Thursday, May 30, 2024

Folgers tax break saga heads to New Orleans court

by BIZ Magazine

By Wes Muller, Louisiana Illuminator

A judge will hear arguments Thursday in a property tax lawsuit between Folgers Coffee Co. and Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams. 

Folgers is suing Williams following a tax exemption fiasco that left the company owing millions in past due property taxes for its facility. The company is asking an Orleans Parish Civil District Court to throw out the tax bill, which comes to about $5.1 million in current and back taxes. 

The saga began more than a year ago when Folgers filed six different applications for Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) for upgrades the company completed at its Chef Menteur Highway and Old Gentilly Road plants. The company sought lucrative ITEP breaks covering an entire decade. 

Folgers has received a total of about $121 million in property taxes from 2000 to 2017, according to a report.

After many residents and advocacy groups, including Together New Orleans, lobbied against the tax exemptions, all three local taxing bodies — the New Orleans City Council, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and Orleans Parish School Board — denied all six of Folgers’ applications. 

Following standard practice at the time, Williams kept the properties off the tax rolls while the applications were pending. Initial estimates put Folgers’ tax bill at about $12 million. Williams added the properties back on the rolls in March at a value of less than half that amount.

The reduction came after Folgers changed the amount of investments the company claimed it made in its property upgrades from $161.8 million to just $77.4 million.  

“Homeowners and small businesses have to pay their taxes and so should Folgers,” City Council President Helena Moreno said in a press release. “The law and the votes have been clear: they owe these taxes that pay for essential city services like public safety and infrastructure. No one should be exempt from the law.”

Folgers did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. 

Civil District Judge Omar Mason will preside over Thursday morning’s hearing.

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