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Palma v. Harris County Appraisal District

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

March 27, 2018

MICHAEL FRANCIS PALMA, Appellant
v.
HARRIS COUNTY APPRAISAL DISTRICT, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 270th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2017-01753

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Massengale and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Harvey Brown, Justice

         Michael Francis Palma, as beneficiary of 6205 Trust, appeals from the trial court's summary judgment denying his petition for review of a Harris County Appraisal Review Board order, which determined a tax protest concerning a home owned by the Trust.[1] Palma contends that the real property at issue does not have situs in Harris County and that Harris County Appraisal District has no authority to appraise it. We hold that the District proved as a matter of law that the subject property is real property located in Harris County and thus appraisable by the District. Therefore, we affirm.

         Background

         Michael Francis Palma is the beneficiary of 6205 Trust, which owns real property located at 5026 Autumn Forest Dr., Houston, Texas 77091. Harris County Appraisal District appraised the property for the 2015 tax year, and Palma filed a protest with the Harris County Appraisal Review Board, arguing that the property's taxable situs was not Harris County. The Board entered an order determining that the property's situs was Harris County, and Palma then filed a petition for review in the trial court.

         In his petition, Palma argued that, because the property is residential, it is not taxable and therefore has no taxable situs and may not be appraised by the District. Palma requested that the trial court order the District to remove the property from its appraisal rolls.

         The District filed a motion for traditional summary judgment, arguing that the property is taxable and has a taxable situs in Harris County because it is real property (i.e., land and improvements) physically located in Harris County. That the property is residential, the District argued, is irrelevant.

         The trial court granted the District's motion, finding that the District has the authority to appraise the property and that the property has taxable situs in Harris County for the 2015 tax year. Palma appeals.

         Summary Judgment

         We construe Palma's brief as challenging the summary judgment determining that the District has the authority to appraise the property and that the property has taxable situs in Harris County for the 2015 tax year.[2]

         We review summary judgments de novo. Boerjan v. Rodriguez, 436 S.W.3d 307, 310 (Tex. 2014) (per curiam). A movant for traditional summary judgment has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Mann Frankfort Stein & Lipp Advisors, Inc. v. Fielding, 289 S.W.3d 844, 848 (Tex. 2009). If the movant initially establishes a right to summary judgment on the issues expressly presented in the motion, then the burden shifts to the nonmovant to present to the trial court any issues or evidence that would preclude summary judgment. See City of Houston v. Clear Creek Basin Auth., 589 S.W.2d 671, 678-79 (Tex. 1979). We consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, crediting evidence favorable to the nonmovant if a reasonable factfinder could, and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. See Mack Trucks, Inc. v. Tamez, 206 S.W.3d 572, 582 (Tex. 2006).

         Under Texas law, real property is taxable. Tex. Const. art. VIII, § 1(b); Tex. Tax Code §§ 11.01(a)-(b), 21.01. The taxable situs of real property is the county in which the property is located. Tex. Const. art. VIII, § 11. Each county has an appraisal district, which is responsible for appraising real property located in the county for each taxing unit that imposes an ad valorem tax on the property. Tex. Tax Code §§ 6.01(a)-(b), 6.02(a).

         In its motion for summary judgment, the District argued that the subject property is appraisable by the District because it is real property (i.e., land and improvements) located in Harris County. See id. §§ 11.01(a)-(b), 21.01; see also Oake v. Collin Cty., 692 S.W.2d 454, 455 (Tex. 1985) (explaining that county's taxing entities must prove that real property it seeks to tax is situated within its geographical boundaries). The District's summary-judgment evidence included (1) the District's account information for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2017, which classified the property as single-family residential property owned by the Trust and subject to the jurisdiction of nine taxing units;[3]and (2) the affidavit of a valuation specialist in the District's residential property division with four attached maps created by the ...


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