Rendell touts Pennsylvania tax amnesty program outreach
HARRISBURG — A $3 million television ad campaign will help the state collect at least $190 million in back taxes through an amnesty program that runs today through June 18, Gov. Ed Rendell said.
Delinquent taxpayers can skip penalties and half of the interest through the 54-day program, which Rendell resisted during last year's budget negotiations. The 2010-2011 state budget depends on collecting that $190 million from 1 million people and companies owing back taxes. The state is owed $2.1 billion in back taxes.
The TV ads emphasize that the state knows where tax delinquents are, suggesting "we're coming after you anyway," Rendell said at a news conference. The statewide multimedia campaign was a provision of the amnesty legislation, which was one component of the package that helped resolve the 101-day budget impasse last October without a major tax hike.
The ads using computer technology show an aerial view of the United States that eventually focuses in on a property in Pennsylvania.
Rendell said he is impressed by the media campaign to convince tax cheats they might as well take advantage of the program.
According to the state Department of Revenue, there are 79,484 delinquents in Allegheny County, 16,732 in Westmoreland, 8,185 in Butler, 10,726 in Washington, 8,362 in Beaver, 2,588 in Armstrong, 6,100 in Fayette and 1,500 in Greene.
Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster, who spearheaded the effort, said he is glad Rendell is now on board. In the end, what counts is if it "helps taxpayers and reduces delinquencies," Bear said.
Taxpayers may get information about the program through this Web site or 1-877-34-Payup.
A person who owes $1,500 in back taxes would normally owe $2,044 with penalties and interest. Under the program that delinquent taxpayer would owe $1,584, Rendell said.
A corporation owing $4,000 in back taxes now faces $5,983 in penalty and interest. If the company takes advantage of the tax forgiveness program, the company would owe $4,131 — a difference of $1,852, Rendell said.
Of tax delinquents, 62 percent are corporations, according to the governor's office.
"No one is going to get away with not paying their taxes," the governor said. "Everyone will pay more than if they had paid their taxes on time."
Twenty percent of the taxpayers live out of state, the governor said.
The tax amnesty program is the first in 14 years.
Staff Writer Matthew Santoni contributed to this article.