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Pay up or else

Published November 06. 2013 4:00AM

If you owe back taxes to the state, time to pay up. It is the right thing to do, but if that is not motivation enough, recognize that in the long run it will save money and sidestep the potential for prosecution.

Connecticut's amnesty program for tax delinquents, which began Sept. 16, ends this Friday. There are still plenty of scofflaws out there; the state Department of Revenue Services estimates about 80,000 individuals and businesses are delinquent on their taxes.

The current amnesty program is well constructed. Agree by Friday to pay up and the state waives all penalties, reduces the interest charge by 75 percent and removes any threat of prosecution. To those carrots, the legislature added a stick for this, the third amnesty program in the last 11 years. The 10 percent interest penalty applied to typical delinquent state tax bills jumps to 25 percent for those who owed back taxes during the amnesty period, but stilled refused to pay.

For details on how to pay, go to www.ct.gov/drs.

DRS Commissioner Kevin B. Sullivan reported Monday that the amnesty program had collected $63 million, well ahead of the $35 million collection estimate contained in the current fiscal-year budget. After Friday, the commissioner vowed to "focus enforcement even more on those who fail to come forward during the amnesty period."

"We will find them," said Mr. Sullivan.

The last four amnesty programs - in 1990, 1995, 2002 and 2009 - collected in total $234 million, according to The Connecticut Mirror. The high point came in 2002, when the amnesty offer attracted $109 million.

While citizens will never agree on government spending priorities, state legislators elected by the people impose those priorities and the taxes to pay for them. It is a dereliction of civic duty not to share in the burden of paying for government services.

The only thing not to like about the amnesty program is that it is among a series of one-time revenue sources the governor and the Democratic majority utilized to balance the budget and pay for ongoing services. The legislature will still have to figure out how to pay for those services after the one-time amnesty revenues are gone, guaranteeing future budget problems to come.

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