State to hold $2.5 million
On Friday, more than $2.5 million in uncashed state income tax refunds are scheduled to be deposited into the state treasury.
The money will become unclaimed property, joining more than $500 million in paychecks, apartment deposits, gift certificates, mutual funds and stocks as well as oil and gas royalties currently held by state government because no one has stepped forward to claim them.
State Revenue Secretary Jane Smith said some people heeded her office’s recent warning that they needed to make arrangements to claim their at least 14-month-old refunds.
Of the 7,462 taxpayers notified by mail about their uncashed checks, 2,173 responded and claimed $1.7 million, she said. Still on a trajectory to the state treasury is $2.7 million owed to more than 5,000 taxpayers.
“We do every way in the world to try to inform people that this money is there. I don’t know if it’s people who moved, (who) don’t open their mail,” Smith said.
Once the money becomes unclaimed property, it cannot be spent by state government on hospitals, roads and other public expenses. Instead, it sits in the treasury until it is claimed.
State Treasurer John Kennedy said he returned $27 million to citizens last year. At the same time, he said, his office received $73 million in unclaimed property.
“For every dollar we return, we get in two to three (dollars) in new money,” he said.
Property is considered abandoned when a company cannot locate the property owner for a number of years. Utility deposits are held for a year before being released to the state. Traveler’s checks can be held 15 years.
“We’ve been very aggressive with the national retailers about gift cards. We are involved in litigation with the national life insurance companies. If someone dies and there’s a life insurance policy, they can’t just sit on that money,” Kennedy said.
The state Treasurer’s Office has an online database, https://www.treasury.state.la.us/ucpm/UP/index.asp for people to search to see if they have unclaimed property.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s political adviser, Timmy Teepell, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne are among the thousands of names in the database.
Teepell neglected to claim a water company utility deposit of more than $100.
“Jackpot! ... I can now take my 6 kids to Chick-fil-A this weekend,” Teepell said by email when told about the money.
Dardenne’s unclaimed property stems from more than $100 in uncashed checks written to a campaign account by Eli Lilly and Co.
“I have no idea what it is, which is why it’s unclaimed,” Dardenne said. “I’m glad to know it’s out there. I’m going to look into what it is.”
Perusing the database, Dardenne also discovered that his son never cashed a refund check.
Musician Antoine “Fats” Domino appears to have money sitting in the state treasury. He is listed as having not claimed less than $25 from WB Studio Enterprises.
The Catholic Benevolent Association in Convent is listed as having stocks, cash and dividends that never were claimed. Baton Rouge televangelists Jimmy and Donnie Swaggart have several hundred dollars in dividends and other money sources. A Huey P. Long of Winnfield is owed between $50 and $100 by Entergy. Long’s money dates back to 2006, so it presumably does not belong to the late governor.
Kennedy said he had a case several years ago in which a man in Pointe Coupee Parish died and left a couple hundred thousand dollars in oil royalties. He said he tracked down the man’s children and told them about their windfall.
Still uncollected is roughly $200,000 in certificates of deposit owed to a son who did not get along with his father. The son refuses to take the money, Kennedy said.
More than eight percent of the money, or $64 million, in unclaimed property is tax refunds. Another $40 million comes from savings accounts.
Claiming the money requires filling out a form and giving a name and Social Security number.
“You can come in 20 years from now and claim your money and we’ll have it,” Kennedy said.