The underlying issue with valuations is the appraisal review board within the appraisal system, says Rahul Patel, managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues.

It’s pretty much a fact that property taxes go up annually in Texas. Proposals such as caps on annual increases and sales price disclosure on commercial properties ignore the root of the problem of the annual increases, GlobeSt.com learns.

Patel says abolishing appraisal districts and using sales prices to set values may lead to higher tax valuations.

By Deepak Ahluwalia · June 19, 2018

From huge metros to small towns and all points in between, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has drastically stepped up I-9 audits of companies. The federal government requires all employers to use the I-9 form to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States.

Last year, the agency audited more than 1,300 organizations, which produced 71 indictments. ICE’s acting director has pledged to boost workplace raids by 400-500 percent.

And the penalties for not following the rules for handling I-9 forms can be severe – well into the tens of thousands of dollars even for small enterprises, much more for large companies. You can contact experienced immigration lawyers who can clear your doubts like can I travel while waiting on green card and help you understand all the legal procedures.

If the dreaded ICE notice of inspection (NOI) lands in your mailbox, here are some essential guidelines for dealing with the coming ICE inspection:

Do not waive the three-day notice. When presented with a notice of inspection, you have three days to gather your I-9 forms and surrender them to ICE. Even if you believe that your I-9s are in proper order, take those three days to consult with an attorney and double-check your compliance with appropriate regulations.

Provide only the documents requested. Carefully review the notice of inspection and accompanying subpoenas. The NOI will ask for the I-9, while the accompanying subpoenas might request additional documents. Read through both carefully to ensure you are providing everything that is requested. Do not turn over any unnecessary documents for the audit.

Keep track of everything you give to ICE. I-9 audits do not occur at your place of business and only originals are accepted by ICE. Make copies of all I-9 forms to retain for your business’s use while the audit is in progress.

Contact the ICE auditor. When the NOI is served, you will also receive contact information for the ICE auditor. Through your attorney, reach out to the auditor to determine the best course of communication. Each auditor handles cases differently, so make contact to find out about the timeline, process of the audit, and any expectations the auditor may have for your business.

Use your three days wisely. The auditors provide these three days so that you can get your documents in proper order. We urge you to consider taking the following three steps:

First, contact your business immigration attorney.
Second, move forward with gathering the requested forms and making copies of each.
Third, if time allows have your attorney make the necessary corrections to your I-9 forms before the audit.

Getting through the I-9 audit requires diligence and extreme attention to detail. ICE means business and will pursue penalties against businesses that don’t handle the I-9 process properly. The best way to avoid trouble, of course, is to follow the rules from the start. More information is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Deepak Ahluwalia is the lead attorney and manager of the employment-focused immigration division of Patel Gaines, LLC . He consults with corporations and clients on all matters related to corporate and employment immigration with a focus on I-9 compliance and audits. This content is provided for informational purposes only and is in no way intended to constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.

One of the proposals floated at the Texas Republican Party convention in San Antonio over the weekend was one to abolish local Appraisal Districts and use only sales prices to set the property’s value, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

But while the more than 100,000 Bexar County property owners who have protested their 2018 appraisals may see that as sweet revenge against the Bexar County Appraisal District, which has increased taxable property values to 9% this year, one percent short of the maximum allowed by state law, attorney Rahul Patel of the local firm of Patel Gaines, who practices real estate law, says it wouldn’t work the way you think.

In fact, Patel says making that change would actually lead to higher taxable valuations, because home prices are actually rising faster than appraised values.

“The market is actually outpacing evaluations,” he said.  “You will see increases, not decreases.  They believe that if you have a sales price, that is going to set the value.”

The appraised value for taxing purposes is based on a number of factors, mainly what the Appraisal District calls ‘comparables,’ which is the valuation of homes which are similar to yours.  Sales price can be completely different, and is based on what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree on, which can be driven by vastly different factors, including the home’s appeal to a buyer and the buyer’s desire to be in a certain neighborhood or be in a certain school.

Patel also says homeowners also are under the misconception that if there is no sale, there cannot be value appreciation, but it doesn’t work that way.

“Well, I’m not going to sell, so there is no sales price for my home, so there will be no value increase,” he said.  “That is not the standard they are attempting to establish.”

Anther problem with the proposal is it would require the sales price of a home to be reported to the government, something that is not now required.  Many realtors say since the sale involves two private parties, the price they agree to pay for a home is none of the government’s business.

Patel says if homeowner want relief, a better way to achieve that relief is to find more knowledgable people to staff the appraisal appeals process.

