NORMAN S. FOSTER, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND EX-OFFICIO TAX COLLECTOR OF ORLEANS PARISH; ERROL G. WILLIAMS, ASSESSOR FOR ORLEANS PARISH; AND THE LOUISIANA TAX COMMISSION
FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2017-01063,
DIVISION "F" HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER J. BRUNO, JUDGE
W. COLBERT JUSTIN P. LEMAIRE STONE PIGMAN WALTHER WITTMANN
L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, AARON'S, INC.
J. WEILER CHRISTIAN N. WEILER REESE F. WILLIAMSON WEILER
& REES, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, ERROLL G.
WILLIAMS, ASSESSOR FOR ORLEANS PARISH
A. EDDINGTON COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE, THE LOUISIANA
composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge
Dale N. Atkins
TERRI F. LOVE JUDGE.
appeal arises from the plaintiff's payment of ad
valorem taxes under protest. Plaintiff operates stores
in the lease-to-own personal property business. Plaintiff
claimed an exemption from the Orleans Parish ad
valorem taxes because the personal property was being
used in the homes of its customers. Plaintiff and the tax
assessor filed motions for summary judgment, contending each
was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court
granted the tax assessor's motion for summary judgment,
finding that no exemption applied to the plaintiff.
not find that plaintiff proved that an ad valorem
tax exemption was provided for by the Louisiana Constitution
for its leased personal property. Art. VII, §21(C)(9) of
the Louisiana Constitution applies to owners using their
property in their home, as opposed to a commercial owner
leasing out personal property to customers for use in their
homes. Further, La. R.S. 9:3362 requires that rental-purchase
agreements be treated as sales for state and local sales tax
purposes, not for ad valorem tax purposes. The tax
assessor's motion for summary judgment was properly
granted and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Inc. ("Aaron's") is a Georgia corporation that
operates fifty company-owned stores in Louisiana, which focus
primarily on the rent-to-own personal property business.
2017, Aaron's received two ad valorem tax bills
from the City of New Orleans: 1) #207101228 - $18, 348.81 and
2) #39P232411 - $5, 383.12 for a total of: $23, 731.93.
Aaron's paid the 2017 ad valorem taxes assessed
by the City of New Orleans under protest. Aaron's then
filed a Petition for Recovery of Ad Valorem Tax Paid Under
Protest against Norman S. Foster, in his official capacity as
Director of Finance and Ex-officio Tax Collector of Orleans
Parish; Erroll G. Williams, in his official capacity as the
Assessor for Orleans Parish; and the Louisiana Tax
Commission. Aaron's contended that it paid $16, 754.32
under protest. However, Aaron's did not dispute that the
remaining $6, 977.61 was owed.
and Assessor Williams entered into Joint Stipulations as to
the type of business Aaron's conducts and attached copies
of Aaron's standard lease agreement, lease order form,
and a letter to Mr. Foster documenting the payment under
protest to the stipulations. Aaron's then filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment contending that it was entitled to
judgment as a matter of law because an exemption from ad
valorem taxation was clear and unambiguous. Assessor
Williams also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment averring
that Aaron's was not entitled to an exemption, as a
matter of law. After the parties filed oppositions and
replies, the trial court held a hearing wherein it stated:
. . . I think the - - it seems to me the intent of the
Constitutional Article 7, Section 21 is designed to - - I
know they maybe did not envision a rental - - furniture
rental company at the time. Certainly it was designed to
avoid taxation on my personal property of my home.
I think what you are trying to do is take advantage of that
provision to apply it to a commercial lender of furniture - -
commercial lender/seller of furniture to avoid paying your
share of taxes; your obligation to pay your tax under
inventory is what we are talking about here. That is not - -
that is not what this was intended to cover.
I think that Aaron's view of the Constitution Article
Section 7 [sic], 21 is a bit ambitious. I do not think that
this Constitution article was designed to protect Aaron's
from paying ad valorem taxes on its inventory particularly
when the property remains - - particularly when Aaron's
remains the owner of the property. Even though the renter can
become the owner it does not necessarily happen. ...