Archive for LDR News Release

Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield unveils LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start

Barfield_BRPressClub1

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield unveiled on Monday details of a two-month tax amnesty program for individual and business taxpayers who have fallen behind on their tax debts.

LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start will run from September 23 through November 22. It offers delinquent taxpayers and non-filers the chance to bring their accounts up to date by paying all overdue taxes, with a waiver of all penalties and 50 percent of the interest owed.

“Many times, people get behind and don’t know where to start,” Barfield said during a presentation to the Baton Rouge Press Club. “The goal here is to make it as easy as possible.  Let’s help them right the ship.”

Amnesty is available for the following taxes and tax periods:

  • All taxes administered by the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) except for motor fuel taxes and penalties for failure to submit information reports that are not based on an underpayment of tax
  • Taxes due prior to January 1, 2013, for which LDR has issued an individual or business proposed assessment, notice of assessment bill, notice, or demand of payment not later than May 21, 2013
  • Taxes for taxable periods that began before January 1, 2013.

The Fresh Start program is available to taxpayers who have:

  • Failed to file a tax return or report
  • Failed to report all income or all tax, interested and penalties that were due
  • Claimed incorrect credits or deductions
  • Misrepresented or omitted an tax due
  • Become subject to audit, or are in administrative or judicial litigation

Taxpayers involved in criminal investigation or criminal litigation for taxes administered by LDR are not eligible for the Fresh Start program.

Once the program begins on September 23, taxpayers will be able to submit amnesty applications electronically at www.LDRTaxAmnesty.com. The average time to complete an application is five minutes.

“We have gone to great lengths to make this a user-friendly application,” Barfield said. “We’ve already had thousands of people visit the website, which is a great sign.”

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Visit the LDR Flickr page for more downloadable photos from Secretary Barfield’s appearance at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

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Secretary of Revenue to conduct statewide tour promoting LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield will travel the state to speak with local communities about a tax amnesty program to run from September 23 through November 22.

LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start offers delinquent taxpayers and non-filers a chance to settle their accounts by paying all taxes due, with an exemption from all penalties and 50 percent of the interest.

“We are looking forward to connecting with hundreds of taxpayers as we prepare to launch the Fresh Start program,” Barfield said.  “This will be the opportunity needed by many people to clear their account with the Department of Revenue, and we want to help them in any way possible.”

Visit www.ldrtaxamnesty.com for more information.

Dates and Locations

Date Time Location
September 9

 

11:30 a.m. Baton Rouge Press Club

De La Ronde Hall

320 Third Street

Baton Rouge, LA 70802

September 10 10:00 a.m. Monroe City Council Chambers

Monroe City Hall

400 Lea Joyner Medical Expressway

Monroe, LA 71201

September 10 1:00 p.m. Bossier Civic Center

620 Benton Road

Bossier City, LA 71111

September 18 11:00 a.m. Alexandria Convention Hall

915 Third Street

Alexandria, LA 71301

September 19 10:00 a.m. Lafayette Public Library – South Regional Branch

6101 Johnston Street

Lafayette, LA 70503

September 19 2:00 p.m. Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Room

1015 Pithon Street

Lake Charles, LA 70601

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Save money on hunting gear with Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday Sept. 6-8

BATON ROUGE – Guns, ammunition and other kinds of hunting gear are free from sales tax Friday, September 6, through Sunday, September 8.

The Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday exempts from the four percent state sales tax and all local sales taxes a wide range of supplies, including:

  • Shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers or other handguns
  • Ammunition intended to be fired from a gun or firearm
  • Accessories designed to be used for hunting
  • Apparel such as safety gear, camouflage, clothing, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, face masks and thermal underwear for use while hunting
  • Off-road vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles designed for hunting. The exemption does not apply to golf carts, bikes, motorcycles, tractors, or motor vehicles that may be legally driven on highways.

The sales tax exemption is for individual purchases only, not for business purchases.

By state law, the Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday is an annual event that takes place the first consecutive Friday through Sunday each September.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/secondamendment for more information, including the full list of eligible items, excluded items and special provisions.

