Louisiana taxpayers are leaving tens of millions of property insurance rebates unclaimed each year, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said Thursday.

The reason is that nearly two-thirds of property owners are foregoing the rebates for the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. assessment, Donelon said. At the end of 2012, more than $255 million remained unclaimed.

Property owners have a limited time to claim the rebates, Donelon said. The option to claim the rebate for the 2009 assessment expires after Dec. 31.

“Nearly $194 million has reverted back to the state general fund (since 2006), unclaimed by property owners,” he said.

Donelon spoke during a joint news conference with Revenue Department Director of Customer Service Kent LaPlace. The news conference was part of what Donelon jokingly called the Louisiana Citizens Assessment Rebate Tour, “an annual ritual” in which he crisscrosses the state to urge property owners to claim the tax rebate.

The assessment covers payments on the nearly $1 billion Citizens borrowed to pay Hurricane Katrina claims. Citizens levies the fee on property insurers, who pass it on to policyholders. Consumers can claim the refund once they pay their annual insurance bill.

Since 2006, Louisiana property owners have paid $755.3 million in Citizens assessments but have claimed only $305.9 million, or 40.5 percent, of the available rebates, according to the Insurance Department. Property owners basically have four years from the assessment to claim a rebate.

The average rebate amount for all claims paid as of Dec. 31 was $120.93, according to the Insurance Department.

The rebates for 2009 to 2012 can be claimed on property owners’ Louisiana Income Tax Return as a tax credit; by going to http://www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline and clicking on “Citizens Insurance Rebate”; or by filling out Form R-540INS for individuals or Form R-620INS for businesses.

After paying the insurance premium that includes the Citizens assessment, property owners can fill out the short rebate form for each year of the assessment, Donelon said.

LaPlace said property owners can mail or fax the form in, along with the insurance declaration page for that year.

The “dec” page shows the amount of the Citizens’ assessment, Donelon said.

LaPlace said forms for all four calendar years can be found on both agencies’ websites. Go to http://www.ldi.la.gov and click on the Citizens Insurance Rebate link or http://www.revenue.louisiana.gov/Citizens

Businesses can claim the Citizens rebate by filing the Department of Revenue or by filing a current-year or amended tax return.

A copy of the insurance policy declaration page showing proof of the assessment amount must be attached to any claim form. Individual policyholders may also claim the rebate by amending a prior-year tax return.

Donelon said property owners can also call the Insurance Department’s toll-free number, (800) 259-5300.