BATON ROUGE - Victims of the State Legislature’s retroactive cap on solar panel tax credits are getting more bad news this week.
As denial letters from the Louisiana Department of Revenue trickle out to solar panel customers telling them they have 60 days to appeal, some are shocked to learn the initial appeal fee to the state Board of Tax Appeals is $300.
The fee applies to any appeal disputing $10,000 or more, and more fees are possible for filing additional documents. That would apply to most of the solar tax credits now in dispute because until July 1, 2015, the state offered a 50-percent refundable credit on the first $25,000 used to purchase a solar panel system, which usually amounted to $12,500.
“It’s really kicking people when they’re down, because not only are you being asked to pay an additional tax penalty, but you’r ealso being told that you have additional interest on that tax penalty for being delinquent for an amount you didn’t even know you owed,” said Davida Finger, a Riverbend resident who installed her solar panels in February 2015, back when the tax credits were unlimited.
But because the Legislature imposed a cap on any credits requested in 2016, and because nobody who installed the panels in 2015 could apply until January 2016, those who installed before the law changed got no priority over people who bought the panels after the cap was in place. That means some people who purchased solar panels in December 2015 got credits because their tax filings were handled by the state first, while people like Finger, who purchased the panels in 2014 and had them installed five months before the cap even existed, were rejected.
Finger, who is an attorney, agrees with a lawsuit filed this month seeking class-action status for an estimated 2,000 homeowners, arguing they had a vested property claim to the tax credits because they bought the panels before the Legislature imposed a cap on the credits in June 2015.
“The law that was passed is illegal,” Finger said. “People had a vested interest in receiving the solar tax credit and so it's nonsensical to then make people pay to actually appeal an illegal law.”
After doing some digging, Finger found a state policy where the fee can be waived "in the interest of justice,” at the discretion of the chairman of the Board of Tax Appeals. She argued it would be in the interest of justice to grant a blanket fee waiver to anyone who bought panels before the law changed.
Tony Graphia, a former family court judge in East Baton Rouge Parish, is the chairman of the Board of Tax Appeals.
Graphia issued a statement, saying, “I declined to be interviewed about pending cases. The solar tax credit cases will be treated as any other cases before the Board and requests for waivers of filing fees will be considered on an individual basis.”
(© 2016 WWL)