SOURCE: Michel, Gray, Rogers & Brewer, LLP

Michel, Gray, Rogers & Brewer, LLP

May 04, 2016 17:11 ET

Michel Gray Scores a Victory for All Texas Property Taxpayers With Court Ruling Against Willacy County Appraisal District

Precedent-Setting Property Tax Ruling Affirms Texas Taxpayer Rights

AUSTIN, TX --(Marketwired - May 04, 2016) - Austin property tax law firm Michel Gray today announced the firm prevailed in a precedent-setting appeals case filed on behalf of its client, Sebastian Cotton & Grain Ltd., against the Willacy County Appraisal District (WCAD).

"This is a major victory for all Texas property owners, commercial and residential," said Michel Gray principal and managing partner Lorri Michel. "The outcome of this case affirms the fundamental rights of every property taxpayer in Texas to fair treatment under the law and full access to justice."

Sebastian Cotton & Grain Ltd. v Willacy County Appraisal District dealt with an agreement between the South Texas cotton gin and granary and WCAD regarding the ownership of a large quantity of grain. Both WCAD and Sebastian agreed that Sebastian was not the owner of the majority of grain stored at its facility, and entered into a binding agreement allocating ownership of only a portion of the grain to Sebastian. Subsequently, the chief appraiser for WCAD changed his mind and assigned ownership of the grain to Sebastian, citing Section 25.25(b) of the Texas Property Tax Code as authority to "correct" the appraisal roll.

Sebastian Cotton & Grain retained Austin property tax attorney Lorri Michel to defend its rights under the tax code. After the trial court ruled in favor of WCAD, Michel appealed that decision. On April 28, the 13th Court of Appeals rejected WCAD's reading of Section 25.25(b), holding that "While WCAD's exercise of power may well be convenient for its purposes, WCAD may not contradict the limitations of the Tax Code in order to achieve this convenience." The court also awarded mandatory attorney fees to Michel Gray, pursuant to Section 42.29 of the Texas Property Tax Code.

"Taxpayers are entitled to rely on agreements with chief appraisers and the provisions of the Texas Property Tax Code in order to achieve finality of their tax liability," said Michel, who has long advocated for taxpayer rights. "We are pleased that the 13th Court of Appeals affirmed this fundamental doctrine of fairness and rejected the chief appraiser's strained arguments to the contrary."

"Justice should not be available only to those who can afford to hire legal counsel," Michel said. "The court's award of mandatory attorney fees in this case affirms that all property taxpayers who successfully challenge appraisal district actions in this state will have the right of access to the courts."

About Michel Gray
Michel Gray is a full-service property tax law firm with 100-plus years of combined property tax and real estate experience among its principals. Based in Austin, but with a national presence, Michel Gray focuses on issues related to property taxation. For more information, visit www.michelgray.com.

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