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LDR News Release – AG and LDR Crack Down on Tax Fraud

BATON ROUGE – By the time the Taxpayer Refund Intercept Program (TRIP) singled out yet another tax return prepared by Innovative Professional Financial Services, Inc. (or IP Financial Services), a distinct pattern began to emerge. The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) uses the TRIP program to monitor and carefully analyze tax returns as they are processed through their system. Unusually large refunds were rising to the top from returns prepared by IP Financial Services. Taxpayers who had their tax returns prepared by this firm were contacted by LDR to verify their income, taxes paid, and taxes withheld. The results confirmed the suspicion. Numerous discrepancies were identified, and a scam was discovered.

IP Financial Services president John Labee promised taxpayers that he was capable of finding new tax credits and write-offs that would greatly reduce a taxpayer’s liability and increase their refund. For the average cost of $500, he advertised he could discover hidden deductions and raise refund amounts in ways other preparers could not. Many taxpayers believed him – to their loss.

Labee created fake W-2 forms that reported false wages and payments to LDR that were never made. He overstated tax withholdings and falsified documents in an attempt to trick the computer system with such an elaborate process that taxpayers were unaware of his tactics. By claiming deductions not permitted by both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and LDR, the refunds he tabulated and transmitted to LDR were ultimately found to be merely a ploy against his customers who were the ones that were forced to reconcile the amount they actually owed LDR with the amount Labee said they were owed by LDR.

When contacted by angry taxpayers regarding the discrepancies on their returns, Labee provided them with checks written to LDR with which to pay their tax liabilities. 52 of those checks were returned for nonsufficient funds (NSF). Labee was arrested in September 2011 and charged with Filing and Maintaining False Public Records (La. R.S. 14:133) and Issuing Worthless Checks (La. R.S. 14:71). He pleaded guilty on August 19 in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge to six felony counts of issuing worthless checks.  He was ordered to pay $82,000 in restitution and faces a maximum 60 years in prison.  The sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 17, 2013.

Additional charges from federal prosecutors are pending against Labee, including 9 counts of aiding or assisting in preparation of false documents; 2 counts of making false statements on income tax returns; 1 count of attempted mail fraud; and 1 count of making false declarations before a grand jury.

A New Focus on Fraud

When this case came to the attention of Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield, he began to work with LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) for ways to combat this type of fraud. Data revealed that an increase in the number of tax preparers completing fraudulent returns on behalf of taxpayers was on the rise. A shift in focus was ordered that would target tax preparers who opened businesses only to illegally profit from the trust of taxpayers.

In partnership with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, in March 2013, LDR officials detailed two commissioned criminal investigators to the LDR staff. These law enforcement officers are housed in the Louisiana Department of Justice (DOJ) and work with DOJ staff.

“This addition to our staff and our partnership with the Attorney General’s office has strengthened one of the core competencies of our department,” LDR Secretary Tim Barfield said. “We are charged by the taxpayers of this state to protect their interests and focus on tax fraud and similar issues. The investment in these law enforcement personnel is already paying off.

Last week, six other tax preparers were arrested on charges ranging from filing false public records to fraud:

  • LaKindra Williams – 143 E. Holly Street, Baton Rouge
  • Chandris Ferguson – 12457 Lockhaven Avenue, Baton Rouge
  • Duane Dufrene – 22 Parlange Drive, Destrehan
  • Leroi Jackson – 10909 Vienna Street, New Orleans
  • Edris Ferguson – 12171 Canterbury Park Drive, Geismar
  • Maletica Ferguson – 5155 Waterton Drive, Lithonia, GA

“Louisiana will not tolerate fraud, whether committed by pharmaceutical companies or by fraudulent tax return preparers who are stealing from their clients and from the state. We are committed to partnering with the Department of Revenue and other state agencies to track down these lawbreakers and recover the state’s funds,” stated Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Secretary Barfield intends to strengthen and dedicate more personnel and resources to fraud detection that will ultimately provide direct benefit to Louisiana taxpayers.

“The widespread abuse by tax preparers should serve as a warning to taxpayers across the state,” Barfield said. “Do not trust someone who promises something that sounds too good to be true. Make sure you have done your homework on who prepares your tax returns.”

