With lawmakers working to plug holes in the state budget that takes effect July 1, a new amnesty program is on the move that could offer delinquent taxpayers much more in the way of waivers than originally projected.

The state is entering year two of its three-year tax amnesty program, which allows those with back taxes to pay up in exchange for lessened penalties and interest.

Last year’s amnesty period raised $382 million in cash by waiving 100 percent of penalties and 50 percent of interest. The 2014 program was supposed to drop down to 15 percent of penalties and no breaks on interest, but lawmakers are apparently eager to raise more money for a budget that’s brimming with shortfalls and at least a $50 million hole.

joel rob
State Rep. Joel Robideaux

That’s why HB 663 by Ways and Means Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, is heading to the full House with amendments to increase the threshold to 67 percent for penalties and 33 percent for interest. The administration is hoping the changes will help raise in the neighborhood of $100 million for the state next fiscal year.

“We had to make these changes to help facilitate the budget process we find ourselves in,” Robideaux said. “Whether or not we collect $100 million, more or less, there’s no way to know. It gives the Department of Revenue the opportunity to make an amnesty program that’s attractive.”

While the Department of Revenue has not yet scheduled the 2014 tax amnesty program, it’s expected to be slated for the fall. Unlike last year’s two-month program, this year’s incarnation will be only one month.

Other changes to the 2014 program include installments. Rather than having to pay off their debt in a lump sum, this year’s program will allow for taxes to be paid off over the span of six months. The department is also asking lawmakers to give its negotiators an extra month to review taxes that are protested or disputed through the program.

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