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Bustos v. Bexar Appraisal District

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 16, 2018

Ernest BUSTOS, Appellant
v.
BEXAR APPRAISAL DISTRICT and Bexar Appraisal Review Board, Appellees

          From the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2009CI14592 Honorable Solomon Casseb, III, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Karen Angelini, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         Appellant Ernest Bustos ("Bustos") appeals from the trial court's dismissal of a tax dispute for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         Appellee Bexar Appraisal District (the "District") appraised Bustos's residential property at $190, 480 for the 2009 tax year. Bustos appealed the appraisal to Appellee Bexar Appraisal Review Board (the "ARB"), which held a hearing and upheld the appraisal at $190, 480.

         Pursuant to Chapter 42 of the Texas Tax Code, Bustos appealed the appraisal for the 2009 tax year to the trial court.[1] Bustos amended his petition eight times to challenge the District's appraisal of the property for the 2010 through 2017 tax years as well.

         In 2017, the District moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on the basis that Bustos failed to substantially comply with Tax Code § 42.08(b) by not paying any taxes prior to the delinquency date. The District attached to its motion evidence that Bustos owed $69, 146.09 in total taxes and had not paid any taxes since 2008, except for $5 paid in 2009.[2] After a hearing, the trial court granted the District's motion and dismissed the suit with prejudice.

         Discussion

         Although Bustos's brief purports to raise two issues on appeal, those issues are substantively identical-i.e., that the trial court erred in granting the District's motion to dismiss because he substantially complied with Tax Code § 42.08(b) or (d). We hold Bustos did not substantially comply with either Subsection (b) or (d).

         A. Standard of review

         Compliance with the prepayment requirements of Tax Code § 42.08(b) is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the district court's subject-matter jurisdiction to determine a property owner's rights. EXLP Leasing, LLC v. Webb Cnty. Appraisal Dist., 511 S.W.3d 227, 229 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2015, pet. denied). Whether a trial court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law we review de novo. Id.

         B. Subsection (b)'s prepayment requirements

         Tax Code § 42.08(b) provides that a property owner who appeals from an appraisal forfeits his right to a final determination of his appeal if he does not pay taxes on the property before the delinquency date. Tex. Tax Code § 42.08(b). This prepayment requirement serves two primary objectives: (1) to ensure property owners do "not use the right of judicial review as a subterfuge for delaying or avoiding the payment of at least some tax"; and (2) to "assure that the activities of the local governments which relied on ad valorem taxes would not be unduly impeded by granting the property owner the right of judicial review." U. Lawrence Boze' & Assocs., P.C. v. Harris Cnty. Appraisal Dist., 368 S.W.3d 17, 27 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, no pet.); J.C. Evans Constr. Co. ...


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