LaGrange leads state association


St. Mary Sales and Use Tax Department head Jeffery LaGrange was named the president-elect of the Louisiana Association of Tax Administrators Dec. 5 at an annual conference held in Marksville.
“I will be president of the organization for the year 2015 and will be the 49th president of LATA,” LaGrange said. “Both former directors of the department have been president as well with Thadddeus Marcell being a founding member and two-time president and Barry Dufrene also a past president.”
LaGrange said he has been with the parish department since February 1991 and the director since June 2012.
The Louisiana Association of Tax Administrators was established in 1966 with the objectives of assisting state and local tax administrators in the exchange of information and encourage uniformity in laws, regulations and administration, LaGrange said. The association also disseminates information that helps facilitate the more efficient operation of local tax offices and encourages the practice of cooperation between all state and local tax administrators.
LaGrange’s office provides public monthly updates on reported tax activity and distributes $40-plus million a year to municipalities and public agencies in the parish. The collected taxes give an indication of the direction the parish economy is headed since it is based on the amount of economic activity in the parish, LaGrange said.
In addition to the collected sales tax, the department collects a use tax. Lagrange explains the use tax as a tax on purchases made out of the state and brought into the parish.
The parish sales and use tax department also collects Morgan City’s 0.3 percent sales tax that is dedicated to road repairs.
The department also collects occupational license fees for the municipalities in the parish.
The department assesses a 5 percent fee for collection of the taxes which is used to cover the operations of the nine-person department. Any funds not used from the collection fee by the end of the year are distributed to the municipalities, LaGrange said.
The taxes and fees are then distributed monthly to the municipalities, parish government, parish school board, sheriff’s office and Recreation District 1.
The department also conducts about 40 to 50 audits each year, LaGrange said. The audits are conducted based on prior problems a company may have had, a review of tax returns or simply general knowledge that something might not be right in the way a company is reporting taxes, he said.
These audits can take months or even years to complete and the department’s findings are subject to appeal if a business disagrees with the final findings.
Audits can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in taxes, fines and interest. But this year the department negotiated an audit settlement in July that had been ongoing for two years. The settlement, with an unnamed business, collected a parish record of $1.7 million in taxes and interest. The department waived penalties as part of the settlement, but there are aspects of the audit investigation that continues, LaGrange said.

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