Gov. Bobby Jindal. (American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 3:47 PM
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.