TITLE 34. PUBLIC FINANCE

PART 1. COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

CHAPTER 9. PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION

SUBCHAPTER I. VALUATION PROCEDURES

34 TAC §9.4001

The Comptroller of Public Accounts adopts amendments to §9.4001, concerning valuation of open-space and agricultural lands, without changes to the proposed text as published in the March 8, 2019, issue of the Texas Register (44 TexReg 1273). These amendments are to reflect updates and revisions to the manual for the appraisal of agricultural land.

The amendments update and revise the January 2017 manual for the appraisal of agricultural land. The manual sets forth the methods to apply and the procedures to use in qualifying and appraising land used for agricultural and open-space land under Tax Code, Chapter 23, Subchapters C and D.

Generally, the substantive changes to the manual reflect statutory changes. The introduction includes an updated description of the adoption process for the manual to reflect changes in Senate Bill 526 and Senate Bill 594, 85th Legislature, 2017. The updated manual removes references to a prohibition on homestead properties designated for agricultural use being used to secure home equity loans, as was amended in Texas Constitution, Article XVI, §50(a)(6). The adopted manual includes a new section titled "Cessation of Agricultural Use" to address specific circumstances for which special appraisal does not end when the land ceases to be devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area, based on changes made in House Bill 777, House Bill 3198, and Senate Bill 1459, 85th Legislature, 2017.

The updated manual includes a new section on the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. While the bill has not yet become law, cotton is likely to be eligible again for some government programs after the bill passes. The comptroller added this section to advise chief appraisers to keep up with any possible changes to the federal farm programs.

The updated manual includes a new question in Appendix A to provide an example of property with an inaccessible area that may be classified as wasteland as determined by the chief appraiser.

Additionally, the updated manual reflects changes to improve the format, clarity and grammar of the manual.

Pursuant to Tax Code, §23.52(d), this rule has been approved by the comptroller with the review and counsel of the Department of Agriculture.

The comptroller received only one comment regarding these amendments.

Hélène McKinley, a taxpayer, suggests that "this exemption should not exist for lands within city limits where zoning is not designated as agricultural but as commercial, industrial or other zoning definition by the city or county." The comptroller declines to add this limitation to the constitutional provision because it would exceed the comptroller's authority.

These amendments are adopted under Tax Code, §23.41 (Appraisal); and §23.52 (Appraisal of Qualified Agricultural Land), which provide the comptroller with the authority to prepare and issue publications relating to the appraisal of property and to specify the methods to apply and the procedures to use in appraising qualified agricultural and open-space land for ad valorem tax purposes.

These amendments implement Tax Code, §23.41 (Appraisal) and §23.52 (Appraisal of Qualified Agricultural Land).

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency's legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on May 2, 2019.

TRD-201901304

Victoria North

Chief Counsel Fiscal and Agency Affairs Legal Services Division

Comptroller of Public Accounts

Effective date: May 22, 2019

Proposal publication date: March 8, 2019

For further information, please call: (512) 475-2220