They've invested thousands of dollars to live in more energy-efficient homes, expecting to get a refund from the state, but the state has put thousands of tax returns on hold, and several north shore families worry they'll face unpaid loans.
Steve Drury of Ponchatoula, Randy Schexnayder of Loranger and Mandeville homeowner Rene Michel, who's also a FOX 8 employee, all share the same concern after filing their Louisiana tax returns several months ago.
"I got a letter - one letter. [The Department of Revenue] told me I was under review," Drury said.
"We filed our taxes, and now it's saying we're under review," Schexnayder said.
"I got a letter saying they're gonna put my return on a 90-day hold," Michel said.
Michel said he has since received a second letter from the Louisiana Department of Revenue stating that more information is needed to support the solar energy tax credit he claimed. "All the information was on a form that was sent with the initial tax return - the 1086 form," Michel said.
"I'm not able to talk to nobody," Drury said.
While Drury and Schexnayder aren't sure why they're under review, like Michel, they invested thousands of dollars in solar energy systems. One reason they all say they felt comfortable financially is because state tax credits eventually would cover up to 50 percent of the cost of the first $25,000 spent. Michel paid off his solar energy system in full, but with two kids in college and tuition due next month, he's worried about the state's hold on his return.
"I've got this $7,000 that's kind of in limbo that I don't know if I'm gonna have or not, and I don't know exactly how to plan or adjust at this moment," he said.
Schexnayder and Drury financed their systems. "Now I gotta get it from the state so I can go ahead and pay my loan off, because after a certain amount of time, they gonna start charging us interest on the loan," Drury explained.
The clock is also ticking for Schexnayder, who has until December to pay his loan back before high interest charges kick in. "My only alternative to get out of this is refinance my home, and that's not fair to me or my wife," Schexnayder said.
These taxpayers aren't alone. In April, a FOX 8 Defenders investigation revealed that the state Department of Revenue mailed more than 52,000 "under review" letters to taxpayers - nearly double the amount of review letters sent last year. LDR told us back then that tax credits aren't the only reason a return could get a closer look. Other concerns include suspected fraud or taxpayer errors, and returns are delayed because they go through a manual review.
The letters ask taxpayers to give them 90 days to review, but Drury says his 90-day allowance was up last week. "It's starting to worry me now," he said.
"You can't get any correspondence with anybody. You can call, and you get nobody. I feel it's wrong. It's completely wrong," Schexnayder said.
Michel got a state revenue tax specialist on the phone during our interview, and while she confirmed she received all of his solar credit supporting documents, she could not give him a time frame of when he might expect any answers.
The state Department of Revenue said of the 52,000 "under review" letters issued to Louisiana taxpayers, more than 17,500 accounts remain under review. Out of those taxpayers, they say 1,100 are related to solar tax credits.
LDR spokesperson Kizzy Payton said the department needs detailed information to verify solar systems qualify.
"The department often has to request details on the description, make and model of the system to determine if the component piece qualifies and if it meets the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act compliance guideline," she said in a written statement.
We'll continue to follow this story.