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Local entities consider opposing sales tax collection legislation

by David Specht

The three largest public bodies in Webster Parish all have one agenda item in common for their upcoming meetings next week. The Webster Parish Police Jury, Webster Parish School Board, and City of Minden are all considering resolutions opposing House Bill 57, which aims to centralize collections of sales and use taxes to Baton Rouge.

In a letter submitted by Cyndy Herrington, Webster Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission administrator, reasons for opposing the centralize collection were outlined.

The reasons listed for opposition include:

  • Local governments wish to control the assessment and collection of local revenues.
  • Local tax revenues are a significant component of local funding.
  • Choices of rates, base, and structure are critical issues that local governments do not wish to relinquish control over to any outside agency. Local governments make their revenue personnel directly accountable to the local elected officials and the local population for the administration of the local taxes. Local governments desire to maintain direct retention of local revenues.
  • Local governments do an excellent job administering local taxes.
  • Local governments have diligently resisted bowing to industry pressure relative to exemptions.
  • State revenue departments generally dislike the additional burden of administering local taxes.
  • State employees do not have a direct vested interest in making sure local tax revenues are properly apportioned. Forcing the Louisiana Department of Revenue to administer and collect the local sales tax places significant burdens on this state agency.
  • The Department of Revenue would need additional resources to deliver the administration, compliance, and service levels that ensure a smooth and effective transition.

Supporters of the bill, like Dawn Starns, Louisiana state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, say HB57 will fix a broken system.

“If the proposed amendment clears the Legislature and is approved by voters, it would do two things,” Starns said.

“It would make it a lot easier to run a business in Louisiana by simplifying sales tax collection. Employers wouldn’t have to keep up with different rules in different parishes. They could collect the sales tax, send the revenue to the centralized collection entity, and state and local officials would handle the rest. It would also let Louisiana collect sales tax on all online purchases in response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision,” she added.

Herrington wrote in her letter that fixes should be handled at the local level.

“Local governments understand and accept the need to simplify and streamline. They supported the effort to consolidate all parish administration to one single point within each parish many years ago,” the letter read.

“The Louisiana Association of Tax Administrators (LATA) is committed to streamlining, simplification, uniformity, and continuous improvement of parish administration, and many measures have been put into place proactively, and in response to input from business and industry.”

The Webster Parish School Board and the Minden City Council meet Monday at 5:30 p.m. The Webster Parish Police Jury meets Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. All meetings are open to the public.

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