Barry Kelly, LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) director, plans to expand the scope of future investigations.  “There will be more arrests as we continue to aggressively move forward,” Kelly said. “We hope to discover everyone who commits tax fraud – especially those who put themselves forward as servants of the public trust. This is our stewardship to the people of Louisiana, and we will do it well.”

How to Select a Tax Preparer:

If you are going to pay someone to do your tax return, be sure to choose your tax preparer wisely. Remember that you are legally responsible for what is on your tax returns even if they are prepared by someone else. So, it is important to find a qualified tax professional.

Be sure to:

  1. Choose a preparer who will be available to answer questions after the return has been filed.
  2. Find out what the preparer’s service fees are before the return is prepared.
  3. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns.
  4. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
  5. Before signing your return, carefully review it and ask questions.
  6. Ask any tax preparer for references.
  7. Check to see if the tax preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for CPAs or the state’s bar association.
  8. Check to see if the tax preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
  9. Check to see if the tax preparer has a proper Preparer Tax Identification Number (“PTIN”) from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), which is required to file federal tax returns.
  10. Check to see if the IRS has not obtained a permanent injunction prohibiting the tax preparer from preparing federal tax returns.
  11. Always question entries on your return that you do not understand. Never sign a blank return.
  12. Insist that the tax preparer sign the return and provide appropriate taxpayer information on the return.

Traits of a reputable preparer:

  1. They ask multiple questions to determine whether expenses, deductions and other items qualify as legitimate tax deductions.
  2. They remind clients they should keep careful and complete records in order to substantiate information contained on their tax return.
  3. They provide their clients with a copy of their completed return for their records.
  4. They respond to contacts made by their clients in a reasonable period of time.

 

 

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Most retail purchases exempt from state sales tax August 2 & 3

BATON ROUGE – Most retail purchases are exempt from the four percent state sales tax during the 2013 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday Friday, August 2, and Saturday, August 3.

The exemption applies to most consumer purchases of tangible personal property under the following conditions:

  • The customer buys and accepts delivery of eligible property;
  • The customer places property on layaway;
  • The customer acquires property that was previously placed on layaway; or
  • The customer places an order for immediate delivery, even if delivery must be delayed, provided that the customer has not requested delayed shipment

The sales tax holiday applies to the four percent state sales tax only.  Local sales taxes apply unless the local taxing authority provides its own exemption.

The sales tax exemption does not apply to:

  • Vehicles subject to license and title;
  • Meals prepared for consumption on premises or to-go; and
  • Taxable services such as hotel occupancy, laundry services, printing services, telecommunication services, the furnishing of cold storage space, leases or rentals of tangible personal property, repairs to tangible personal property, and admission to athletic, amusement, or recreational facilities or events

 The Louisiana Department of Revenue reminds shoppers to retain receipts for back-to-school items such as supplies, uniforms and educational equipment required by schools.  These purchases may be eligible for tax deductions on 2013 Louisiana Individual Income Tax Returns due May 15, 2014. The deductions apply to public, private, parochial and home schools. To claim the deductions, you must be able to claim the student as a dependent on your state individual income tax return, and you must be able to provide documentation for the expenses.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/taxholiday for more information about the 2013 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday.

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Louisiana state income tax filing deadline is Wednesday, May 15

BATON ROUGE – The deadline for filing 2012 Louisiana Individual Income Tax returns is Wednesday, May 15.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) recommends all taxpayers file their returns electronically.  Electronic filing methods include commercially-available tax preparation software, and Louisiana File Online, LDR’s free tax filing web application. Through Louisiana File Online you can file a return, make a payment and upload scanned receipts and other supporting documentation. Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline.

The average refund processing time for electronic returns is ten business days.  For paper returns it is 12 to 16 weeks.

Taxpayers needing more time to prepare their 2012 individual state income tax returns must submit an extension request by the May 15 filing deadline to avoid late-filing penalties.  An extension allows only more time to file a return. It does not allow more time to pay. Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/extensions.

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Get ready for storm season with the 2013 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana residents can save money on flashlights, batteries, generators and other emergency supplies during the 2013 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday on Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26.

