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June 23, 2003

Save Money with Tax Amnesty

TALLAHASSEE - Florida taxpayers who owe unpaid state taxes can save money, clear up worrisome tax liabilities, and avoid later tax woes by going online July 1 to learn more about Florida's 2003 tax amnesty, the state Revenue Department said Monday.

Starting July 1, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) will launch a new tax-amnesty section on its Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/. The Department encourages taxpayers to begin learning about tax amnesty by visiting this Internet site. Online amnesty filing and payment for sales and intangible tax will be available in mid-July.

"Florida lawmakers have provided this tax amnesty to help you get relief if you've been ducking a tax bill," said DOR Executive Director Jim Zingale. "Taxpayers will save money and resolve tax worries. Florida will gain revenue. Everyone wins when taxpayers get their tax affairs in order."

Even under the amnesty, taxpayers still owe 100 percent of the tax due. However, taxpayers can save money and lessen later audit or enforcement problems by taking advantage of the amnesty before Oct. 31, 2003. If taxpayers take part in the amnesty program, DOR will:

  • Significantly reduce interest due.
  • Completely waive penalty, which could be up to 50 percent of tax due.
  • Reduce the chances that they 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.

The amnesty, which will run from July 1 through the end of October 2003, is estimated to raise $75.3 million. The amnesty applies to all DOR-administered taxes except unemployment tax due before July 1, 2003. Taxes included in the amnesty include sales tax, fuel taxes, corporate income tax, communications services tax, gross receipts tax, and Florida intangible tax.

Taxpayers who identify a tax liability unknown to DOR will be required to pay only half as much interest as they would 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. In addition, taxpayers will receive a complete waiver of penalty under tax amnesty. Taxpayers who comply with tax law already save money - they never owe penalty or interest.

Taxpayers who owe tax will lose a significant financial advantage if they wait until after the tax amnesty expires Oct. 31, 2003. After that date, the interest rate will double, from 4 percent to 8 percent, and penalty will apply.

Also, if taxpayers have accurately disclosed all liability and paid all tax due, they could not be required to make additional payments of tax, penalty, or interest for the periods covered in their amnesty application. In general terms, amnesty participants will tend to lower their chances of being identified for later audit, although some participants would have been audited with or without amnesty participation.

Taxpayers who owe tax but fail to take advantage of tax amnesty will be the focus of increased Department enforcement activity after Oct. 31, 2003. The Department of Revenue has begun implementing a new, integrated tax-administration information system that will give DOR greater ability to identify patterns of tax compliance across regions and industries. The new SUNTAX system is expected to provide better information than ever previously available to help DOR assure compliance with tax law.

After the amnesty expires, DOR will launch enhanced compliance-enforcement efforts aimed at collecting unpaid taxes in several areas, including but not limited to:

  • Sales tax on commercial rentals.
  • Sales (and use) tax on purchases of business equipment.
  • Purchases from out-of-state vendors for which use tax is not paid.
  • Communications services tax on substitute communications systems.

Taxpayers also may wish to explore their rights under the joint Certified Audit Program operated by the Florida Institute of CPAs and the Department. This program also 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.

For more information on Florida's 2003 tax amnesty, taxpayers should start by reviewing information to be available on the DOR Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/ by July 1. Taxpayers must thoroughly research their records to understand what their unpaid tax liabilities are, and when these tax liabilities occurred, before filling out the amnesty application available online in mid-July. Because of time and resource limitations, online application will not be available for all taxes. Taxpayers unable to file and pay online should send a paper tax return and payment to:

Tax Amnesty, PO Box 5800,
Florida Department of Revenue,
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5800.

For information, call the Department's toll-free tax hotline at 1-800-352-3671 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Taxpayers also may visit a DOR service center. For more information on locations, check the Government Listings (Blue Pages) of your telephone directory or check the DOR Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/.