Arkansas general revenue collections totaled $508.3 million in March, up $24.5 million from March 2011 and $22.3 million more than expected.

The Department of Finance and Administration reported last week that March 2012 revenue was the highest ever recorded for a March, eclipsing March 2011's $483.8 million.

Sales tax revenues slightly exceeded expectations, but income tax collections were significantly higher. Officials said many state income tax returns were filed before the April deadline, with $479 million already returned to taxpayers.

Individual income tax collections totaled $221.8 million, up $18.8 million from March 2011 and $15.5 million more than predicted. Corporate tax collections totaled $59.7 million.

Sales tax revenues of $174.7 million were $3 million more than expected and $8.2 million more than March 2011. Revenue from the sales tax, which includes some beverage taxes, is slightly below the forecast for fiscal 2012 but more than collected in the same period last year.

In the report, state chief economist Richard Shelnutt said sluggish retail sales in the first two months of fiscal 2012 are reflected in the underperformance of the sales tax.

Total state revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2012 of $3.35 billion is $93.1 million more than the same period of fiscal 2011 and $62.6 million more than the forecast.

State finance director Richard Weiss said it's too early to tell if there will be a surplus at the end of fiscal 2012, but the March collections were encouraging.

"Things are slowly getting stronger overall," Weiss said at a news conference where the March numbers were released. "We're not willing to declare victory at this point by any means, but it's certainly a good collections report."

Gov. Mike Beebe said he was pleased that March revenues were healthy, but cautioned against over-optimism.

"I'm encouraged, but we look for trends," he said. "We don't look for month to month."

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