La. revenue secretary says delinquent taxes will be harder to collect in latest amnesty period

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield said Monday that delinquent taxpayers seeking to take advantage of Louisiana's latest amnesty period will be allowed to pay their back-owed debts through an installment plan.

Barfield hopes offering that new option to repay over a six-month period will help generate more interest in the amnesty program, which needs to drum up $100 million to keep this year's state budget in balance.

The tax amnesty runs from Oct. 15-Nov. 14, allowing people to settle state tax debts with half the interest they would otherwise owe and no penalties charged.

Louisiana brought in $452 million from a similar amnesty last year, but Barfield told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that expectations should be lowered this time. He said the remaining delinquent taxes are harder to collect.

"There's not as much out there to collect as there was last year," Barfield said.

Lawmakers used the money they anticipated receiving from the amnesty program to help pay for the Medicaid program that provides health care services to the poor, disabled and elderly. It's the second year in a row the state has used the budget maneuver.

Barfield said he expects to bring in the cash needed to keep the budget on track.

More than 450,000 taxpayers are estimated to owe $1.9 billion in Louisiana taxes.

Barfield said $1.1 billion of that is owed by 2,900 taxpayers, mainly businesses, and is tied up in audits and litigation. Settling those types of disputes generated most of the amnesty collections last year, but Barfield said that leaves the more difficult cases outstanding.

The revenue department is trying to make a more significant dent in the $800 million in unpaid taxes that aren't necessarily the subject of long-standing legal disputes.

Like last year, Barfield's department plans to send out letters to non-compliant taxpayers, travel the state touting the program and do an array of advertisements.

Unlike in 2013, the agency won't accept tax credits as payment, because lawmakers prohibited it this year.

If more than $100 million in amnesty money is collected, lawmakers earmarked the first $4 million above that to a regional economic development program.

Details about the amnesty program are available at http://www.ldrtaxamnesty.com or by calling 866-782-9241.

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