AUGUSTA (AP) – Those tax amnesty ads Mainers have been seeing on TV and in the newspapers apparently paid off.

As of Friday, $35.9 million had been collected through the tax amnesty program, Gov. John Baldacci said Monday. When it started last Sept. 1, state officials were expecting to collect $14 million.

“The program worked. The program far exceeded its targets,” the governor said. “It gave people an opportunity to clean the slate.”

And now, the hammer comes down for those who ignored or missed the state’s offer. Maine Revenue Services is increasing enforcement through additional staff and new technology to collect more of the remaining $160 million in known state tax debts.

The tax amnesty program, which ended Dec. 1, was open to people who underpaid their Maine taxes or didn’t pay at all.

Those who paid their taxes in full plus half of the interest charges could have their names removed from the delinquency list. The state also waived the balance of interest charges, plus any fines or penalties that applied.

A slogan on the program’s yellow, highway sign-shaped logo hinted at the enforcement alternative, saying, “Get to us before we get to you.”

Of the total collected, at least $14 million was booked for budgeted programs. Revenue officials are still trying to determine how much of the remaining $21.9 million is budgeted and how much is “new” money, Finance Commissioner Rebecca Wyke said.

During the three-month program, the state received 18,000 applications from those wishing to pay up. Income taxpayers comprised the bulk of participants, paying a total of $11.7 million. Sales and use taxes totaled $9.6 million, and corporate taxpayers turned in $8 million.

The largest single delinquent taxpayer turned in more than $952,819. Wyke said confidentiality rules prevented her from disclosing the identity of that taxpayer.

Maine’s last tax amnesty program was conducted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 1990, and was considered among the most successful among similar programs conducted in more than 30 other states at the time.

The program brought in $28 million, nearly double the Legislature’s goal of $15 million, according to a program summary released in 1991.

More than a half-dozen other states and New York City offered programs similar to Maine’s this year, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators, a Washington, D.C., organization.

Maine’s program, which was authorized by the Legislature earlier this year, was heavily publicized through television and newspaper advertisements.

AP-ES-12-15-03 1605EST



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