Unclaimed rebates total $287 million

More than $287 million is sitting, just waiting for some property insurance policyholders in the state. All they have to do is claim their Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. tax credits, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said Monday, but time is running out on some of that money.

The money comes from fees that property insurance policyholders across the state have paid from 2008 to 2012 to cover Citizens’ debt. Citizens, the state’s insurer of last resort, borrowed close to $1 billion to pay Hurricane Katrina claims. Citizens assessed fees on insurers, who passed them along to their policyholders. Under state law, however, policyholders can get a dollar-for-dollar credit on that assessment, but policyholders have a limited time to file for the rebate.

For those who failed to claim the 2008 rebate on their state tax returns, Dec. 31 is the deadline to get the money. Policyholders paid $100.2 million for the 2008 assessment, but have claimed only $48.1 million of the total, Donelon said. If policyholders don’t claim their 2008 rebate by Dec. 31, $52.1 million will go back into the state’s general fund.

“It’s a simple process for policyholders to access this money,” Donelon said.

Policyholders can claim the credit on their state income each year, he said.

They can also fill out a short form — Louisiana Department of Revenue forms R-540INS for individuals and R-620INS for businesses — and attach their insurance declaration page to it, then mail both to the state’s Revenue Department. The declaration page from their insurer shows the assessment was included in the insurance premium. Policyholders can also claim their Citizens rebate online at http://www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline.

To do so, a policyholder must register as a user, then follow the links to the Revenue Department’s application. Policyholders have the option of getting the rebate by check, direct deposit or on a pre-loaded debit card.

The Citizens assessments are currently a little less than 4 percent of the policyholder’s annual premium, or around $54 on average for homeowners.

People or businesses that have more than one piece of property should file only one claim form for each tax year, said Kent LaPlace, Revenue’s director of customer service. Filing multiple forms will only slow down their rebates.

The state Legislature made the Citizens assessment refundable during a period of unprecedented surpluses, Donelon said. Those surpluses were generated by “the mother of all stimulus packages,” the rebuilding efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which included cash from property and flood insurance coverage and federal aid.

But policyholders have, for the most part, failed to claim the rebates, Donelon said. From 2008 to 2012, insurance companies collected $470.8 million from policyholders, he said. So far, policyholders have claimed only $183.6 million of that amount. Money that isn’t claimed goes back into the state’s general fund.