Paying CATS Tax ‘Under Protest’ May Speed Getting Refund Check
Sticker Shock Has CATS Opponents Urging Paying Tax But ‘Under Protest’
by Woody Jenkins, editor
BATON ROUGE — With property tax bills in the mailboxes and property owners reeling from high taxes caused by reassessment and the new CATS tax, a leading opponent of the tax said homeowners and business owners should be sure to pay the CATS tax “under protest.”
Milton Graugnard, an executive at Cajun Industries, says paying the CATS tax under protest will cause the Sheriff to set the funds aside pending the outcome of his suit, Graugnard v. Capital Area Transportation System. In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish Tuesday, Graugnard said that any tax dollars that are paid to CATS will be spent and will be more difficult for taxpayers to recoup even if his suit is successful.
Graugnard said right now it is important to keep the tax dollars out of CATS’ hands. Not only will it increase the likelihood of a prompt refund if his suit is successful, but it will also give CATS a strong incentive to move forward on the trial of Graugnard v. CATS without promoting endless delays.
Graugnard is challenging the 10.6-mill property tax, which is expected to raise more than $15 million a year. He has argued that the tax violates the Equal Protection Clause of both the federal and state constitutions. The tax would be levied only inside the city limits of Baton Rouge but the services would be provided outside the city limits. This directly violates the holding in the Louisiana Supreme Court case of Arkansas & Louisiana Ry. v. Goslin, he said.
Opponents of the CATS tax, such as Taxbusters, said the local government-run bus company is inefficient and should be privatized. They said buses are running empty, and that the tax, which they called “massive,” was far more than necessary.
Graugnard provided a sample letter, which he urged taxpayers to send to the Sheriff before Dec. 31, 2012, even if they have already paid their taxes for the year.
Graugnard said once CATS spends the tax money, it may have no way to refund the money to taxpayers, if his suit is successful. Graugnard emphasized that there is no way to predict how the courts would treat the issue of tax refunds. The suit is before District Judge Todd Hernandez.