“If we get better judges and jury members, we will get better outcomes which will lead to fairer determinations across the board,” he said.

Property taxes in Texas are a lot like dealing with a fresh wound.

Every year, we vent our rage because our property tax bills go up. Lately, they have gone up a lot. We’re wounded yet again.

But serious, fundamental change isn’t happening. Why? Because we’re underthinking the problem and rushing to find a Band-Aid for the wound.
Caps on annual increases and sales price disclosure on commercial properties, for example, ignore the heart of the problem — the appraisal system and the appraisal review boards (ARBs).

The ARBs play a critical role. When a property owner isn’t satisfied with the appraised value and hasn’t been able to negotiate an acceptable amount with the appraisal district, the review board is the next step.

As an attorney who has represented hundreds of property owners in appraisal review hearings, I can tell you firsthand that many ARB members simply are not qualified to handle complex residential or commercial valuations. Setting a value on a $75,000 condo is in no way comparable to doing so on an $80-million commercial property. Complex valuations should be handled by qualified appraisers or experts.

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Small San Antonio Firm Finds Success as it Adopts Startup Strategies and Rejects Old-School Ways
Patel Gaines’ founding partners say they have figured out how to be fast, efficient and innovative and still offer value to their clients.

Rahul B. Patel, managing partner, left, and Grant M. Gaines, co-founder, right, of Patel Gaines.

Law firms provide legal services to the commercial real estate industry and use the services of the industry to lease space, of course, and GlobeSt.com takes a look at both aspects in this legal update.

Grant Gaines, senior litigation partner, has seen his share of real estate documents.
HOUSTON—Obviously, law firms provide legal services to the commercial real estate industry and use the services of the CRE industry to lease or buy space. GlobeSt.com takes a look at both aspects of the business in this legal update.

There seems to be no end to the stories of Houstonians left devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

And those of us grateful that we were not swamped by the storm are shaking our heads in disbelief, wondering how our friends and neighbors will possibly afford to pay for so much clean up and repair.

It’s not a rhetorical question: Most of Houston’s flooded homes are not covered by flood insurance. And the sheer volume of debris piled up in front of homes and businesses across the city is already staggering — and still growing fast.

Amid the misery, Mayor Sylvester Turner proposed an 8.9 percent increase in property taxes to help offset some of the recovery costs.  After the federal government decision to increase its financial commitment to Houston’s recovery, Turner said he could cut his tax hike proposal in half.  Better, but still a bad idea.

It was hard to wrap our heads around Harvey’s 50-inch rain total and unprecedented scale of flooding. It’s even harder to understand the mayor’s thinking on this. But let’s lay it out.

First, rewind several months to this year’s property tax bills, which continued a string of year-over-year increases for most property owners. In fact, this year’s state legislative session included plenty of debate over the unsustainable burden of ever-increasing property taxes across Texas, including Houston.

Second, with many Houstonians struggling to pay their property taxes, throw in a hurricane of staggering proportions and inundate tens of thousands of homes and businesses with floodwater.

Now, imagine slogging through the debris-littered yard of a home you can see through because all the waterlogged sheetrock has been removed. The owner has no flood insurance and is in very serious financial peril, with no idea where the money will come from to repair the home. Go ahead and tell him that you now want to hit him with a property tax increase on top of the financial stress he is already experiencing.

No question, Harvey’s damage presents the mayor and other public officials with a monumental problem. Their jobs are exponentially more difficult post-Harvey, as demands for money and resources outstrip available funding no matter how those demands are prioritized.

Turner certainly isn’t wrong when he says, “If this is not an emergency, I don’t know what is.” He’s right to say the city’s leadership must find a way to pay for the costs of the cleanup.

But it’s just as true that thousands of property owners are experiencing a crisis of their own. For many, holding onto their homes and businesses was already extremely difficult before Harvey, largely due to their spiraling property tax bills.

Hitting them with a property tax hike now seems a lot like kicking them while they’re down. It could be the ultimate tipping point that forces many to try to sell. Selling a severely distressed property after a huge flood — how’s that likely to work out?

If anything, Houston’s property owners need a temporary break on their property taxes to help them recover, which in turn would help the city as a whole recover.

Houston has long been a powerful engine in the American economy. The city has paid its dues to the nation and the state. The mayor and other civic leaders should press hard on federal and state officials – not battered property owners – to fund the cleanup of a city that contributes massively to America’s and Texas’ economic vitality.

The feds have stepped up. The state could also help immensely by tapping into Texas’ roughly $10 billion rainy day fund.