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October 27, 2003

Taxpayers Have One Week Left to Take Part in 2003 Amnesty

TALLAHASSEE - Florida taxpayers have only one week left to save money on overlooked or overdue taxes with Florida's 2003 tax amnesty, which expires at midnight on Oct. 31, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) said Friday.

"By law, Florida's tax amnesty ends at midnight on Halloween. Taxpayers who owe but who haven't taken advantage of amnesty will lose out on a rare chance to save money," said Jim Zingale, DOR's executive director. "That's enough to scare anyone. We urge taxpayers to review their tax records closely - you may not realize that you owe tax."

To help taxpayers take advantage of amnesty, DOR will make its online amnesty service available until midnight Eastern Time on Friday, Oct. 31. Taxpayers who are engaged in online amnesty filing at midnight on Halloween will be allowed to keep working on the computer program until they finish, but no new applicants will be allowed to enter after midnight, DOR said.

A final total of amnesty collections won't be available until December because of the complexity of some of the tax issues under review. However, DOR estimates that amnesty collections through Friday, Oct. 24, on both known and previously unknown tax liabilities, were approximately $75 million. Florida's Revenue Estimating Conference estimated that the amnesty program would have a $75.3-million positive revenue impact.

Amnesty participants pay no penalty and reduced interest on tax owed. In addition, DOR will not refer amnesty participants for criminal prosecution for tax violations if they fully and accurately disclose liability. Taxpayers currently under criminal investigation, or who have been convicted of tax-law violations, are not eligible for amnesty. Taxpayers can use amnesty to save not only on undisclosed tax liabilities, but also on routine bills, delinquencies, and tax warrants. Taxpayers can even resolve an audit currently under way by paying what they owe. This is Florida's first amnesty in 11 years.

Zingale also urged taxpayers to note that DOR is gearing up its advanced new SUNTAX computer system to enhance compliance with tax law. The system allows DOR to bring together information about all of a taxpayer's obligations in a single data system using a single taxpayer identifier, a simple point-and-click interface to assemble information, and expanded data-warehousing and customer-relationship management capabilities. By taking advantage of the data-warehousing capabilities of SUNTAX and related technologies, the Department is better able to compare tax information from several data sources to identify patterns of compliance across industries and regions.

Several compliance initiatives already are under way. DOR has mailed more than 43,000 letters to Florida businesses statewide that may owe sales tax on commercial rentals. DOR identified these businesses by comparing sales-tax registration information with property-tax records to identify occasions when a business was occupying commercial space that was owned by an entity other than the business at that location. DOR also has sent amnesty information to about 350,000 businesses as part of mailings of bills, delinquency notices, and other correspondence. If taxpayers and accounting professionals discover overlooked tax obligations, tax amnesty offers a way to save while resolving tax worries. For amnesty participants, DOR will:

  • Significantly reduce interest due. Amnesty participants who come forward to disclose a tax liability unknown to DOR will receive a reduction of one-half of the interest that would be due if DOR found the unpaid tax later. If DOR already has identified the tax liability in a bill, jeopardy assessment, or other assessment, or has already scheduled an audit, the taxpayer is eligible for a one-fourth cut in interest charges.
  • Completely waive penalty, which could equal up to 50 percent of the tax due.
  • Reduce the chances that the taxpayer will be the focus of the Department's attention after the amnesty period, when DOR's new SUNTAX integrated tax administration system helps DOR assure uniform compliance with tax law.

In addition, taxpayers who owe tax face an increase in costs after Oct. 31, 2003. Interest on tax owed after that date will double, from 4 percent to 8 percent.

The Department has posted comprehensive information about amnesty on its Internet site at Taxpayers may go online to file and pay under amnesty, using a secure, encrypted Internet application. The application is fast, simple, and automatically calculates interest owed on tax due. Taxpayers also may call 1-800-352-3671 toll-free from inside Florida.

Taxpayers also may wish to explore the Certified Audit Program operated by the Florida Institute of CPAs and the Department. This program offers penalty and interest reductions for participating taxpayers. Taxpayers may choose whether they wish to report tax liabilities under the tax amnesty or the certified audit program, but they cannot receive tax benefits under both programs for the same liability.