Archive for September, 2011

Ribbon cutting for new LTFS Refund Center

LTFS Grand Opening in Baton Rouge Sept. 27, 2011 012

The Louisiana Tax Free Shopping Program (LTFS) inaugurated its first Baton Rouge refund center on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The center, located in Macy’s in the Mall of Louisiana, will refund sales taxes on most retail purchases made my international visitors to Louisiana. The Baton Rouge refund center joins existing locations in Metairie, New Orleans, Kenner, Lafayette, and Shreveport.

The LTFS Program provides international visitors with an exemption from sales taxes for most retail purchases. In order to be eligible for the program, a visitor must be travelling on a foreign passport with a current U.S. tourist visa and be staying in the country for less than 90 days.

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Breastfeeding equipment and supplies are tax free beginning Oct. 1

BATON ROUGE – Breast pumps, nursing bras and other supplies for breastfeeding are eligible for an exemption from Louisiana state sales taxes beginning October 1, 2011.

Act 331 of the 2011 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature created the tax exemption for products identified as “breastfeeding items.”  The list includes:

  • Breast pumps, breast-pump accessories and replacement parts
  • Nursing bras
  • Storage bags and accessories

The exemption applies only to the four percent Louisiana state sales tax.  It does not apply to sales taxes imposed by local taxing authorities such as school boards and municipal and parish governments.

Products not classifiable as “breastfeeding items” remain subject to the state sales tax.  They include bottles, nursing pads, and nursing pillows.

For more information, including a full explanation of eligible supplies and accessories, visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/breastfeeding.

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Louisiana man faces hundreds of felony counts related to tax fraud

BATON ROUGE – A Slidell business owner faces hundreds of felony charges for filing fraudulent tax returns and issuing worthless checks.

John Labee, 1642 Barrymore Street, Slidell, LA 70461

Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office

Investigators with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office arrested John Labee  as the result of a joint investigation between fraud investigators at the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the Attorney General’s Office.

“This arrest is a great example of Louisiana agencies working together to crack down on tax fraud,” said Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said, “This sends a clear message that fraud will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”

Investigators say Labee, owner of Innovative Professional Financial Services, submitted more than 500 fraudulent Louisiana Individual Income Tax returns on behalf of clients for tax periods in 2008 and 2009.  They say the returns contained incorrectly reported deductions, fabricated withholding statements and overstated withholdings. 

In addition, Labee faces charges of submitting fraudulent returns for himself for tax periods from 2007 to 2009.

The arrest warrant also accuses Labee of writing worthless checks to the Department of Revenue to pay taxes his clients owed to the state.

The charges against Labee include:

  • 530 counts of filing or maintaining false public records
  • 53 counts of issuing worthless checks

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La. voters to consider constitutional amendments

From the Daily Comet:

Voters statewide will consider five proposed constitutional amendments Oct. 22 and another Nov. 19.

The first set, on the Oct. 22 ballot, deal chiefly with the state budget.

Amendment 1 redirects tobacco- settlement proceeds to the state’s TOPS college-scholarship program. It also makes permanent 4 cents of the state’s 36-cent tax on cigarettes.

About one-third of the state’s full-time college students receive TOPS scholarships, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

The rising cost of tuition at Louisiana schools has increased the cost of TOPS, which will cost about $154 million this school year. TOPS now gets most of its money from state tax dollars in the general fund, and the state has been strapped financially for the past several years.

While some anti-tax interests may eventually take Amendment 1 to task, it already has a few high-profile boosters, including House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers.

Tucker, who is running for secretary of state, said he plans on campaigning for the proposal because it offers a long-range plan and funding source for the popular scholarship program.

“It’s a win-win,” he said.

Visit DailyComet.com for explanations of the remaining amendments.

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‘Gov. Jindal Says State Prepared for Tropical Storm Lee, Urges Residents in South Louisiana to Prepare for Flooding’

From the Office of the Governor:

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference to update the public on the state’s efforts to monitor and prepare for Tropical Storm Lee, following a Unified Command Group meeting with state officials at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Governor Jindal said, “This storm system is currently parked in the Gulf, meaning we expect it to drop a significant amount of rain totaling 10 to 15 inches in some areas and up to 20 inches in isolated areas. The system is expected to affect South and Southeast Louisiana with the most rainfall, however many areas that are susceptible to backwater flooding are also expected to be impacted by the high rainfall.

“The National Weather Service told us that the center of this storm system is very broad, unlike the narrow center you see in a hurricane formation. This is what they call a ‘hybrid’ system with rain and some bands of tropical storm force winds with squalls spinning out of the center. Rainfall is expected in Louisiana through Tuesday night, including some tropical storm force winds and the potential for tornadoes. Tides could be 2 to 5 feet higher than normal.

“It is important for people to stay updated throughout the holiday weekend. Pay attention to the weather in your area and also the flash flood warnings from local officials. This storm is a good reminder to everyone that this time of year is still a very busy time for hurricanes and tropical storms. We are reminded that 47 percent of storms develop in the month of September during hurricane season.

