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AG tells Cedar Park no deal on tax exemption

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Attorney General Ken Paxton has ruled that the city of Cedar Park is not allowed to set its minimum property tax exemption at $10,000 but must use the $5,000 minimum set by state law.

Last spring, the Cedar Park City Council approved an ordinance granting residential property owners a $10,000 exemption on their homesteads. However, state law allows home-rule cities, such as Cedar Park and Austin, to set a minimum exemption of $5,000 but no more.

The opinion cites concerns about violations of both the Texas Tax Code and the Texas Constitution in Cedar Park’s actions.

According to the opinion, the Travis County Central Appraisal District “refused to implement the City’s homestead exemption as adopted and instead forwarded a certified tax roll reflecting a $5,000 minimum amount,” citing a state law that authorizes a minimum exemption of $5,000, but no more.

Cities are allowed to enact greater exemptions by percentage, but not by dollar amount. For example, this year the Austin City Council enacted a 10 percent exemption on homesteads. The maximum exemption under state law is 20 percent.

However, the Williamson County Central Appraisal District certified the Cedar Park tax roll with the $10,000 minimum exemption, so people living in the Williamson County portion of Cedar Park will have a greater exemption than people living in the Travis County part of the city for the upcoming year, the opinion states.

State Rep. Paul Workman represents the Travis County portion of Cedar Park, while his colleague state Rep. Tony Dale represents the Williamson County part. On Aug. 21, Workman released a statement criticizing TCAD for failing to implement the entire exemption as approved by Cedar Park.

Workman said in an online statement that “if, in fact, the law needs clarified so the appraisal district performs the ministerial act of implementing the tax break enacted by Cedar Park, I’ll take the lead in making that change to state law.”

Workman is facing Democrat Vikki Goodwin in the November election.

A city spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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