Snowbird RVers settling in Texas during the winter months may win a battle over a tax that has nagged them for years — the ad valorem property assessment on RVs.
The Monitor, McAllen, reported that the Texas Recreational Vehicle Association, which lobbies on behalf of RV owners, is working with an unnamed South Texas legislator on a bill to eliminate that tax for travel trailers, the kind of mobile RV that most Winter Texans own.
“It’s discriminatory, we feel, to take one type of recreational vehicle and tax it,” said association director Clark McEwen. “We’d like to see if we can straighten that out.”
The current law, passed in 2003, says local taxing entities can only assess a property tax on RVs that are “substantially affixed” to the land they sit on. But thousands of Winter Texans in the Rio Grande Valley say they pay hundreds of dollars in taxes for travel trailers they can easily remove from their lots.
Hidalgo and Cameron county appraisers say they don’t put mobile RVs on the tax rolls. But they say they do tax RVs that have attached additions, garages or seem lashed or otherwise attached to their land.
“If it’s an RV travel trailer that they can hook up to a truck and leave, we do not tax those,” Hidalgo County Chief Appraiser Rolando Garza said.
But he added, “there could be some errors out there” — a sentiment Cameron County appraisal district staffer Poncho Alvarez echoed.
McEwen of the RV association calls the disagreement a matter of interpretation over what constitutes “substantially affixed.” With such a vague phrase, he said, it’s easy to see how misunderstandings could arise.
“I certainly understand the position of the taxing agencies in South Texas,” McEwen said. “They’re looking for revenue, and in their opinion many of these travel trailers … are substantially affixed to real estate.”
McEwen said he hopes the bill submitted this session might clarify that term but declined to say which legislator had expressed interest in authoring it. Spokesmen for Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, and Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, said neither legislator currently is working on any such bill, although both authored similar ones in 2001. And a spokeswoman for Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said Hinojosa is not working on such legislation.
But Flores expressed his support for keeping Winter Texans’ mobile RVs off the tax rolls.
“We’ve passed two constitutional amendments clarifying that the state of Texas does not want to tax the travel trailers,” Flores said. “So I do not see what the issue or what the misunderstanding is.”
Flores called the ad valorem tax “a double taxation” that “borders on a triple taxation,” because RV owners already pay a sales tax on their vehicles at purchase and pay for license plates and registration, the same way car owners do.
In the meantime, while the Texas RV Association lobbies the legislature, Winter Texans are lobbying the Cameron and Hidalgo county appraisal districts over the increasingly bitter and divisive issue.