Tax Bill in Texas - 340: Tax Code

NOTE: Complete bill text in its entirety: Senate Bill 340

Monday, August 25, 2003

90-Day Amnesty Window for Business Taxpayers Opens September 1

HOUSTON -- Business owners who may have escaped taxation on the value of all or part of their business personal property assets will soon have an opportunity to avoid omitted property taxes for 2001 and 2002, provided they act before December 1 to ensure the assets are correctly valued and assessed for 2003.

Business owners, unlike homeowners, are assessed not only on the value of their real property but also on tangible personal property owned or held by the business and used for the production of income. These taxable business assets include inventories, furniture and fixtures, machinery and equipment, computers, vehicles, vessels and aircraft.

A business is required to annually render its personal property to the appraisal district in which the property is located. However, since Texas law heretofore hasn’t provided a penalty for failure to render, a substantial number of businesses-both in Harris County and throughout the state-haven’t filed renditions.

According to Jim Robinson, the Harris County Appraisal District’s chief appraiser, the rules change on January 1 when a new rendition law takes effect with monetary penalties for filing late or for not filing at all. The new law also provides civil penalties of up to 50% for filing a false rendition or deliberately evading the personal property tax. In some cases, criminal sanctions for fraud may also occur.

“ There is a very real possibility that untaxed assets discovered in the 2004 rendition process could be back assessed as omitted property for the two prior years,” Robinson said.

“ However, thanks to an amnesty provision Texas lawmakers included in Senate Bill 340, businesses can avoid the risk of a back assessment by filing a special amnesty rendition with the appraisal district during a 90-day window that opens September 1 and remains open through November 30, 2003,” the chief appraiser added.

The appraisal district this week is mailing a letter explaining the changes in the law, as well as a special amnesty rendition form, to all business owners in Harris County. Copies of the form are also available on the HCAD website.

The district, Harris County Tax Office, and other taxing jurisdictions will work together this fall to hold public information sessions on the special amnesty program, and Paul Bettencourt, Harris County’s tax assessor and collector, joined Robinson in urging that businesses take advantage of the amnesty provision.

“ The rendition law was changed by the 78th Legislature to ensure that all taxpayers pay their fair share, and the burden doesn’t fall the heaviest on homeowners and the owners of other real property,” Bettencourt said.

“ I think the public is well aware of the Tax Office efforts to collect delinquent business personal property taxes, and they should be assured that HCAD will make the same type of enforcement efforts for the public’s behalf after this amnesty is complete,” he added.

News Article From HCAD

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