Travis County property owners owe $54.8 million in unpaid taxes

This story has been updated to include additional comments from IDEA Public Schools.

TRAVIS COUNTY (KXAN) — A local nonprofit and several commercial properties are among the county’s top 10 delinquent property taxpayers and collectively owe nearly $1.4 million in unpaid taxes.

Countywide, there’s $54.8 million in outstanding debt for 2018 property taxes, according to the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office.

Wincor Nixdorf Inc., which considers itself “a global leader in driving connected commerce across the financial and retail industries,” tops the list and owes roughly $521,375 in unpaid property taxes.

In an email to KXAN, a company spokesperson says it was likely an oversight since the company is in the process of transitioning tax functions to another provider. The company says it “will work with Travis County to ensure any outstanding obligations are met.”

IDEA Public Schools, which owes $96,143.67 in unpaid property taxes, comes in fifth on the list of top delinquent payers.

The tax office says the nonprofit received its normal property tax bill in October, and a delinquent bill was sent in February. Since then, the tax office has sent three letters and made four phone calls, but didn’t receive any response until Wednesday.

“They didn’t respond to our bills, they didn’t respond to our phone calls. They didn’t respond to my personal phone call,” said Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Accessor-Collector.

The County says most of the properties IDEA owes taxes on are vacant or under construction. One of the properties is listed as IDEA’s Austin regional headquarters. But, IDEA says it doesn’t own that property – it leases it, which means the property owner is responsible for those taxes.

The Tax Collector’s Office says IDEA owes more than $54,000 on another property, which KXAN learned is under construction. That property is listed on IDEA’s website as the site of a new “Parmer Park” school, set to open this year.

The tax collector’s office says IDEA sold that property in March, but the nonprofit disputes those claims, saying it owns two parcels that will be the site of a future school. 

In a statement to KXAN, IDEA Public Schools says since it is an educational entity, it is exempt from taxes. However, one of its schools did not file for tax exemption status due to an oversight.

“We have already begun the process to file for this status so additional taxes are not incurred,” according to a statement from the nonprofit. “We have been granted an extension by the Travis County tax assessor until these administrative issues are resolved. We fully intend to pay any taxes owed.”

Elfant tells KXAN there is still uncertainty over whether IDEA is tax-exempt. He says the county’s appraisal district will determine that, and that hasn’t happened.

“It is distressing that even if they believe they are exempt or should be exempt, that they got bills for five years and didn’t contact us to dispute it,” he said.

However, IDEA says all of its properties are tax exempt, but that the organization must file for that status, which is what it is currently in the process of doing for its IDEA Kyle property.

“We already own several campuses in Austin, which are all under tax expense status, and the tax assessor’s office has already determined that our organization is tax exempt,” IDEA said in an email to KXAN. “To this end, any property we own would qualify for tax exempt status.”

The county is currently in the process of filing more than 100 lawsuits against property owners who didn’t pay their taxes.

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