Tax amnesties abound!

Wednesday, May 6
Posted 4 p.m. EDT

When it rains, it pours. As a journalist, I've always found that to be the case with stories, especially about taxes, a topic that lawmakers just can't seem to stop fiddling with. Just when you think you've got all the info, more shows up.

Take my story on tax amnesty programs. These are the arrangements that most states offer their taxpayers periodically so that delinquent filers can pay their bills but generally escape interest and penalties.

As I noted in the story, some other levels of government have over the years offered amnesties. No sooner do I turn in my copy than I get word that's the case in Los Angeles.

Through July 31, LA taxpayers can avoid penalties for not reporting, underreporting, underpaying or not paying certain taxes. The eligible areas are business taxes; telephone, electricity and gas users taxes; commercial tenants occupancy taxes; transient occupancy taxes; and parking occupancy taxes.

If you've ignored taxes in those areas, the LA Office of Finance has more details and amnesty applications.

Louisiana on track: Meanwhile, one of the states I mentioned in my story that was considering a tax amnesty this year is moving forward.

On May 4, the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved the Louisiana Tax Delinquency Amnesty Act of 2009. It now awaits consideration by the House.

The bill would authorize the Department of Revenue to choose the date for a two-month amnesty during the 2010 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The amnesty would apply to all taxes administered by the Department except motor fuel taxes.

The bill would let a private company administer the amnesty. The sponsor of that provision says it would pay off because the private company should bring in more than enough to offset the fee and still provide Louisiana with much-needed revenue.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune cites a Legislative Fiscal Office report that as many as 353,000 taxpayers might be eligible to participate in the amnesty program, representing $450 million in past-due taxes and $250 million in interest. About 30,000 of those taxpayers might participate, the fiscal office said, generating $150 million to $175 million in collections.

Stay tuned. As other states (and cities or counties) offer amnesties, I'll let you know.

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