Tax office takes action after property tax mistake

Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector Bruce Elfant sits down with KXAN's Kevin Schwaller.
Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector Bruce Elfant sits down with KXAN's Kevin Schwaller.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Tax Office has forwarded a case with more than $30,000 in unpaid taxes to the county attorney after KXAN News started investigating.

County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant says the office noticed the issue after KXAN News started asking questions about the east Austin property while looking into abandoned homes across the city.

“We had a clerical error,” Elfant said. “It was supposed to be set for litigation and it wasn’t. And it’s been corrected and it’s been turned over to the county attorney’s office for litigation.”

Elfant says it’s possible other homes also may have fallen through the cracks. He says the office will review cases as they can, with limited resources.

“We have… more than 420,000 parcels of property and occasionally one case is going to get put in the wrong pile. We work really hard to make sure that that doesn’t happen, but occassionally it does and we appreciate when it’s pointed out and we can get them back on track,” Elfant says.

The tax office also looked into the properties that owed taxes and were deemed by the city as needing to be boarded up and secured during the last several years.

“They’re all in a little bit different state of collection, but from looking at it, they’re all moving along,” Elfant said. “They’re moving down the process and hopefully all of them will end up sucessfully paying, so we don’t have to foreclose.”

“Well, it’s frustrating mainly because I know they haven’t paid their property taxes in over nine years,” said Shellie McCasland who owns a home next to the one where the tax office is now taking action. “I wish I could go nine years and not pay my property taxes.”

Tax records available online show unpaid taxes for the house dating back to 2005.

Elfant also pointed out that one of the main issues for his office, when it comes to abandoned homes, is to make sure the owners are not receiving certain tax breaks that are reserved for properties that have their owners living in them. He says the tax office will look into those issues if the office is alerted that a home is abandoned.

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