Tuesday, October 05, 2010
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Back taxes? No worries -- for now

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[October 05, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- Tax evaders, late filers and other delinquents and debtors have been granted a stay of execution as the state looks to ramp up collections from those who have yet to file income taxes.

HardwareThose who owe back taxes have through Nov. 8 to make good with the state without fear of penalties or fees. The program was enacted by Gov. Pat Quinn in order to draw delinquent tax filers from the woodwork, who might otherwise continue to duck the state. The governor is confident the program can generate millions in additional revenue for a state reeling in debt and mired in unpaid bills.

"Every so often we have found that this is a good way to bring forward men and women in Illinois, businesses as well, that owe money to the state and see this as the best time to do it," Quinn said.

The amnesty program that started Friday helps debtors to the state by allowing them to pay off their back taxes without any of the sizable interest rates, fines and penalties associated with filing late. The Department of Revenue, however, will not be as forgiving after the five-week amnesty period ends. Brian Hamer, department director, issued a warning to delinquent filers and was as stern as Quinn was optimistic.

"Taxpayers who don't pay during the moratorium program will be subject to double interest and double penalties, and they will face our ever more sophisticated and efficient toolbox of enforcement capabilities," he said.

Department estimates say the moratorium will generate anywhere from $100 million to $250 million.

Illinois last saw a tax amnesty program in 2003, in which the state made more than $500 million, though there are no studies looking at the actual effectiveness of such programs. Quinn hopes to generate as much money as possible from late filers as the state works to cover some debts of its own -- namely $6 billion in unpaid bills -- by year's end.

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"It is something that has proven itself in the past to trigger (a) response from the individual taxpayers and business taxpayers that they come forward and pay what they owe without question," he said. "It has realized a significant amount of money in the past. We hope to do so in the current time."

The General Assembly last spring passed the program with only one dissenting vote -- from the Republican gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.

"Sen. Brady has opposed the tax amnesty program because it becomes an incentive for delinquent taxpayers who simply wait for the next program to pay late taxes," said Patty Schuch, spokeswoman for the Brady campaign.

Information about the tax amnesty program can be found on the website for the Illinois Department of Revenue: http://www.revenue.state.il.us/Amnesty/

[Illinois Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]

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