State has serious issues assessing, collecting property taxes

August 2

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on state has serious issues assessing, collecting property taxes:

A couple of recent stories underscore the iniquity in how property is assessed and property taxes are collected in Louisiana.

Last month, the Louisiana State Auditor’s office blasted the Louisiana Tax Commission for not carrying out its responsibilities to see that residential property taxes are equitably assessed.

The office’s audit found that the five-person Tax Commission was rubber-stamping assessments without determining their accuracy and not ensuring that parish tax assessors were reappraising property every four years as required by law.

In its response, the Tax Commission said it did not have ultimate responsibility. But the commission’s stance appeared to soften when a spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who appoints the panel’s five members, weighed in. ...

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Dan Juneau pointed the finger at the governor while criticizing the Tax Commission. ...

Through his spokesman, Jindal has said enough publicly. In private, though, he should take a page from New Orleans Saints Head coach Sean Payton’s playbook and tell his five appointees in unmistakably clear language to “do their jobs.”

In an unrelated matter that spotlights the inequity of assessments, Ascension Parish Tax Assessor Mert Smiley is pushing a campaign to raise $400,000 to buy technology that will help him identify property that has previously not been assessed in the parish.

Since taking office earlier this year, Smiley and his colleagues have identified more than 300 residential properties and more than 80 commercial properties that were not on the tax rolls. ...

Property taxes are a necessary evil to fund local government services. However, they are particularly galling when they are not assessed or collected equitably.

That should be the goal of the Tax Commission and every tax assessor in the state.


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