Last Modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 9:08 PM
Starting Monday, Louisiana taxpayers can update any delinquent accounts without paying any penalties and paying 50 percent of any accrued interest using a two-month tax amnesty program approved by state lawmakers during this year’s legislative session.
Tim Barfield, secretary of the state Department of Revenue, said “Louisiana Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start” is intended for taxpayers who have delinquent tax billings, audit assessments or litigation matters. While taxpayers still have to pay 100 percent of the tax owed, he said 100 percent of the penalty is waived, along with 50 percent of any accrued interest. The program lasts through Nov. 22.
“It can be a significant benefit to many taxpayers who maybe neglected to file returns,” Barfield said. “This is an opportunity for people to kind of clean the slate and hopefully get compliant and remain compliant going forward.”
Barfield said the department is mailing 443,000 notices to delinquent taxpayers, including those who personal income tax, corporate income tax and sales tax. Most of the notices fall into the personal income tax category, he said.
“There may have been a discrepancy between the adjusted gross income reported on their federal return with what was included on their state return,” he said. “In many cases, we find taxpayers will come on hard times and just neglect to file returns for certain years. It may be they never updated their most current address with the Department of Revenue.”
While most of the personal billings don’t add up to a lot of money, Barfield said delinquent taxpayers typically face a 15 percent penalty for not filing and interest that accrues over time.
The upcoming amnesty program is the most generous of the three being administered over the next few years. The program that will be administered during the 2015 fiscal year will forgive 15 percent of the penalty and none of the interest. The program for the 2016 fiscal year will forgive 10 percent of the penalty and no interest.
The state has done six tax amnesty programs since 1985, according to Barfield. The broadest amnesty program was in 2009, when the state collected $483 million in delinquent taxes. Barfield said most of the money came from resolving “audit assessments and litigation matters.”
“There are a lot of complex matters, particularly with corporations and businesses,” he said.
Barfield said the state budget includes an estimated $200 million being collected from the upcoming amnesty program. Most of the tax money collected goes into the state’s general fund, while some goes to any tax dedicated to a specific purpose, he said.
Barfield said delinquent taxpayers should contact the Revenue Department, even if they can’t pay 100 percent of the tax owed. Taxpayers who are under criminal investigation or criminal litigation do not qualify for the program.
Applications cannot be accepted until Sept. 23. For more information, call the customer service hotline at 866-782-9241. The hotline is open 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.