Property tax relief may have failed in Austin this legislative session, but Harris County is taking steps to ensure property owners can maintain some relief on the county level.

The commissioners court unanimously voted to approve the extension of a 20-percent homestead tax exemption, the maximum allowed by law, for all homeowners.

Simply put, this means if a person owns a $100,000 home, only $80,000 of that will be considered taxable value by the county. County entities include the county itself, the Harris County Hospital District, the Harris County Flood Control District, and the Port of Houston Authority.

Also included was a $160,000 exemption for homes owned by disabled residents and those 65 and older.

“No other surrounding county offers a senior or disabled exemption higher than $100,000, with most at or around $25,000,” read a press release following the vote.

Actually, up until recently, Montgomery County didn’t even offer a general homestead tax exemption and all of Harris’ exemptions are significantly higher than many counties across the state.

Midland County’s over-65 exemption and disability exemptions are capped at $40,000. Collin County, home of McKinney and Plano, offers a 5-percent homestead exemption, a $30,000 over-65 exemption, and a $20,000 disability exemption.

Dallas County, like Harris, offers a full 20-percent homestead exemption, but limits its over-65 and disability exemptions to $69,000.

County Judge Ed Emmett said today, “Increases in property value have us all concerned and talking about property taxes. But Harris County goes much further than other counties in Texas when it comes to protecting homeowners.”

The exemptions, when combined, ensure that no disabled homeowner or homeowner over-65 would have a tax bill for the county if their house is less than $200,000.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.