Tax Amnesty Programs: A Gold Mine for States or Bad Policy?

More news out of the land of Quakers, as Pennsylvania has announced a tax amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers. The program allows tax deadbeats to pay their back taxes but all the penalties and half of the interest will be waived. Pennsylvania’s will begin on April 26th and be open for 54 days.

The AP reports that the state could generate an additional $190 million in revenues for the state which, like pretty every state, is in a dire need of revenues.


For those that participate in the amnesty program, they’ll have to be on good behavior going forward, “participants who fall into delinquency again within two years may be required to pay the full penalties and interest that had been waived. Also, once the amnesty period ends, a special, ‘nonparticipation penalty’ of 5 percent will be levied against delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest not paid in full.”

Participants will also not be eligible for future amnesty programs. Sounds like a novel idea right?

Well, maybe not.

Our resident tax guru, Joe Kristan, is not a fan of tax amnesty programs saying, “they become an expectation and they make chumps of compliant taxpayers.”

Joe’s home state of Iowa passed a tax amnesty program back in 2007 and his sentiments haven’t changed since then, “[Iowa is] adding more loopholes targeted tax incentives to its tax law while doing nothing to lower rates or broaden the tax base.”

But Joe, being the silver lining-type, also notes, “those of us who charge for tax work by the hour, it truly helps our economic development during an otherwise slow time of year.” So tax pros will take those new clients despite the bad policy that encouraged them.

Regardless of the bump in off-season revenues, the Tax Policy Blog (who Joe cites) noted that these programs are of little value if reform doesn’t accompany it, “if lawmakers decide to implement tax amnesty programs, they should be accompanied by fundamental tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and easier to comply with.”

So it appears that tax amnesty is nothing more than a duct tape solution from a policy stand point but it certainly makes good pandering fodder in an election year.

Pa. will offer tax amnesty [AP via Philadelphia Inquirer]

More news out of the land of Quakers, as Pennsylvania has announced a tax amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers. The program allows tax deadbeats to pay their back taxes but all the penalties and half of the interest will be waived. Pennsylvania’s will begin on April 26th and be open for 54 days.

The AP reports that the state could generate an additional $190 million in revenues for the state which, like pretty every state, is in a dire need of revenues.


For those that participate in the amnesty program, they’ll have to be on good behavior going forward, “participants who fall into delinquency again within two years may be required to pay the full penalties and interest that had been waived. Also, once the amnesty period ends, a special, ‘nonparticipation penalty’ of 5 percent will be levied against delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest not paid in full.”

Participants will also not be eligible for future amnesty programs. Sounds like a novel idea right?

Well, maybe not.

Our resident tax guru, Joe Kristan, is not a fan of tax amnesty programs saying, “they become an expectation and they make chumps of compliant taxpayers.”

Joe’s home state of Iowa passed a tax amnesty program back in 2007 and his sentiments haven’t changed since then, “[Iowa is] adding more loopholes targeted tax incentives to its tax law while doing nothing to lower rates or broaden the tax base.”

But Joe, being the silver lining-type, also notes, “those of us who charge for tax work by the hour, it truly helps our economic development during an otherwise slow time of year.” So tax pros will take those new clients despite the bad policy that encouraged them.

Regardless of the bump in off-season revenues, the Tax Policy Blog (who Joe cites) noted that these programs are of little value if reform doesn’t accompany it, “if lawmakers decide to implement tax amnesty programs, they should be accompanied by fundamental tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and easier to comply with.”

So it appears that tax amnesty is nothing more than a duct tape solution from a policy stand point but it certainly makes good pandering fodder in an election year.

Pa. will offer tax amnesty [AP via Philadelphia Inquirer]

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