Tax amnesty deadline looms, pay now or pay much more later

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Though many objected to the Big Brother “we know where you live” tone of the first advertisements promoting Pennsylvania’s Tax Amnesty program, it got people’s attention—and that was the point.

The state is trying to recover as much as it can of the $2.1 billion in eligible delinquencies as possible to address a budget shortfall. Its goal is to collect $190 million by the June 18 program deadline. To do so, the amnesty program will waive 100 percent of any penalties, and will cut the interest owed by half.

“This is really a golden opportunity,” said De­part­ment of Revenue spokes­person Stephanie Weyant. “It’s a rarity. The last time the state offered tax am­nesty was 14 years ago. So this is quite an opportunity for taxpayers and for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to collect a large amount of money in a short time.”

Weyant explained that the $2.1 billion includes delinquencies going back to nearly a century and likely includes debts from businesses no longer in existence. About two-thirds of the debts are corporate taxes or sales and withholding taxes.

“The state isn’t allowed to write off any debt, even if we can’t collect it,” she said. “So the $190 million figure is what is in the budget. That’s the number we need to hit.”

As of May 21, Weyant said, the department had 27,757 applications either completed or in process, and had collected $48.5 million. During the 1995-96 amnesty, she said, 74 percent of the delinquents waited until the last two weeks to apply. The largest single payment to date was $1.2 million.

This time, applications are only available online at http://www.PATaxPAYUp.com. There is also a toll free hotline for the program at 1-877-347-2987.

To obtain amnesty:

•File an online application;

•File any delinquent returns, and

•Pay all delinquent taxes and 50 percent of the interest due.

For those without computer access who want to apply, the Pittsburgh regional office in the Chamber of Commerce Building at 411 Seventh Ave., has computers available, as well as staff to answer any questions. The office is open from 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Saturday hours, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. will be available June 5 and June 12 only.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburgh­courier.com.)

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