Hundreds of appeals filed for fuel tax credit

BATON ROUGE (AP) — As many as 700 taxpayers have filed appeals of rejected claims for an alternative fuel tax credit program that caused controversy last year.

The talk of a class-action lawsuit also is on the rise, in the ongoing dispute over the Department of Revenue’s handling of the program for owners of vehicles that burn fuels other than gasoline.

Joe Stevenson, attorney for the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, said Tuesday that between 600 and 700 taxpayers whose claims were rejected have filed appeals and are awaiting hearings.

Doug Baker, communications director for the revenue department, said he expected a class-action lawsuit and the department was prepared for that.

“I’d be shocked if they didn’t (file) considering the conflict surrounding this issue,” he said.

The program provides a credit of 10 percent of the cost of an alternative fuel vehicle or $3,000, whichever is less. The dispute involves “flex-fuel” cars and trucks — which can burn ethanol but also use gasoline.

Including them could have carried a $240 million annual price tag for the state.

The vehicles were briefly allowed to be eligible for the credit under regulations approved by then-Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges in April 2012. Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that interpretation invalid two months later. Bridges then resigned as secretary.

The revenue department issued regulations in December ruling out flex-fuel vehicles but honored any tax credit applications that had been filed before Jindal rejected the regulations. Lawmakers then rewrote the tax credit this year to definitively eliminate flex-fuel vehicles.

Frank Fasone of Lafayette said he filed for two tax credits on his flex-fuel vehicles on June 19, 2012, after he became aware that others were being approved. But his application, like thousands of others, was rejected because he missed the cutoff date for applying.

In a letter to the Board of Tax Appeals, Fasone complained that “after all the insiders were awarded their credits, the governor stopped it.”

He said Rep. Jim Fannin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, got credit for two vehicles and Senate President John Alario, who operates a tax preparation service, got credits for several of his clients prior to “an arbitrary date picked by governor.”

“How can they pay it to some and not to all?” Fasone said Tuesday.

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