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Louisiana assessor sues producers

August 31, 2009
The property assessor in Louisiana's Terrebonne Parish has sued 31 oil and gas companies for more than $100 million based on information provided by Oklahoma-based Visual Lease Services.

From the Journal Record:

Energy companies are responsible for reporting their own tax liabilities to Louisiana’s parishes, an equation based on the value of their production equipment and wells. Bonvillain hired Oklahoma-based Visual Lease Services Inc. to audit Terrebonne’s 1,546 oil and gas wells and other production facilities in 2008 and 2009.

The survey “uncovered vast and pervasive underreporting and false reporting of tax liability,” according to the lawsuits. In some cases, wells that were producing fuel were listed as inactive, Bonvillain alleges.

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said the lawsuits were an attempt to fatten public coffers at the expense of industry.

Briggs, whose organization represents most of the targeted companies, said the assessor should have used methods other than lawsuits to pursue any missing tax payments, such as appealing to the Louisiana Tax Commission.

Briggs also criticized Bonvillain’s office for “harassing” energy companies during a national economic downturn. Oil and gas prices have declined sharply after reaching record highs in 2008 last summer.

Briggs said the lawsuits could further discourage oil and gas development in Louisiana, costing the state jobs and tax dollars.

“We are tired of doing business in a state where we get sued for doing it,” Briggs said.
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