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Tax amnesty season has begun

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

Yes, tax filing season just ended for most of us. But the time of tax forgiveness, or at least lessening of penalties and interest, has started in some states via tax amnesties.

The most notable tax amnesty under way now is in Pennsylvania. Folks who owe back taxes have a chance to escape penalties and only owe half the interest that's accrued if they pay their old tax debts in full (and file neglected forms) by June 18.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? So you'd think the state wouldn't have to advertise. But it is, and it's airing some pretty scary TV spots.

Opening with a shot from outer space, a camera homes in on the planet, then the United States, enters the Keystone State and focuses smack dab on taxpayer Tom's house. Once there, the vaguely futuristic woman's voice that's ostensibly been talking to Tom throughout the camera movement ("nice car, Tom") announces that he owes the state $4,212.

The kicker: She also warns him, "We do know who you are."

The 30-second TV spot closes with the on-screen message, "Find us before we find you."

Yikes!

OK, we get it. Pennsylvanians need to 'fess up to their tax debts or they'll be in worse trouble if the state comes collecting. But this is a creepy and heavy-handed ad that perpetuates the bad image of tax collectors.

Other amnesties: Massachusetts also is holding a tax amnesty for business taxpayers through June 1. Nevada will offer a sales and use tax amnesty starting on July 1.

You can check Bankrate's state tax directory for links to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania tax department websites, where you should find details on the amnesties.  Bookmark Nevada's page; the tax office website doesn't yet offer any online details on its amnesty program, but specifics should show up as July 1 nears.

Other states also are likely to follow suit. While tax amnesties aren't necessarily good tax policy, they do offer states a way to get more revenue with relatively little effort.

Have you ever participated in amnesty? I'd love to hear how that worked out for you.

And if your state -- or city (Philadelphia's holding its own amnesty through June 25)  or county -- is having an amnesty, let me know that, too, and I'll share that info with readers who might want to take advantage of the opportunity.

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2 Comments
Me
May 18, 2010 at 11:07 am

What are you talking about? Why don't you take a look at Title 26 of United States Code. Starting with section 1, you can see the law authorizing the imposition of an income tax in accordance with various guidelines.
Sections 1, 61, and 63 impose the tax,
Section 6012 requires you to file a tax return if you have income of more than the exemption amount, and
Section 6151 requires you to pay the tax at the time and place fixed for the filing of your return.

Are you so naive to think that people are prosecuted and convicted for tax evasion without there being a law requiring the payment of income taxes?