An article in the Texas Observer has raised questions about whether the property tax relief measures that elected state leaders are pushing would be necessary, if loopholes were closed that allow big corporations to reduce their tax liabilities to the state.
The column by Justin Miller came in response to a plan from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to raise statewide sales taxes from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent and provide property tax relief.
The measure from the three Republicans would have to be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate and then a majority of Texas voters.
“If the one-cent increase in the sales tax passes, it will result in billions of dollars in revenue to help drive down property taxes in the short and long term,” the “Big Three” said a joint statement.
But the plan looks to be a tough sell to those on the left, as higher sales taxes tend to hit lower-income residents the hardest.
Miller called the plan “a regressive ploy that would help only the wealthiest homeowners while leaving the vast majority (80 percent) of Texans paying more in overall taxes.”
He highlighted an investigation by the San Antonio Express-News that found property owners – almost all of which were businesses – used a loophole known as the equity appeals systems to knock $44 billion in valuation off of their properties in Texas’ five largest counties. This results in those property owners saving $1 billion on their taxes annually, according to the article.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the Express-News the policy enriches commercial land owners at the expense of homeowners.
“If I had all properties being appraised at true fair market value, I could lower the tax rate,” he said.