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The Texas House of Representatives made progress last week towards remedying a “mistake” approved by the Legislature in 2001 that gave local school districts the authority to tax travel trailers.
More action on a bill to correct the mistake might occur this week.
“We have clearly made a mistake. It got by us and we have to admit that we made a bad mistake and correct it,” Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, told the Local Government Ways and Means Committee last week.
The original law and a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2001 was an attempt to exempt travel trailers from taxation. But sloppy wording in the amendment gave school districts authority to impose the tax.
Several school districts used the authorization to tax travel trailers. The ad valorem tax, which literally means “based on value,” applies to property taxes based on a percentage of the county’s assessment of the property’s value. Several cash-strapped school districts, including three in Polk County about 70 miles north of Houston, used part of the law to tax things such as boats, airplanes and travel trailers, which is legal if approved by local voters.
Some lawmakers fear other school districts might follow suit in these economically difficult times. Proposed legislation would again amend the tax code to read in part that “a travel trailer that a person owns is exempt from taxation, regardless if the trailer is real or personal property.”
There are more than 160,000 travel trailers registered in Texas, said Dan Wilson of the personal property tax division of the state comptroller’s office.
“We need to take care of both the senior citizens from Texas and the snowbirds from out of state who are buying travel trailers here and already paying the 6.25% sales tax from any additional taxation,” said Rep. Chente Quintanilla, D-El Paso.
Michael A. Amezquita, chief appraiser of the Cameron Appraisal District in San Benito, said his office didn’t make appraisals of travel trailers because the state comptroller’s office said a mistake had been made. “So we just put it on hold until the lawyers and the Legislature worked it out,” he said.
Groups representing camping and vehicle sales also said they support Chisum’s proposed clarifying legislation. Brian D. Shaefer, chief executive of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), said RV owners have an enormous economic impact on Texas.
Albert de la Garza, vice president of Ancira RVs of Boerne, said his company strongly supports Chisum’s proposal.