Louisiana’s local and parish taxing authorities — whether they like it or not — are going to have to forfeit revenue on the sales of guns and hunting equipment as part of a sales tax holiday approved — imperfectly — by the geniuses at the Legislature.
State lawmakers created the so-called Second Amendment sales holiday years ago, but in the mad rush to try to patch up the state budget this year, there was a small "oops" in the fine print of the bill that renewed sales taxes. Because of the omission, the state tax on guns must still be levied during this year’s so-called holiday.
“I don’t know whether it was an oversight or what. But it is what it is,” said Karen White, executive counsel for the Louisiana Municipal Association. The sales tax holiday must still be held, though, at least by the locals.
The holiday is Sept. 7-9 but state sales tax is must still be levied on purchases that weekend. Unlike the other two annual sales tax holidays — one for hurricane preparedness, the other for school supplies — wording that requires local participation is written into the 2009 state law that created the Second Amendment holiday.
The estimated cost of the tab left for cities, parishes and school boards: about $500,000 from exempting sales taxes on consumer purchases of firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies.
The sales tax holidays are popular with retailers, and those in the business of selling sporting goods like the big boost near the start of hunting season.
Instability, though, is always troublesome for business. Some customers this year might not be clear about what is to be tax-free and what is not.
We don't think many people who really need new guns or gear will flinch because of the glitch on this year's sales tax holiday. Given its appeal with retailers, we would not be surprised if lawmakers fix the law to bring the holiday back when they meet again in the spring.
But the mix-up is another symptom of Louisiana's weird state and local tax structures.
Louisiana, almost alone among the 50 states, separates its state and local taxing systems, said Robert Travis Scott, head of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and member of legislative task force that studied the state’s tax system.
“If this is the only case where (the compromise legislation) has created problems between the locals and the state, I would be surprised,” Scott said.
Scott is exactly right about the problem: Louisiana's sales tax system is riddled with laws that dictate different amounts, different applications depending on the taxing jurisdiction.
He is not alone. Gov. John Bel Edwards and many others have examined the problem, but stiff political hurdles exist prevent change in the State Capitol. For one thing, taxing authorities at the local level like the political jobs that are generated by staffing the system. Most states do it differently.
But efficiency is a hard sell in Louisiana.
The soap opera around the sales tax holiday for guns this year is a case in point.