Quarter 1 - 2018

“Is This the Right Hearing Room?”

by Daron Fredrickson, Partner

For those of us who are parents or grandparents, we know the feeling of looking at the kids and wondering where the time went.  I was blessed during July to have my son, who is in the Air Force, and his family stays with us at our home for the month.  One evening, I was watching my son, who will be thirty in April, and his children who are five and seven, playing around the pool.  I remember thinking, it was yesterday that he was a little guy. 

That same evening, I was preparing for the Louisiana Tax Commission (LTC) hearings, as I have many times before.  As I was working, I was trying to recall all the hearings, around one hundred now, that I had prepared for in the past.  Looking out at the backyard and my son, I thought of all the times he traveled to Baton Rouge with me for hearings.  He spent a lot of days with CeCe in the LOGA office hanging out while Don Briggs and I went to hearings.  At that moment, I realized that he was three when I went to my first LTC hearings.  Since my soon to be thirty-year-old son was three, we have been fighting with the Louisiana Assessors Association (LAA) about good assessments in the LTC hearings.  While the discussion of my family may seem superfluous, it gives you a sense of time dedicated to a single issue and provides a scale for the potential accomplishment on the horizon.

Last September, at the behest of the LTC Chairman, Lawrence Chehardy, four of us from industry and four assessors began working as a committee to find a solution and end the decade's long debates.  As was previously reported, the meetings have been productive and considerable progress has been made.  Since the last update, the discussions have reached a critical point, and the first tangible success can be quantified.

On July 12, the first 2018 LTC Rules & Regulations hearings were held.  In that meeting, on behalf of industry and the other representatives on our committee, I went to the table with the representatives from the LAA and made a joint presentation.  In advance of the hearing, we had all agreed on the path forward for 2018, while we finished the larger project.  We also went to the table together and agreed on Chapter 11, for the rigs, and a few other chapters.  It was awkward, satisfying, and greatly appreciated by everyone in the room.  There were people asking out loud, “Is this the right hearing room?”  Never had we all gone to the table together or even considered it possible. 

Now, we have our first tangible benefit from the meetings with the LAA and LTC.  Our first public win, as a group of taxpayers and assessors.  We have agreed on an outline of a plan and continue to move forward.  For those of us involved in the committee, the next steps are clear: 1) Continue to refine the new methodology and get it ready to implement, 2) Define the specific data and calculations to have added to the LTC rules, 3) Understand the impact the change will have for everyone involved, 4) Develop an implementation plan, 5) Have the new methodology adopted by the LTC.

The goal is to have everything in place for the 2019 tax year.  There is a lot of work to do before that time, but barring any unforeseen issue, we will get there.  I honestly believe we have an opportunity to get done what we have been working toward for over 26 years.

There is a lot more to come in the next few months, stay tuned.

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