Louisiana centralized sales tax bill passes House with bipartisan support

Bill would create State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission

Bill would 'absolutely destroy' public records access
The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

The Louisiana House approved a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday that would create a centralized state agency to work on streamlining sales tax collections in the state and change the currently fragmented system of collections by individual cities, parishes and other agencies.

House Bill 199, sponsored by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, would create the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to eventually handle sales tax administration and collections. Cities, parishes and other tax authorities would retain their powers to set and levy taxes. The legislation is one of a number of different tax reform bills that lawmakers are considering this session.

The commission would be comprised of eight members:

  • One member appointed by the La. School Boards Association.

  • One member appointed by the La. Municipal Association.

  • One member appointed by the Police Jury Association of La.

  • One member appointed by the La. Sheriffs’ Association.

  • The secretary of the Dept. of Revenue, or the designee of the secretary.

  • One member appointed by the governor.

  • One member appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives.

  • One member appointed by the president of the Senate.

As a constitutional amendment, the bill will next head to the Senate where it will need two-thirds approval before it is placed on a ballot for Louisiana voters to consider. The House approved it with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority of 96-4 but only after hours of debate.

Louisiana’s current sales tax system relies on 54 different collecting agencies including individual parishes, cities, sheriffs, police juries, school boards and other government entities. Although the bill establishes the constitutional authority, membership and funding for the new centralized tax commission, it does not establish the actual statutory means or framework of collecting the sales tax remittances, which will have to come from companion legislation.

“If we don’t pass a statutory companion, this goes away…it’s toast,” Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, said. Beaullieu was critical in crafting the bill and getting it passed.

Local governments would retain their auditing authority for in-state taxpayers, while the commission would serve as the central auditing authority for all out-of-state taxpayers. Also, the legislature would retain oversight of the commission.

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Wesley Muller
Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.