La. among highest in sales taxes

Louisiana ranks 38th in the nation for its 4 percent sales tax, according to a report released Monday by the Tax Foundation. But the state has among the highest average sales tax rates charged by local governments.

That gives Louisiana the third highest combined local and state sales tax rates in 2013 at 8.87 percent, or nearly 9 cents on every $1 in sales, according to “State and Local Sales Tax Rates in 2013,” published Monday by the Tax Foundation.

Gov. Bobby Jindal currently is meeting privately with legislators to discuss the possibility of eliminating income taxes and replacing the lost revenues by increasing sales taxes. The Louisiana Legislature convenes April 8 and many lawmakers expect an overhaul to the state’s taxing procedures and policies to be the main topic of debate for the annual session, which runs until June 6.

Louisiana follows only Tennessee, with a 9.44 percent combined rate, and Arizona, with a 9.16 percent rate, according to the Tax Foundation report. Washington, with an 8.86 percent rate, and Oklahoma, with an 8.67 percent rate, immediately follow Louisiana.

Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Virginia, and Wyoming have the lowest non-zero combined state and local sales tax rates, the report states.

“While graduated income tax rates and brackets are complex and confusing to many taxpayers, the sales tax is easier to understand: people can reach into their pocket and see the rate printed on a receipt.” said Scott Drenkard, the Tax Foundation economist who authored the survey.

“Less known, however, are the local sales taxes collected in 37 states,” Drenkard said in a prepared statement. “These rates can be substantial, so a state with a moderate statewide sales tax rate could actually have a very high combined state-local rate compared to other states.”

Five states do not have a statewide sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, according to the Tax Foundation.

The Tax Foundation, which was founded in 1937 by executives with some of the nation’s largest corporations, is a self-proclaimed “think tank” that studies fiscal policies on federal, state and local levels. The group’s not-for-profit Internal Revenue Service Form 990 did not identify any of the contributors for the $1.8 million donated in 2011.

Tax Foundation rankings are at the top of the memos handed out at the beginning of — and collected at the end of — each meeting at the Governor’s Mansion, in which Gov. Bobby Jindal discusses with legislators the changes he would like to see in the state’s tax codes.

The governor’s handout says that the proposals could “increase our Tax Foundation rankings, which many businesses use to make site decisions.”

The ranking would rise from 32 in 2012 to four, if the two proposals discussed on the memo become law. Jindal’s handout was meant only to start discussion, administration officials say.

Jindal’s proposals consist of two major components: One proposed bill would repeal “the Personal Income Tax and the Corporate Income and Franchise Taxes,” which would be paid for by increasing the state’s sales tax rate from 4 percent to 5.78 percent, cigarette excise tax from 36-cents to $1.41 and “eliminate severance tax exemptions,” along with other ideas, according to his memo. A second measure would establish a Louisiana State and Local Sales Tax Commission to act “as a single collector, auditor, and interpreter of the law.”