases, provides as follows:
(a) In a suit to collect a delinquent tax, the taxing unit's current tax roll and delinquent tax roll or certified copies of
the entries showing the property and the amount of the tax and penalties imposed and interest accrued constitute
prima facie evidence that each person charged with a duty relating to the imposition of the tax has complied with all
requirements of law and that the amount of tax alleged to be delinquent against the property and the amount of
penalties and interest due on that tax as listed are the correct amounts.
Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 33.47(a) (Vernon 2008).
Once a taxing authority introduces a delinquent tax roll or certified copies of the entries showing the property and
amount of tax, interest, and penalties, it establishes a prima facie case as to every material fact necessary to
establish its cause of action and creates a rebuttable presumption that the taxing entity has taken all actions
necessary to obtain legal authority to levy the tax. Davis v. City of Austin, 632 S.W.2d 331, 333 (Tex. 1982); Aldine
Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Ogg, 122 S.W.3d 257, 263-64 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, no pet.); see also Excel
Auto & Truck Leasing LLP v. Alief Indep. Sch. Dist., 249 S.W.3d 46, 50 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2007, pet.
denied). The presumption created by section 33.47 is overcome if and when the taxpayer meets his burden of
producing competent evidence to justify a finding against the presumed fact. Ogg, 122 S.W.3d at 264. The
evidence offered to rebut the presumption may be reviewed for legal and factual sufficiency. Id. at 265 n.18.
Seiflein v. City of Houston (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 4, 2010)(Higley)
(ad valorem tax delinquency suit judgment affirmed)(evidence to prove delinquent taxes owed by property owner in
tax suit, burden-shifting, requirement to rebut prima facie case)
Once the taxing authorities met their burden to show that taxes were due and delinquent, the burden shifted to the tax payer to
introduce competent evidence to invalidate the assessments. Defendant property owner did not present any evidence and thus failed
to rebut the evidentiary presumption.
AFFIRM TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT: Opinion by Justice Higley
Before Chief Justice Radack, Justices Alcala and Higley
01-09-00361-CV Phil Seiflein v. City of Houston
Appeal from 164th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Hon Alexandra Smoots-Hogan
The record shows that the taxing authorities introduced certified copies of tax statements from the Harris County tax collector's office
showing the delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest owing for the subject property. See Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 33.47(a). Once the trial
court admitted the documents specified in the statute, the taxing authorities established a prima facie case as to every material fact
necessary to establish their cause of action and a rebuttable presumption was created that the taxing entities had taken all actions
necessary to obtain legal authority to levy the tax. See Ogg, 122 S.W.3d at 264.
Here, Seiflein does not dispute on appeal that he owns the subject property. Seiflein contends only that the tax statements in
evidence fail to properly name him as the owner. Pursuant to Tax Code Section 25.02(b), "[a] mistake in the name or address of an
owner does not affect the validity of the appraisal records, of any appraisal or tax roll based on them, or of the tax imposed." Tex. Tax
Code Ann. § 25.02(b) (Vernon 2008) (stating that mistake may be corrected) (emphasis added).
Further, the record shows that the taxing authorities put on evidence showing that Seiflein owned the property taxed. The trial court
admitted a certified copy of a quitclaim deed, dated June 19, 1993, showing that the subject property was conveyed to Seiflein, and a
letter, dated March 8, 2005, from Seiflein's attorney to the Harris County Appraisal Board, asking the Appraisal Review Board to
correct the appraisal roll for tax years 2000 through 2004, to reflect Seiflein as the owner of the subject property. Seiflein did not object
to this evidence. Further, the trial court's judgment specifies that, for tax years 1983 to 1993, Seiflein is to be considered an in rem
defendant only. Cf. Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 32.07(a) (Vernon 2008) (providing that "property taxes are the personal obligation of the
person who owns or acquires the property on January 1 of the year for which the tax is imposed").
Once the taxing authorities met their burden to show that taxes were due and delinquent, the burden shifted to Seiflein to introduce
competent evidence to invalidate the assessments. See Ogg, 122 S.W.3d at 264. The record does not reflect that Seiflein presented
any evidence. Accordingly, we overrule Seiflein's first issue.
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