Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Austin’s attractions prompt county to consider tourist tax hike

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TWC News: Austin’s attractions prompt county to consider tourist tax hike
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Visitors coming to the Austin area could soon have to pay a little more to visit the Capital City.

Travis County Commissioners would like to see a hotel, motel and rental car tax that could bring in roughly $3 million per year.

The money would go to pay for upgrades to the Travis County Expo Center or other venues often used by out-of-town visitors. Right now the tax rate in Austin is 15 percent, and the statewide cap is 17 percent.

By law, the Commissioners Court could levy a maximum 2 percent user tax for guests staying at any hotel or motel inside Travis County.

"Considering how popular we are as a tourist destination, the likelihood of a two-percent increase on your hotel bill is not a deal breaker," Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said.

The City of Austin charges 7 percent for its Hotel Occupancy Tax, plus 2 percent for a venue project rate. The State of Texas takes another 6 percent.

"This is a way to levy a user fee and offset the expense that is now being carried on the backs of property tax," Eckhardt said.

With the Austin City Limits Music Festival, South by Southwest and Formula One, elected officials say the Austin area is on the destination map, and now is the time to see this issue through.

"We're not just a tourist destination for Texans,” Eckhardt said. “We're a tourist destination for the nation and even the world."

Still, there are some who oppose any new proposed tax.

"I just hope the public will remember this come election day, I guess that's the only recourse we have," Travis County resident Morris Priest said.

County staffers are now studying the issue. If the court passes the measure, voters get the final say, but that likely won't come until November 2013.

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