Tax assessor says recent audit paints inaccurate picture

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - State and parish tax officials say a recent report released by the auditor's office paints an inaccurate picture.  They say they're assessing properly and taxpayers are paying the right amount.

"I don't think it painted an exactly a fair picture of the jobs we're doing," said EBR Tax Assessor Brian Wilson.

Wilson is talking about a recent audit done by the Legislative Auditor's Office. The report said the Louisiana Tax Commission and some local assessors were not correctly assessing the value of people's homes, and as a result, cost the state government much-needed tax revenue.

"I think we're striving every day to make assessments fair and equitable," said Wilson.

The state considers a fair assessment, for tax purposes, 10 percent of the home's value. The audit called out the Louisiana Tax Commission, giving the example of two homes in the same neighborhood with the same market value, but one assessed more than 11 percent and the other only 4 percent.  

"We just had a disagreement with the auditor's interpretation of what we, our responsibilities are," said Charles Abeles, administrator for the state's tax commission.

"We feel that they, our constitutional and statutory obligations, are being met," said Abeles.

He says the state arrives at its figures by using something called mass appraisal, which means averaging the value of homes in a neighborhood and not by trying to review each property, something Assessor Wilson says is required in these lean times.

"We don't have the manpower or resources to do a single appraisal property assessment for every house in this parish. It's just physically impossible, so I think mass appraisal works," said Wilson.

Wilson says it's a practice used around the country and one that works.   Abeles even adds they have an expert who works around the world and tells them they're doing things right.

So is Abeles saying the legislative auditor didn't do their job properly or didn't get their facts properly?  "I'm saying, respectfully, to the auditor's office, that they don't understand mass appraisal and that they took some statistics and made it into something else," said Abeles.

9News called the legislative auditor to get a response.   We were told, "We stand by our report."

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