State fields thousands of calls about tax amnesty

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Associated Press

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 9:01 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — State officials have fielded up to 1,000 calls a day from delinquent taxpayers interested in an amnesty offer that would allow them to pay up and avoid prosecution.

The heightened interest comes in the final days of the amnesty offer, which expires on Friday.

"The old saying that time is money is definitely true in this case, because those who don't take advantage of tax amnesty this week will be paying more later," said Finance Secretary Lori Flanery.

Delinquent taxpayers who don't apply for amnesty will be charged higher penalties and additional interest if they're caught later.

The Kentucky Department of Revenue has extended operating hours at 10 field offices around the state. On Friday, the offices will be open until 9 p.m. local time or until the last person in line is dealt with.

Kentucky hopes to generate more than $60 million through the amnesty offer, which is intended to help balance a two-year, $19 billion budget that mandated 8.4 percent cuts to most state agencies and programs.

Lawmakers authorized the amnesty offer earlier this year at the request of Gov. Steve Beshear.

Kentucky has a list of nearly 170,000 people and businesses behind on their tax payments.

A similar amnesty offer a decade ago resulted in more than 23,000 taxpayers shelling out $40 million.

The Department of Revenue has said that people and businesses taking advantage of the amnesty offer could pay an average of 30 percent less than what they actually owe. The average debt for people behind on their state taxes is about $5,000, and the average debt for businesses is about $25,000.

Taxpayers who accept the amnesty offer have to remain current on their taxes over the next three years or face reinstated penalties, fees and interest.

The state did an advertising campaign to ensure that delinquent taxpayers were aware of the offer.

The state already has settled up with thousands with delinquent taxpayers. Though the total amount hasn't yet been tallied, Flanery said it is in the millions of dollars.

Officials have fielded more than 25,000 phone calls about the amnesty offer. And payments have come into the Department of Revenue from every county in Kentucky and from all states except Vermont and Montana.

"Overall the response has been strong," Flanery said, "but this week will trump all others in the amount of activity."

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