The Louisiana High School Athletic Association is taking the U.S. government to court in a bid to recover federal employment taxes, interest and penalties related to questioned spending by former longtime LHSAA Commissioner Tommy Henry.

The LHSAA contends in a complaint filed in Baton Rouge federal court that the taxes, interest and penalties were “erroneously or illegally assessed and collected.’’

The LHSAA is seeking a refund of more than $12,000 that the association paid the Internal Revenue Service in December.

Tim Burgmeier, a tax attorney for the LHSAA, said Friday the $12,247 represents just one of 12 quarterly bills that the IRS says the group owes from the third quarter of 2004 through the second quarter of 2007.

The $12,000-plus includes a tax of $7,842, interest of $2,443 and penalty of $1,960, the complaint states.

If the LHSAA wins its suit, Burgmeier said, it would be refunded the $12,247.

If the association loses, he said, it would likely owe the IRS some $180,000 in total taxes, plus interest and penalties which continue to accrue.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola.

The 12 quarters of taxes were assessed after an IRS agent determined that questionable spending by Henry should be considered taxable income rather than business expenses.

“The agent ultimately disallowed every cent of such expenses for the 12 quarters — in excess of $600,000 of expenses,’’ the complaint says.

The LHSAA counters in the complaint that the association “had been subject to an annual independent outside audit by a CPA firm, and had never been notified that any expense documentation was insufficient.’’

A legislative audit released in September concluded that Henry, who served as LHSAA commissioner from 1983 until he retired in 2007, may have fraudulently spent thousands of dollars of association money, including as much as $50,000 on cigars.

Also cited in the report were purchases by Henry of clothes, golf equipment and fees, along with expense filings that were seen to be duplicates.

The legislative audit claimed Henry may have improperly used an LHSAA credit card to buy those items.

Henry has cited past private audits that found no wrongdoing.

LHSAA has said the audit does not show whether the misspending was intentional or the result of poor record keeping on the part of Henry.

The organization also has said it has since corrected its financial procedures.

The legislative audit also said Henry may have bought meals with the LHSAA credit card, then submitted some of the same charges on an expense report seeking reimbursement.

According to the audit, no credit card receipts were kept during the time period, but Henry admitted to auditors he used the credit card to pay for some personal expenses.

The LHSAA, a nonprofit organization, represents 396 schools with about 85,000 student athletes. It is governed by a 27-member executive committee and is funded primarily through sponsorships, dues and ticket sales from hosting statewide sporting events.