Harris County Appraisal District's i-Settle program is worth considering. However, for most property owners it is a poor choice.
O'Connor & Associates' experience with i-Settle yielded three conclusions:
The settlement rate was very low (about seven percent)
When settlement offers were extended, the tax reduction was low
It was not worth the effort
Most property owners appealing on market value at Harris County Appraisal District, will achieve their best result during the informal hearing in a settlement negotiation.
Taxpayers forfeit their right to an informal hearing when they elect to participate in i-Settle. For most taxpayers, i-Settle will generate a lower level of property tax savings than attending an informal hearing. (The i-Settle program is only available at Harris County Appraisal District.)
O'Connor & Associates have long taken the position that taxpayers can effectively represent themselves at a property tax appeal hearing: 1) if they understand the process and 2) if they prepare for the hearing.
The point of this article is that i-Settle is a poor choice for most Harris County taxpayers. The article is not intended to discourage property owners from handling their own property tax protest.
Property owners should consider i-Settle in two circumstances: 1) if you are only appealing unequal appraisal at Harris County Appraisal District and 2) if you were not planning to protest and will not pay a tax consultant.
Harris County Appraisal District appraisers do not consider appeals on unequal appraisal at the informal hearing. If you just purchased your house, and it is assessed for less than the purchase price but more than similar houses, i-Settle might be worth considering. Since the HCAD appraiser would not have considered your unequal appraisal evidence, you are not losing anything by allowing Harris County Appraisal District to make an offer via i-Settle. However, the chance of receiving an acceptable offer is small. You will probably need to attend the Harris County Appraisal Review Board hearing.
Some Harris County Appraisal District property owners do not want to spend time appealing their property taxes and are unwilling to pay a property tax consultant. (I confess, this decision perplexes me. It seems that a portion of the savings is better than none of the savings.)
However, if you do not want to spend time appealing your Harris County property tax assessment and are not willing to hire a consultant, i-Settle is a good option. If you file a protest and make an offer with i-Settle, you may receive a token reduction.
The best avenue for appealing property taxes is to: 1) file a protest, 2) prepare an analysis for market value and unequal appraisal, and 3) attend the informal hearing. If you do not receive an acceptable offer at the informal hearing, you can still attend the appraisal review board hearing.
i-Settle is a poor choice for most property owners. The offers made via i-Settle have been stingy, and the settlement rate is low. The most significant drawback with i-Settle is taxpayers forfeit their right to an informal hearing. Most Harris County taxpayers will get the best result at the informal hearing. Taxpayers can file and handle their own property tax protest. Taxpayers should appeal the assessed value of every property every year.