A second chance for Ohio taxpayers

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SALEM – For those who have been hiding from the penalties of overdue taxes, it’s time to step into the clear without fear.
Amnesty. Ohio’s tax amnesty program is set for Jan. 1 through Feb. 15. During these six weeks, Ohio will waive any penalties, half of the interest owed and the possibility of criminal prosecution if taxpayers who owe money to the state pay the total amount of their debt, plus half of any accrued interest.
Vaughn Lombardo, a tax program administrator at the Ohio Department of Taxation, said there are many reasons why a taxpayer would qualify for the tax amnesty program and it can benefit any taxpayer who meets the state’s requirements.
Who qualifies. For example, individuals who did not file personal income tax returns due to lack of money at the time of filing qualify for the program. Business owners who withheld taxes from employee paychecks, but have not paid those taxes to the state qualify as well.
Individuals or businesses who are already known to have delinquent taxes do not qualify.
“It’s essentially for people we’re not aware of at this point,” Lombardo said.
Take a good look. Ohio’s tax code has changed recently and, according to Lombardo, those changes have prompted some individuals and businesses to examine their taxes.
“When you have major reform, taxpayers are going to really look at their taxes,” he said, and this inspection may have led some to discover they made a mistake when filing.
The purpose of the amnesty program is to give those who have made errors a chance to correct the situation without fear of punishment.
Round two. This is the second time for Ohio’s tax amnesty program. The first program ran from Oct. 15, 2001-Jan. 15, 2002 and it generated about $48 million from approximately 7,500 applicants.
While the program did force the state to sacrifice some of its interest funds, Lombardo said it could hardly be considered a loss.
“We didn’t lose anything because the reality is we may not have found those people in the first place,” he said.
Uncertain. He added it is difficult to determine how the upcoming amnesty program will work because the time frame is much shorter and because the state has no way to put a dollar figure on taxes it does not know about.
Even with the shorter application period, Lombardo said the department is hoping for at least the same number of applicants as the first round.
The tax amnesty program applies to personal property taxes, corporate franchise taxes, sales and use taxes, pass-through entity taxes, employer withholding taxes, school district withholding taxes, personal income taxes, school district income taxes and public utility excise taxes.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at jskrinjar@farmanddairy.com.)
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