Tax amnesty reaches $200M goal for state budget

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana raked in the needed $200 million from its amnesty period for delinquent taxpayers to keep the

state's operating budget balanced, the revenue department announced Monday.

The success of the program, which stopped

taking applications last week, will keep lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal

from scrambling

in the second half of the 2013-14 fiscal year to rework the

state's $25.4 billion budget.

"Based on applications and payments processed as of this morning, we have met the $200 million goal," Revenue Secretary Tim

Barfield said in a statement Monday.

Lawmakers used the money anticipated to be

collected in back-owed taxes to pay for health care services for the

poor, elderly

and disabled in Louisiana's Medicaid program. If the amnesty

collections hadn't reached that mark, the budget hole would have

been large, because the amnesty dollars were used to draw down

federal Medicaid matching money.

Not only will the state's budget stay on track, but lawmakers and the Jindal administration will have additional money to

spend. The revenue department expects to surpass $200 million in collections of back-owed taxes.

"We expect that number to grow as we receive and process applications and payments submitted in the final days and hours of

the amnesty program," Barfield said.

From September until Friday, delinquent taxpayers were able to get caught up on their tax bills without any penalties and

with only half the interest charges they would have otherwise owed on the debt.

The program covered most taxes administered by the Department of Revenue.

The department didn't release detailed figures, instead focusing solely on the good news for the state's budget and indicating

that the tally of how much was paid wasn't yet complete.

Before the amnesty period, 443,000 taxpayers

owed $1.4 billion in unpaid taxes, while another 3,000 businesses or

wealthy

individuals owed $1.1 billion and were involved in audits or

litigation with the Department of Revenue. Both groups were eligible

for amnesty.

The state will offer two additional one-month amnesty periods in 2014 and 2015, but with less generous terms. Louisiana has

offered similar programs five other times, the most recent in 2001 and 2009.

The last amnesty program brought in $483 million from more than 40,000 delinquent taxpayers, with 85 percent of that coming

from 600 taxpayers seeking to settle outstanding audit issues or lawsuits with the department.