“All our people should prepare now to ensure you have an evacuation plan in place, plenty of water, non-perishable food items, hygiene supplies, sufficient clothing, and any prescription medications you or your family may need in the event of a storm. This storm is not expected to become a hurricane at this point, but we are reminded yet again to always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Emergency Declarations

Governor Jindal said the state issued an emergency declaration for the storm system yesterday and 10 parishes have already issued their own declarations, including:

  • Terrebonne
  • Lafourche
  • Jefferson
  • St Charles
  • Vermilion
  • St John
  • Tangipahoa
  • Assumption
  • LaSalle
  • St. Tammany

Governor Jindal said Lafourche Parish issued a voluntary evacuation for south of the floodgates to begin at 12 Noon today. The Larose Civic Center will be open as a shelter for those who evacuate there. Grand Isle also called for a voluntary evacuation for their residents beginning at 11AM today. In Jefferson Parish, 25,000 feet of tiger dams owned by the parish are being deployed to Lafitte in preparation for possible flooding there.

Governor Jindal also said that the Orleans Levee District has closed 13 gates thus far, including one railroad gate at France road at Industrial Canal. Lake Borgne Levee District plans on closing their one railroad gate. East Jefferson Levee District reports the Corps is closing gaps near an airport runway levee. Seven floodgate structures are closed in Terrebonne, and the Bayou Lafourche gate is closed in Lafourche. Plaquemines is monitoring low spots and evaluating the need to close a railroad gate there. St. Bernard is closing two sector gates and 12 access gates.

 

State Preparedness Efforts

  • GOHSEP activated the Crisis Action Team to monitor the storm.
  • DOTD reports no road closures due to storm activity. However, DOTD has halted construction on the La. 1 Expressway from the Gulf to Leeville and the Caminada Bay Bridge until further notice due to tropical force winds. DOTD has also instructed contractors to secure materials and equipment in construction sites that may be affected by inclement weather.
  • DOTD urges citizens to get the latest updates on real-time traffic and road conditions by dialing 511 from their telephone and saying the route or region about which they are seeking information. Travelers can also access this information by visiting the 511 Traveler Information Web site at www.511la.org.
  • DHH is monitoring water systems throughout South Louisiana. There is always the possibility that heavy rains or other major storm activity will cause sewage treatment systems to fail. Because of this, DHH urges residents to not let children play in floodwaters or ingest them in any way.
  • DHH announced that it will close Oyster Harvest Areas 1 through 28. This precautionary closure is effective today, September 2, 2011 at official sunset. Tropical Storm Lee will have the potential to create flooding conditions that can cause natural contaminates to be washed into rivers, bayous and streams where they can then flow into the oyster-growing areas. DHH expects to reopen the oyster areas as soon as severe weather conditions have subsided and officials are able to verify the safety of the resource for human consumption.
  • DHH is also working with hospitals and nursing homes to ensure they have fuel in their generators, if needed.
  • DEQ has ground teams prepared to assess damaged areas to look for releases and survey sewage treatment plants for environmental contamination.
  • DCFS communicated with the American Red Cross about the possible need for shelter space and they are prepared to assist parishes as needed. They have identified around 2,500 shelter spaces for those who self evacuate, if needed.
  • LDWF enforcement agents have relocated 25 offshore vessels that were being utilized on the coast inland in preparation for the storm. All LDWF enforcement agents are on stand-by. LDWF has 225 agents and 150 vessels ready for response. The LDWF mobile command unit and three fuel trailers are also on stand-by.

 Marsh Fire Update

Governor Jindal said the National Guard stopped their water-dropping operations over the marsh fire due to the increased wind and inclement weather. They have dropped over 1.1 million gallons of water as part of those operations to date.

The Department of Environmental Quality is not issuing an air quality alert for New Orleans and Baton Rouge for particulate matter for today.  The highest readings at monitors throughout the area show levels below alert level at either moderate or good. Forecasts show the Air Quality Index (AQI) will be below the orange level – which is unhealthy for sensitive people.

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‘State Agencies on Alert for Tropical System in Gulf’

From the Office of the Governor:

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal held a Unified Command Group (UCG) meeting today to get an update on the tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico. Governor Jindal emphasized that state agencies are prepared to assist coastal parishes should the system develop further and he also encouraged Louisianians to make sure they have a gameplan as the Gulf Coast braces for the height of hurricane season.

Governor Jindal said, “We’re closely monitoring the weather in the Gulf and our agencies are on alert and stand ready to assist coastal parishes if the system strengthens. We know from experience that it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and since we’re at the height of the hurricane season, now is a good time for Louisianians to make sure they have a gameplan to protect themselves and their families if a major storm approaches our coast.”

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ (GOHSEP’s) Crisis Action Team (CAT) is monitoring the system, which is currently located in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. The system is currently expected to bring heavy rain and possible flash flooding to coastal South Louisiana. At this point, the National Weather Service is estimating a possible accumulation of 10 to 12 inches of rain along coastal parishes over the next five days. Higher than normal tides are also expected.

“We will remain in contact with coastal parishes in the event they need assistance. With this being a holiday weekend, we encourage everyone to pay attention to their local forecasts and public officials for further guidance, if necessary. We certainly don’t want anyone getting caught off guard,” said Interim GOHSEP Director Pat Santos. 

Hurricane season ends November 30. As a precaution, people should have extra supplies on hand such as non-perishable foods, bottle water, flashlights and extra batteries, in the event weather develops into something more severe. For a complete list of supplies and how you can keep your family safe from all hazards, go to www.getagameplan.org.

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