Louisianans who owe back taxes will have another shot at paying the state back with discounted interest and without penalties this fall, when the 2014 tax amnesty program kicks off Oct. 15.
The state budget relies on the program bringing in just over $100 million this year, after a similar program recouped an estimated $452 million last year.
Louisiana Department of Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday that he has a “high level of confidence” that the program will meet this year’s $100 million goal.
“I’m always paranoid, and I will be until we have the $100 million in hand,” he said. “The big unknown to me is how much participation are we gonna have a year after our last amnesty.”
Louisiana has offered tax amnesty — an opportunity for the thousands of tax scofflaws to come clean, pay up and avoid steep penalties — seven times since the 1970s, Barfield said.
This year’s amnesty period, which runs a month through Nov. 14, will be the fourth since 2000, and another already is being planned for next year.
New this year: People and businesses will be able to enter payment programs to pay their owed taxes — rather than paying 100 percent at once.
The state also won’t accept tax credits as payment, following a backlash from the state Legislature earlier this year.
About $70 million of last year’s tax amnesty collections were paid in tax credits, which the state typically hands out to spur economic development and industry growth.
Last year’s program also lasted about a month longer.
After 2015, the state won’t have another amnesty until 2025, under current state law, though Barfield noted lawmakers could vote to change that.
He said he thinks that the frequency of programs here is “a legitimate concern.”
“Amnesty should be unusual,” he said. “It should be unique.”
Barfield said the state Revenue Department last year was able to identify some of the worst offenders who owed back taxes — many of them who helped pump up the amount that eventually was collected through the amnesty program.
“At this time last year, we had identified most of those people as people we wanted to talk to or who wanted to talk to us,” Barfield said. “At this point, there’s nothing like that out there.”