Posted on September 11, 2012 at 6:15 PM
TRAVIS COUNTY -- Travis County Commissioners are considering a new tax on local tourism. It's an idea they'll discuss at Tuesday’s meeting that could have a big impact on visitors to the Austin area.
For Alison Heyes, a trip to Austin wouldn't be complete without a visit to the State Capitol.
“I think it's beautiful,” Heyes said. “I've been doing the architecture tour this morning. You've got some fantastic buildings, and everyone is really friendly.”
With Formula 1 just weeks away, along with other popular events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the number of tourists in Austin continues to grow at an amazing rate.
With hundreds of thousands of tourists coming to Austin every year, some county commissioners believe that taxing the visitors would take some of the pressure off local taxpayers.
“We don't have a tourist tax in Travis County,” said Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt.
Commissioners Eckhardt and Ron Davis put the tourism tax item on Tuesday's agenda. The commissioners court has been looking at the issue since 2002.
“We're becoming a vacation destination nationally and internationally,” Eckhardt said. “Now I believe the time is ripe to take a look at offsetting property taxes to support this increasing number of tourists through levying a very small user tax.”
The county's proposed tax would include hotels, motels, rental cars and event tickets at certain venues like the Expo Center.
While charging tourists could keep local property taxes from rising, some tourists, like Heyes, say it will discourage them from checking in to the Capital City.
“I think if it would cost us more to come here, then we would be less likely to come," she said. “There are other more high-profile place where people would like to go first.”
The City of Austin already charges a nine percent visitor tax, and the state's tourism tax is at six percent. Commissioner Eckhardt says they haven't decided how much their tax would be. First staff has to work out the details, then the proposal would have to be approved by voters. Getting it on the ballot could take at least a year.