Folgers Coffee is Seeking $12 Million in Tax Exemptions From a Recession-Riddled New Orleans

The Folgers coffee company facility in New Orleans East. (Source: Jon Turnipseed, WVUE-TV)

In 2017, Folgers Coffee built additions on to their two plants in New Orleans East. These additions, which should have been subject to property taxes, have not had a single tax dollar paid on them since they were constructed 2 years ago. 


Through some shady bureaucratic maneuverings, of course!

Before building the additions, Folgers filed an advanced notice with Louisiana Economic Development in 2017. When the additions were completed in 2018, Folgers submitted their exemption application, however, it was incomplete. Louisiana Economic Development asked Folgers for additional information, clarification on the new jobs they would create, and for them to reformat their breakdown of purchases. 

That small list of edits took Folgers, a multi-national corporation and the leading ground coffee vendor in the United States, 15 months to complete. By delaying their response, Folgers delayed the vote on their tax exemptions, excusing themselves from paying taxes on their additions to New Orleans for 2 years. 

Broderick Bagert of Together Louisana explained that after the Louisiana Economic Development Board had processed Folgers’ completed application, Folgers sent them an email asking them to further delay any actions by the board. This further clarified that their previous actions to delay the vote were likely purposeful. 

Acknowledging this, at a November meeting of The Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry, Folger consultant Jimmy Leonard said that they requested the delay because they wanted the board to consider their application at the same time as their newer applications. 

Also reviewed at the meeting was a letter from New Orleans Councilwoman Helena Moreno written on October 26. She wrote, “due to the alarming length of time of not paying millions of dollars of taxes and now seeking a loophole to get a pass…The total owed could be as high as $12 million…We cannot afford for a large corporation to not pay its fair share when our residents and small business owners are being asked to sacrifice so much.”

When questioned about their application for a tax exemption, The J.M. Smucker Company, which owns Folgers Coffee, commented, “While we understand there are individuals who do not support the ITEP program as it is currently structured, we are one of several businesses in New Orleans participating in the program…These incentives were a factor in us consolidating our coffee operations from other cities to New Orleans and they allow us to continue to invest and grow our local operations, which we have for the last decade. We are following the outlined process and have no outstanding tax debt or previous filings under formal review. Given that, our focus is on producing coffee and continuing to support our local communities.”

Disputing this statement, Broderick Bagert pointed out that even when The Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry rejected tax exemption claims, “Every single one of the projects they rejected went forward with construction as planned.” In other words, Louisiana doesn’t need to rely on ITEP to create jobs. 

Furthermore, The J.M. Smucker Company’s claim that they are “continuing to support our local communities” was regarded as laughable by many, since they are planning on taking $12 million from New Orleans residents. 

Shawn Anglim, who helped create Morris Jeff Community School, commented, “We are not really asking for much we’re asking for Folgers to follow the law…I’m asking Folgers to step up and do their part for my children, for our public schools, for our city…this is not something extra we’re asking for it’s not charity. It’s being a good citizen and a good member of the city that you are a part of.”

Despite the strong arguments against the exemptions, the board ended up approving 13 tax exemptions for Folgers Coffee. For the tax breaks to be awarded, Folger’s application will have to be approved by the New Orleans City Council. 

This Thursday, December 17th the New Orleans City Council will vote to approve a $12 million property tax break for Folgers Coffee. As of now, the council is poised to approve the tax break despite the fact that New Orleans just furloughed 4,000+ city employees and is threatening to lay off many more workers next year. 

Some council members have already made their disapproval clear. New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno commented, “To see someone’s trying to go in for a tax exemption or break because they didn’t file their taxes from several years ago and now they want the exemption, I just think that’s really ridiculous and to tell you the truth, you know, I’m kind of offended by it as well, if they are to get this exemption I think that’s just a complete slap in the face to good government and it should be something that the everyday taxpayer of this city is completely appalled about.”

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