Three weeks ago I began this series of articles in an effort to inform taxpayers how the property tax system works and some reasons why property taxes have been increasing. This week I would like to explain how property taxes come into being.
The Louisiana Constitution provides the framework for property taxes. This is where the constitution provides for the homestead exemption of $75,000 for homeowners. The Louisiana Legislature enacts the laws that direct the way the property tax system operates. The Louisiana Tax Commission (LTC) is charged with making rules and regulations by which the assessors throughout the state must follow. The LTC is charged with monitoring the uniformity (how evenly the tax burden is shared) of property taxes as well as conducting ratio studies to make sure that assessors are at the statutory level of assessment (90% -110% of fair market value).
Louisiana law requires each assessor in every parish to reassess or reappraise every four years. This year, 2012, is a reappraisal year. The last reappraisal year was in 2008. Louisiana law requires the assessors to use comparable sales from a specific time period, usually six months on either side of the reappraisal date. For the 2012 reappraisal, those dates were July 2010 to June 2011.
The assessor's duty under Louisiana law is to discover, value and place on the tax rolls all real property (land and buildings) as well as business personal property (machinery & equipment, furniture & fixtures and inventory) at its fair market value. The assessor is also charged with producing a tax roll. Once the tax roll is completed the tax roll is open for inspection by the taxpayers (usually the last two weeks in August). At this time taxpayers can question their assessment by calling the assessor's office and providing proof as to why the value is incorrect. If the taxpayer does not get satisfaction from the assessor, the taxpayer can take his/her case to the local board of review (parish council). A third appeal would go to the Louisiana Tax Commission and finally the courts.
The sheriff of each parish is the Tax Collector. The sheriff's office is charged with mailing the tax bills and collecting the tax revenue. The sheriff's office then distributes the money to each of the taxing bodies (discussed in Part I) according to the millage voted on by the citizens of the parish.
Please direct questions to the St. James Parish Assessor's Office.