TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — An approaching deadline looms larger this year for those struggling financially during the pandemic.
Monday is the last day to pay property taxes for last year without getting a penalty.
Fewer people have paid their taxes compared to this time last year, according to the Travis County Tax Office. As of Thursday, the collection rate was 70%. This time last year, it was 74%.
Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant says it’s hard to tell how much tax revenue will be down. He expects his office to process a lot of last-minute payments. He added there are a couple of other factors, like mail delays and mortgage companies paying later this year.
Still, the need for help is evident. The Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office took 15,000 more calls than usual in December 2020 compared with the same month the previous year from taxpayers asking about payment plans.
Elfant says his office provides payment plans, but the longer someone is on a plan, the more penalties and interest they’ll pay.
Since last sping, he has been calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to waive penalties and interest for people delinquent on their taxes. While there hasn’t been a response, Elfant said state legislators have taken an interest this legislative session.
“I’m concerned about the restaurants and the barber shops and the music venues that really rely on revenue to pay all their bills,” said Elfant.
To prepare for revenue shortages this year, the City of Austin says it budgeted for a 97.5% tax collection rate, when the usual rate is 99% or more. That’s about $8.7 million dollars less revenue than the city would usually bring in.
Travis County said it prepared for the lost revenue by implementing a hiring freeze the commissioner’s court extended until the end of the year. A spokesperson also added the county has seen savings from a lower jail population.