Audit: Louisiana agencies fall short on tax break reporting
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana state agencies aren't filing all the paperwork required to track more than $1 billion in tax break programs, according to an audit that looked at whether departments followed the reporting requirements enacted by state lawmakers.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office found that 32 percent of the 78 tax incentive reports that agencies must submit to lawmakers by March 1 didn't meet the law's reporting requirements.
The auditors found that those reports involved tax break programs costing $127 million in the 2017 budget year and didn't have information about whether Louisiana received a return on its investment.
"As a result, the legislative committees charged with making decisions to revise or eliminate costly incentive programs continue to lack critical information necessary to make key decisions," the audit says.
Another 10 percent of reports weren't turned in at all, according to the audit.
The eight missing reports involved tax breaks administered by the state's economic development department, such as incentives given to businesses for corporate headquarters relocations and technology commercialization. The agency said those reports didn't need to be submitted because the incentives "had minimal or no activity" during the year reviewed.
Still, agencies improved their reporting from a September 2016 audit, which found 58 percent of the reports due to lawmakers either weren't submitted or didn't meet requirements.
But Purpera's office said that since lawmakers didn't spell out a calculation method to determine whether a tax incentive has a return on investment, the accuracy of the information submitted can't be determined.
Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson, whose department oversees most of the tax breaks subject to the reporting requirements, said the agency hired an economist to help analyze the returns on investment for its tax incentive programs. In her official audit response, Robinson said her office plans to bolster that work with a team of economists, to track the data and analyze it.
But she also noted: "As explained in your report, many tax incentives are not intended to provide a return of revenue to Louisiana," such a tax credit for members of the military and their families who buy a noncommercial hunting or fishing license in the state.