Centralized sales tax graphic

JENNINGS — A proposed amendment to create a state centralized sales tax collection is drawing opposition from some Jeff Davis Parish entities.

The Jeff Davis Parish School Board, city of Jennings and town of Lake Arthur are among the growing lists of local entities adopting resolutions to oppose the measure. The Louisiana Municipal Association, Louisiana School Board Association and Louisiana Police Jury Association have also voiced opposition to the plan.

House Bill 57 offered by District 53 State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, seeks legislative and voter approval to create a centralized collection of all sales and use taxes levied by taxing authorities statewide.

If approved by both legislators and voters, the measure would transfer the administration, collection and distribution of local sales taxes to the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

Magee contends the measure would streamline tax collections and make the state more competitive economically. It would also help small businesses and bring the state in line with other states.

The bill does not address how refunds, auditing, customer services or any other operations currently handled at the local level would be handled going forward.

“The state is proposing a single sales tax collection for all municipalities so all of our local sales taxes would be turned over to the state, then the state would distribute it accordingly,” Jennings Mayor Henry Guinn said.

However, Guinn does not feel “all of the kinks” have been worked out and wants the state to take the time to work out all the issues.

Amber Hymel, tax administrator for the Jeff Davis Parish School Board, opposes the plan saying local taxing authorities have the best knowledge of local tax laws and experience working with local businesses to collect the taxes.

“You will no longer have a local representative to distribute your local funds and do audits, it’s all going to be done through the state,” Hymel said. “The state will take a one percent cut off the top of any taxes collected.”

School boards serve as the single parish collector of local sales taxes in 35 parishes, including Jeff Davis.

The state central collection poses too great a risk that local education tax dollars will not be promptly disbursed or that the administrative fee withheld by the state may become a means of resolving state fiscal issues, according to a resolution adopted by the Jeff Davis Parish School Board last week. Under the new proposal, distributions are slated to be monthly, but distribution would likely take longer, Hymel said. Distribution of most other revenues and collections from the state is every quarter, she said.

“We need money over here,” Lake Arthur Alderman David Hanks said. “They don’t need it over there.”

Lake Arthur Mayor Sherry Crochet said she is concerned about the loss of jobs as a result of transferring the authority from local taxing entities to the state.

Hymel said local tax collectors may lose their jobs, but her concern is local taxpayers will no longer have someone to go and talk to if they need something. In addition, the audits the parish gets all the extra revenues from will not happen and businesses will not have to pay as much to the parishes.

Hymel said the measure is a push from business and industry who contend it is a hardship on them to file their taxes with all the different parishes.

“I was 15 years in private industry and at some points I was the only tax person in the department, so it’s not as difficult as it is being portrayed,” she said.

Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development Director Marion “Butch” Fox says very seldom does a business have a location in just Jeff Davis Parish. She said Hymel is working with others to simplify the process for businesses including establishing a central point to file information and online filing.

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