Running for office: Livingston Parish assessor _lowres

Jeff Taylor

The Livingston Parish assessor is planning to comb through tax rolls next year in search of people illegally claiming multiple homestead exemptions that allow them to avoid part of their local property tax obligation.

Jeff Taylor said he intends to hire Covington-based firm Assessure Systems to audit the parish's tax rolls. An early survey from the company indicates that parish agencies could be losing out on nearly $1 million of revenue from approximately 1,000 households each year, he said.

The Ascension Parish assessor announced last week that he will do the same. Lafayette and St. Tammany Parishes already partner with the firm to ferret out double-dippers, according to the company's website.

State laws allow individuals and married couples to claim an exemption on property taxes levied against the first $75,000 of fair market value on their primary residence.

But Taylor said some people — wittingly or not — claim exemptions on multiple properties. Sometimes this occurs when people inherit homes from their parents and do not do a proper succession. In other cases, married couples will register homes in one spouse's maiden name, or in a child's name, to avoid paying additional taxes, he said.

"You've got the ones who absolutely cheat the system," Taylor said. "Those are the ones you'd like to find."

There are approximately 38,700 homesteads in the parish, Taylor said.

The Livingston Parish School Board will consider on Thursday authorizing the superintendent to sign a cooperative endeavor agreement with the assessor to conduct the homestead audit. Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he is supporting the assessor in this, but he does not need authorization from the Parish Council to enter into such an agreement.

Taylor said the firm sampled 500 residences in Livingston Parish and identified 16 possible dual homesteads.

He said the company checks homestead exemptions against myriad public records, including death records, driver's licenses and social security numbers. The assessor's office will verify each finding before alerting the property owners of possible owed taxes.

Taylor said he will with the sheriff to collect back taxes from 2017 and 2018 for homes where a dual exemption was wrongly claimed. He said the firm will be paid from those back taxes.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.