Beware of the Media – April 4, 2024

Last week, LaPolitics, a publication that covers Louisiana politics and the state legislature, published a “hit” piece on my tenure as Chairman of the Louisiana Tax Commission (2016 – 2023), the state agency that oversees Louisiana’s 64 assessors, among other duties. The article included two interviews with disgruntled parties who appeared before the commission, one on a single tax refund request for a major Louisiana taxpayer and the other on numerous property value appeals representing various assessors.

The commission found numerous incidents where assessors abused their discretion in valuing real estate, in essence, overvaluing property for purposes of property taxation. When the commission found this the case, it changed the value to reflect the property’s accurate, fair market value. Many homeowners and small taxpayers were relieved from higher and unjust property tax bills because the tax commission did its job. Some assessors and tax representatives were not happy.

Below is the response I sent to LaPolitics.

“I read your article this morning and have a few comments.

“Regarding interviews with two of the people you quoted, one is a disgruntled tax rep, and the other is an attorney who, on behalf of the assessors, has lost significant court cases challenging the commission’s authority.

“The other individual, Jason DeCuir, represented Shell Oil before the tax commission for a refund of taxes erroneously paid. Under a straightforward reading of the statute, Shell was not entitled to a refund, and the commission denied Shell’s refund request. Mr. DeCuir then hijacked a bill filed by Sen. Allain, attempting to amend the bill to allow the refund. The legislature passed the bill, but Gov. Edwards rightfully vetoed it. Sen. Allain’s original bill was passed in the subsequent legislative session and signed by the governor. All of this was documented in The Advocate/Times-Picayune and

“Brian Eddington, an attorney, represents some assessors in appeals before the tax commission. He has challenged the commission’s authority to hear appeals but has lost in the courts. During appeal hearings before the commission, he has won some and lost some. It all boils down to evidence, and it was not unusual that the assessor in an appeal did not provide sufficient evidence to support the assessor’s value.

“Both parties are disgruntled because they just wanted to win but did not. That is not our system. If the commission’s decision aggrieved Mr. Eddington’s clients, they could go to court. In most instances, when the assessor was dissatisfied with the commission’s determination of value, the assessor went to court. A number of those appeals are still pending in the courts.

“Next time, I suggest you speak to other tax representatives and attorneys who regularly appear before the commission. They, too, win some and lose some appeals, but I don’t believe they feel the commission was unfair.

“As I told you yesterday, Richard Nelson, as a state representative, requested specific information from the tax commission that was not readily available because the assessors did not report that information in the format he was requesting. The commission’s legal counsel explained this to Mr. Nelson, but he remained dissatisfied. Furthermore, the assessors provide the information that the commission has, and the accuracy of such information depends on the accuracy of the data provided by the assessor.”