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La. tax amnesty program expected to raise $169 million, not enough to close midyear deficit

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Louisiana's latest amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers is expected to bring in $169 million, more than lawmakers included in this year's budget, but not enough to close a midyear deficit that has emerged.

The Department of Revenue announced the projected haul Thursday, saying it processed more than 41,000 applications and settlements in the monthlong program that ran from Oct. 15 through last Friday.

"In the coming weeks, we will continue to process applications that were submitted by the deadline," Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield said in a statement released with the figures. He said additional revenue was likely from those applications.

The amnesty program allows people to settle state tax debts with half the interest they would otherwise owe and no penalties charged. Of the $169 million expected to be collected, $27 million will stay with the revenue department, while the remaining $142 million will be available for Louisiana's budget.

In the fiscal year that ends June 30, $100 million of the amnesty collections have already been earmarked for health care services, and $4 million to a regional economic development program.

That leaves $38 million to help the state close its midyear budget deficit — not nearly enough to close a gap pegged at $171 million.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's chief budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, called the extra amnesty money "welcome news for the state budget." Nichols planned to unveil the administration's plan for rebalancing the budget to lawmakers Friday.

"Some of these (amnesty) payments may be used to reduce the impact of expenditure cuts on state agencies and taxpayers," Nichols said.

The tax amnesty program was Louisiana's second in two years, and this one drew less than the $452 million generated last year. Barfield said the remaining delinquent taxes, $1.8 billion before the latest amnesty period began, were harder to collect.

The revenue department said of the taxes collected with this year's amnesty, $112 million involved settling business cases tied up in audits and litigation. The remaining $57 million was payment of back-owed taxes that weren't the subject of long-standing legal disputes — mainly taxes owed by individuals and small businesses.

Not all the amnesty money has been received, because taxpayers were given the option to pay what they owe in installments through May 1. Unlike in 2013, the revenue department didn't accept tax credits as payment, because lawmakers prohibited it this year.

Louisiana has one more amnesty period planned for 2015, though the law provides that next year's will have less generous terms.

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