Letter asks Gov. Abbott to waive penalty for at-risk property owners due to COVID-19 pandemic

Travis County
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TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant is asking Gov. Greg Abbott to waive the fees and penalties for property owners who are late on payments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elfant expressed concern for Travis County property owners in a recent letter sent to Gov. Abbott, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and the Travis County legislators.

“With the large number of our residents who have, at best, temporarily lost their jobs and others whose businesses have been adversely impacted, I fear more residents and small business owners will also ultimately lose their property if we are not able to provide them some relief,” part of Elfant’s letter reads.

Travis County estimates around 20% — a little more than 500 property tax owners of the 2,500 on payment plans — have fallen delinquent on their tax payments, which automatically triggers penalties and interest, according to a release sent to KXAN.

The payment plan is used when property owners are unable to pay property taxes in a lump sum.

However, Elfant believes some of the out of work property owners won’t be able to pay the interest and penalties placed on the late payments. The inability to pay would have a snowball effect with fees piling up — which would result in a significant amount of people losing their businesses or homes.

Only the state of Texas can waive the penalties and interest. In the letter, Elfant suggested Gov. Abbott could extend Texas’ Disaster Declaration into the 2021 tax season and mandate that local jurisdictions waive those fees.

Texas state statutes lists epidemic in the examples of disaster, the letter states.

According to Elfant’s letter, section 31.032 of the Tax Code “enables residential property owners, who
have been adversely impacted by natural disasters, be able to pay property taxes in four equal installments without penalty or interest when the governor has declared a disaster.”

Elfant is asking for a review of this portion of the Tax Code and an extension of the disaster declaration into next year. This “would ensure tax assessors could provide an easy-to-implement, interest-free option for property owners who have incurred financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and can still pay their original bill.”

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