Taylor: Property taxes a problem without a solution for business owners

Texas businesses that own their own real estate face an unsolvable math problem.

Let’s start with one side of the math equation. Property tax appraisals by law are set in January. You may recall January 2020, which we all agree took place about seven years ago. COVID-19 months are like dog years. The lines on my face prove it.

Back in January — the halcyon days, the golden years, the boom time — the stock market indices traded at record highs, the Texas unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and oil sold at $60 per barrel. The result: Real property tax appraisals went up, compared to 2019.

Those higher appraisals have arrived in the mail. We calculate taxes by multiplying appraisal values by tax rates. The tax rates did not drop. So real estates taxes owed are up. In many cases by a lot.

Meanwhile, the stock market has been — let’s call it volatile. Texas unemployment hit 13 percent in May. Until last week, oil had been below $40 per barrel since March.

So here’s the other side of the math equation. While results vary, the last three months for many businesses have been terrible. Catastrophic for most in the food and drink, lodging, retail and real estate sectors, as well as oil and gas.

More from Taylor: Liberty Bar owner in the age of coronavirus: ‘I feel like the tail struggling to wag the dog’

The unsolvable math equation is this: How do already vulnerable businesses stay afloat when they’re sustaining and the one authority they can’t avoid — the tax man — is taxing them on boom-time valuations?

If you start asking around for responsible authorities who can solve this, you quickly get a picture that reminded me of that scene in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” in which everybody points the gun at everybody else. A more sophisticated movie critic than me (my wife) points out that Tarantino appropriated that image from movies directed by John Woo. But I digress.

The point is, everybody points to somebody else as the authority to fix it.

I sat down with Bexar County Tax Collector-Assessor Albert Uresti. He…

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