It’s that time of year when you may be cursing my name under your breath after opening your property tax bill. I have nothing to do with the amount you owe, but it is my job as the tax assessor-collector to send out your bill and collect the taxes.
There is one part of the property tax collection process where I can make your life easier, but you have to help. Walk-ins can wait two hours or more to pay their property tax bill in our office. Don’t do it.
Pay your property taxes online at www.TravisCountyTax.org.
I am asking you to pay your property tax bill with an eCheck. It costs $1 but for that fee you automatically receive a paid receipt in your email box. The tax office saves taxpayer money by not mailing receipts to those who use the U.S. Postal Service and we have no legal authority to stop penalty and interest on late payments for customers who claim their check was lost in the mail. I am saddened when people are forced to pay the automatic 7 percent interest the state adds to their bill because the check was postmarked late, arriving after the deadline.
I also want to remind you of a couple little known facts in state law:
• If for any reason you do not receive your property tax bill, you are still required to pay it by the Jan. 31 deadline. You can find your bill by searching for your property on our website. To avoid missing your bill, sign up for an eBill so next year you will receive an email with the property taxes you owe.
• Your property tax bill is due the minute you receive it. While the final day to pay without a penalty is Jan. 31, the law says payment is due upon receipt.
You may also pay your property taxes online with a credit card, but three percent is added to your total.
I am sure some of you are wondering why it costs to do these transactions online. The tax office does not have legal authority to absorb vendor and credit card fees. However, I cannot emphasize how important it may be to receive that emailed paid receipt when you pay online. This is the extra advantage of paying online.
At this time of the year, walk-ins at our offices can wait two hours or more to see a customer service representative. The reality is our county population is growing faster than our staff.
Each day we average 1,500 walk-in customers and answer 1,000 phone calls. We would need more than $1 million in taxpayer money to add at least 20 employees to bring customer wait times down to an average of 15 minutes. As our county continues to grow so will the need.
By paying online, you are saving time, getting a receipt and helping to save your taxpayer dollars. This year the tax office sent out 280,000 property tax bills.
Our online services are secure, using the highest encryption available, and those who worry about having their information online should be aware their information is stored electronically by the tax office even if they do not pay online.
This year we also improved our online property search and payment portal. We made changes based on customer feedback, so if you did not like how the online service worked before, please use it again as you may see your suggestion in action. It is my goal to make paying online a customer-friendly experience.
Elfant is the Travis County tax assessor-collector.