LIVINGSTON – Work is underway on the purge of residents who illegally claim dual homestead exemptions in Livingston Parish.
Early totals indicate 3.5 to 4 percent of the 38,000 households across Livingston Parish claimed more than one homestead exemption in 2017, according to Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor.
The calculations equate to potentially as many as 1,200 households across the parish, he said.
Based on those figures, the dollar amount could total between $800,000 and $1 million in additional revenue for the parish. The amount comes before payment of the $300,000 for the purge, conducted by Assessure, an assessment audit firm based out of Covington.
“All of this money goes to the districts throughout the parish,” Taylor said. “Taxes have already been paid for 2016 and 2017, this is a true windfall.”
An additional purge will review the 2018 records, he said.
Taylor’s office will send out notifications to households with dual homestead exemptions, along with the amount they owe for the property. Payment of the taxes is handled by the Livingston Parish Tax Collector’s Office, a branch of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re waiting until at least the end of February because the sheriff’s office is currently going through the process of issuing notices of delinquency for 2018,” he said. “We don’t to put an extra load on those employees.”
The parish will collect only for the years in the audit and not for previous years, nor will it seek interest or penalties. Homeowners in violation will have 30 days to pay the tax.
The purge process is part of a cooperative endeavor between the Livingston Parish Council, the Livingston Parish Assessor’s Office, the Livingston Parish School Board and the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Very few instances allow for dual homestead. Through usufruct, the property owner has the legal right to grant temporary use of another property, usually until death.
Some homeowners deliberately draw the homestead exemption, while others do it in error, Taylor said.
“Even error does not constitute reason to draw two homesteads,” he said.
Homeowners in Louisiana are eligible for the homestead exemption, which can reduce the amount of property taxes owed. The homestead exemption applies to owner-occupied primary residences and reduces assessed value by $7,500.
The homestead exemption must apply solely to the domiciliary residence, according to Louisiana state law.
A sample audit determined between 1,100 and 1,200 – or 3.2 percent – of Livingston Parish homeowners had duplicate homestead exemptions, Taylor said.
“Sometimes it’s from a different marriage or a death in the family, or one of the children may claim it on property they inherited,” he said. “We’ve been diligent about finding them, but you can’t always find them, so we’re going with this group which has advanced technology to do this procedure.”
A total of 3.2 percent of the 38,000 homes in the parish were shown to have collected dual exemptions, based on the sample run Assessure conducted for Taylor’s office.
For the Livingston Parish School Board – which receives 32 percent of the total homestead – it could yield an additional $300,000 per year.
The Assessor’s Office will not pay upfront for the service and will only make payment based on how many dual homestead exemptions the firm finds, Taylor said.
The audit process should be completed with the first batch by mid-March, he said.