BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Notices of Louisiana's amnesty program begin going out this week to 443,000 people who owe a total of $1.4 billion in unpaid taxes and interest, the state's revenue secretary said Monday.
The program, which runs from Sept. 23 to Nov. 22, gives delinquent taxpayers the opportunity to remedy their tax bills without penalties and with only half the interest charges they would otherwise owe on the debt.
"It is an opportunity with some legal cover to get caught up," Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
Barfield said a web-based program for people to pay their back-owed taxes will be available and should take most taxpayers no more than 10 minutes to complete.
Details are available at www.ldrtaxamnesty.com .
The revenue department also will run radio and TV public service announcements and has contacted people in the tax community to tout the amnesty program and its benefits. Barfield is doing a statewide tour to advertise the initiative.
State lawmakers approved the tax amnesty plans in hopes of generating $200 million for this year's $25.4 billion budget. It's the sixth tax amnesty program offered in Louisiana since 1985. Two additional, less generous amnesty periods will be offered in 2014 and 2015.
Though hundreds of thousands of people owe state taxes, Barfield said the best opportunity to collect on delinquent accounts is from a second category of taxpayers, about 3,000 businesses or wealthy individuals who are involved in audits or litigation with the Department of Revenue and who owe $1.1 billion.
He said that of $483 million collected in Louisiana's 2009 tax amnesty program, $412 million of that, or 85 percent, came from 600 taxpayers seeking to settle outstanding audit issues or lawsuits with the department. Six taxpayers paid $140 million through that amnesty program, Barfield said.
"This is the bulk of the opportunity, the biggest opportunity for amnesty," he said.
At least one taxpayer owes an estimated $100 million in taxes to the state.
But Barfield said he is concerned that it may be more difficult to settle those audit disputes and lawsuits than it was four years ago because the easier disagreements were remedied then.
This year's budget, for the fiscal year that ends June 30, anticipates $200 million from the amnesty program to be spent in the Department of Health and Hospitals, 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.
Barfield said he's confident the state will reach the $200 million collection mark.
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.