BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Delinquent taxpayers can get a reprieve from penalties for paying their back-owed taxes in an upcoming amnesty period that begins in September.
The state Department of Revenue announced Tuesday that the first year of the tax amnesty program created by lawmakers will run from Sept. 23 through Nov. 22. During that time, people can apply to get caught up on their tax bills without any penalties and with only half the interest charges they would otherwise owe on the debt.
"This is a time for all Louisiana taxpayers to get a fresh start with their taxes," Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield said in a statement.
Details about who is eligible are available at www.ldrtaxamnesty.com .
"We have worked to make this process very simple and easy to use. We want to make certain that this direct benefit to taxpayers will be a way to help them and their families without jumping through a lot of hoops or going through red tape," Barfield said.
Lawmakers approved plans for the tax amnesty as a way to drum up cash for the $25.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
They anticipated collecting $200 million this year from the program and plugged the expected money into the Department of Health and Hospitals budget to help pay for the state's Medicaid program that takes care of the poor, elderly and disabled.
The expected tax revenue is used to draw down federal Medicaid matching dollars, so if some of the money doesn't arrive as projected, the health care funding loss is multiplied.
The amnesty program covers all taxes administered by the Department of Revenue, except for motor fuel taxes. Taxpayers aren't eligible if they are involved in a criminal case for nonpayment of taxes or tax fraud.
The revenue department estimates as many as 300,000 taxpayers — both individuals and businesses — could be eligible to participate in the amnesty period, with $700 million in back-owed taxes available for collection, according to a financial analysis of the amnesty legislation.
The state will offer two additional, one-month amnesty periods in 2014 and 2015, but with less generous terms.
For this year's amnesty program, all of the penalties and half of the interest charges are waived. Next year's amnesty waives 15 percent of penalties and none of the interest, while the following year's program will only waive 10 percent of penalties and no interest charges.
Louisiana has offered similar programs five other times, the most recent in 2001 and 2009.
The 2001 program drew in payments from more than 30,000 tax scofflaws and generated $193 million for the state, while the last program brought in $483 million from more than 40,000 delinquent taxpayers, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.