The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1. Meteorologists predict an active season with 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.[i]

“We encourage everyone to get prepared now,” Louisiana Department of Revenue Executive Counsel Tim Barfield said.  “This is a chance to save money while helping to keep your family safe and comfortable during and after a hurricane. Don’t wait until there’s a storm coming, or until one has struck.”

The sales tax holiday exempts eligible items from the 4 percent state sales tax. The exemption applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each item.

Eligible purchases include:

  • Self-powered light sources, such as flashlights and candles
  • Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, and weather-band radios
  • Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting
  • Ground anchor systems, straps or tie-down kits
  • Gas or diesel fuel tanks
  • Batteries, sizes AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt, or 9-volt (Automobile batteries and boat batteries are ineligible)
  • Cellular phone batteries and chargers
  • Non-electric food storage coolers
  • Portable generators
  • Storm shutter devices (Materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms)
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • “Blue Ice” (and similar re-usable cooling products)

The exemption applies only to the 4 percent Louisiana state sales tax.  Local taxes apply unless specifically exempted by local taxing authorities.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/hurricaneprep for more information.


[i] Tropical Meteorology Project, Colorado State University: http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/

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Department of Revenue encourages proper payment procedures, electronic filing

BATON ROUGE – As the May 15 state individual tax filing deadline approaches, the Louisiana Department of  Revenue (LDR) reminds taxpayers of procedures that can speed up their refunds and eliminate the possibility of late payment penalties.

“The most important thing you can do to ensure a speedy refund is to file your taxes electronically,” says LDR Executive Counsel Tim Barfield.

Taxpayers who file electronically can expect their refunds in an average of ten business days.  Paper filers can expect to wait as long as four months. Electronic filing methods include Louisiana File Online (www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline) and commercially-available tax preparation software.

Taxpayers who owe taxes are encouraged to pay electronically.  Electronic payments can be made through Louisiana File Online.

If paying by check or money order, taxpayers must use the proper payment vouchers to ensure that payments are posted to the correct account.  Failure to include the proper payment voucher can lead to penalties.

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LDR honored for volunteer service to EBR’s University Terrace Elementary School

BATON ROUGE – The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday, April 18, will honor the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) for ten years of partnership and service to Baton Rouge’s University Terrace Elementary School.  Every year, LDR holds numerous fundraisers to raise money for school supplies, books, toys, clothes, and classroom equipment for the school and its students.

LDR’s partnership with University Terrace began in the 2002-2003 school year, in coordination with the nonprofit organization Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS). 

LDR employees collect goods and raise money for University Terrace through holiday toy and clothing drives; collecting Box Tops for Education, Community Coffee coupons, and ink and toner cartridges (Project Green); and special dress-down days, for which employees donate money for the privilege of dressing casually several days a month. 

Service projects have included playground renovations and 5th grade graduation receptions. 

Since the partnership began, LDR employees have donated or collected $33,500 to benefit the school.

VIPS’ Partners in Education Coordinator, Kimberly Levy-Marcelle, will recognize LDR’s service to University Terrace during the Thursday, April 18, meeting of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

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State earned income credit can be worth hundreds of dollars for working families

BATON ROUGE – Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana families with low to moderate incomes can increase their state tax refunds with the Louisiana Earned Income Tax Credit. More than 400,000 taxpayers claimed this refundable tax credit in 2012 for an average benefit of $100.

The state earned income credit is equal to 3.5 percent of the federal EITC. For the 2012 tax year (federal returns due April 15, 2013), the maximum amount of the federal EITC is:

  • $5,891 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,236 with two qualifying children
  • $3,169 with one qualifying child
  • $475 with no qualifying children

And the income thresholds for the federal EITC are:

  • $45,060 ($50,270 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
  • $41,952 ($47,162 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
  • $36,920 ($42,130 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
  • $13,980 ($19,190 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

To calculate the amount of the Louisiana earned income credit, multiply the federal EITC amount by .035, or 3.5 percent.  Some examples:

2012 Tax Year Federal EITC Louisiana EITC
$5,891 $205
$5,236 $183
$3,169 $111
$475 $17

 Claim the state earned income credit on Line 21 of the Louisiana Resident Individual Income Tax Return in the section titled “Refundable Tax Credits.”

2012 Louisiana Individual Income Tax returns are due May 15, 2013.

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