Tax amnesty dates announced

The state Revenue Department announced Tuesday that Louisiana’s new tax amnesty program will run from Sept. 23 to Nov. 22, 2013.

Dubbed “Fresh Start,” the program is a way to entice delinquent taxpayers to pay their back taxes, while providing money for this year’s state budget.

An estimated 300,000 taxpayers who owe about $700 million are eligible for the program, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Revenue officials said Tuesday there could be more taxpayers involved and the agency is still trying to get a handle on the potential tax pool because some taxes are the subject of litigation and audits.

During the two-month time period, Louisiana taxpayers will be able to officially apply for tax amnesty and submit payment for all tax periods that are outstanding, according the Revenue Department announcement. Half the interest and all penalties will be waived during the two-month initial phase of the program.

A less generous program will occur for a month in 2014 and 2015.

The state operating budget relies on $200 million from the amnesty program for the fiscal year that began on July 1. The money will be spent to pay health care bills over the next 12 months. If the money does not materialize cuts would have to be made.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said the timing of the amnesty program looks good because Revenue will have a good idea what has been collected by the end of December, the midpoint of the state budget year.

“Hopefully, there will be enough coming in to cover what’s in the budget,” said Alario, who is a tax consultant.

All taxpayers who qualify for the “Fresh Start” program will receive a letter from state Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield accompanied by a voucher showing tax periods and amounts owed with all necessary account numbers to expedite payment to the Revenue Department by Nov. 22.

Upon receipt, electronic application and payment will be the fastest and most efficient way to clear accounts with the Revenue Department. Should taxpayers decide to pay via check, they will be able to simply mail the voucher with their full payment.

Alario said the convenience of online payments is a plus. But he said he cautions his clients.

“A lot of people know they owe money. This gives an opportunity for them to save some money (and get the debt cleared),” Alario said. “But it is advisable to make sure they owe it. The Revenue Department makes mistakes too.”

In a news release, Barfield said the amnesty period is “a time for all Louisiana taxpayers to get a fresh start with their taxes.”

“We have worked to make this process very simple and easy to use. We want to make certain that this direct benefit to taxpayers will be a way to help them and their families without jumping through a lot of hoops or going through red tape,” he said.

Barfield said the fastest way to get all the information needed to move through the process is to access a special website and follow the prompts.

The website for LA Tax Amnesty 2013: A Fresh Start is www.ldrtaxamnesty.com. The current website is live for informational purposes only.

A more enhanced website will be unveiled by Barfield on Sept. 9 at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

All types of taxes are included from corporate to sales and income taxes.

The following taxes and tax periods are included in the amnesty program:

Revenue press secretary Douglas Baker said the agency is embarking on a public relations campaign to try to get as many taxpayers involved as possible.

Baker said some dollars have been allocated for special advertising and preparation of public service announcements. In addition, the website development is under contract. “There will be some contract help to help with a call center” to answer taxpayer questions, he said