Monday, February 07, 2011

Tax amnesty program collects more than expected

By Jamey Dunn

Illinois’ amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers brought in more money than expected.

The state’s amnesty period spanned from October 1 to November 8 and gave those owing back taxes a chance to pay them without penalty. Anyone owing back taxes that could have been paid of during the amnesty period is now subject to doubled penalties.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget had estimated that the amnesty program would add $250 million to the state's general revenue fund, but the final total was $314 million. The state brought in $717 million total, but the rest of the money will go to local governments and the fund used to pay income tax refunds.

“This program’s success is good news as we work to stabilize state finances and to maintain vital public services,” Quinn said in a written statement. “This much-needed revenue will help our state to meet its obligations and is another important step towards making Illinois fiscally sound.”

To bring in the $314 million during the amnesty period, the state approached individuals and businesses facing future audits and gave them the chance to pay any taxes they owed, said Sue Hofer, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Revenue. While they will still have to endure the audits, those who paid can now avoid penalty fees.

Hofer said that money likely would have been collected over the next two years, but she said the intent of the amnesty plan was to bring it in sooner to help offset the dip in revenues caused by the recession.

Most of the money, $252 million, came from corporate income taxes owed by more than 5,000 businesses. Almost 60,000 individuals paid a total of $20 million in overdue income taxes. The remainder came from collections of overdue sales and excise taxes.

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