Newspaper discovers owners of luxurious lake houses avoid paying Austin city property taxes 

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An investigation by the Austin American-Statesman found that the number of lakefront properties receiving exemptions from Austin city property taxes is much greater than city officials knew.

The Austin City Council last year repealed a 1986 exemption that allowed about 400 properties on Lake Austin to avoid paying higher city taxes. But by examining property records and other documents, the newspaper discovered that an additional 366 properties – including a $12.7 million luxury resort – still receive the exemption although all or part of the property is in Austin city limits.

Travis Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler told the Statesman her office is reviewing those properties after learning of the newspaper’s findings.

“It is something you are bringing to our attention,” Crigler said. “I don’t know if at the time staff made an error in their report that they made to me.”

Councilmember Greg Casar told the Statesman he knew the “mistake on the lake was real bad,” but added that after hearing of the newspaper’s research “Now, we know it was really, really bad.”

The Statesman discovered the discrepancy by comparing a handwritten list of geographic IDs attached as an exhibit to the 1986 ordinance with current online property records. The investigation also discovered that city staffers brought up the issue in a 2006 audit, but the council ultimately decided not to tax the lakefront properties at that time.

The 766 properties have an average value of nearly $1.8 million with a total value of $1.35 billion, the newspaper reported. The additions to the tax rolls could raise about $6 million annually if the exemption is lifted.

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