Tax amnesty is a win-win

The News-Star, Monroe, La.: The Louisiana Department of Revenue is offering taxpayers a pretty good deal. Citizens who owe back state income tax can take advantage of a two-month amnesty period during which all penalties are waived, along with half the interest.

It’s good for the taxpayers, because they can take care of their tax debt without having to pay what are sometimes substantial penalties.

It’s good for the state, because it puts millions into the state’s general fund, where it can be used for things like health care or higher education, Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield said. This year, state universities are counting on these funds to bolster their ailing budgets.

The idea of tax amnesty has been around nationally for about four decades and is not uncommon in other states. Tax amnesty periods must be authorized by the Legislature.

In Louisiana, there have been six such tax amnesty periods since 1982. The most recent was in 2009, when the state collected $483 million of the $720 million owed at the time in taxes, penalties and interest.

In 2013, $1.4 billion is owed and 443,000 notices have been sent out.

Some people may have moved and won’t receive the notifications, but they are also welcome to take advantage of the amnesty program. But the generous terms of the amnesty period end promptly at 5 p.m. Nov. 22.

This time Barfield hopes to collect $200 million.

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