Missouri House endorses amnesty period

The Missouri House endorsed legislation Wednesday that offers amnesty to delinquent taxpayers in hopes of boosting state revenue and offering a clean slate for those behind on their taxes.

The tax amnesty proposal would waive all the interest and penalties for those who pay their tax bills between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31. Under the amnesty, taxpayers would need to comply with state tax laws for the next eight years, or they would owe penalties and interest that have been pardoned.

Supporters estimate that the amnesty measure could bring in as much as $74 million.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, the measure’s sponsor, said it could boost state coffers by encouraging those who owe taxes to come forward. He said the legislation also could help taxpayers who have fallen behind while struggling through the recession.

“It gives those people an opportunity to come back and say, ‘OK, I want to do my fair share,’” said Flanigan, R-Carthage.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon supports a tax amnesty that would waive all the penalties but only half the interest. That version also would apply only to delinquent tax bills for which the Department of Revenue was not already aware.

The House tax amnesty measure needs another vote before moving to the state Senate. Besides the tax amnesty, it includes other provisions designed to help collect taxes that are owed, such as requiring a statement that no taxes are due to issue or renew state business licenses.

Within the past decade, Missouri twice has offered a tax amnesty period for individuals or businesses with unpaid taxes. An amnesty program in the 2002 fiscal year brought in $74 million in tax revenue, while one the following budget year generated an additional $42 million.

Both of those efforts were broad amnesty programs similar to what has been proposed in the House legislation.

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