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Texas, taxes, close enough

Giving thanks for tax amnesties

Taxpayers in 18 states and cities have a great reason this year to be thankful. Their revenue offices offered them tax amnesties.

These folks were given a chance to make things right with the tax man.

Even better, the programs typically waive some, if not all, of the penalties and interest that usually are tacked on to late payments.

The reason for the offers? States in dire need of revenue have jumped on the short-term term amnesty bandwagon as a relatively easy way to get people, lured by the promise of leniency, to pay up, writes Arden Dale in the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the states and cities with amnesties this year, Dale says another 10 or 15 are likely to follow suit in 2010.

The COST of amnesties: The Council on State Taxation (COST), which tracks the amnesties, describes the activity as "a wave that is sweeping the country."

The organization maintains a spreadsheet that details not only the dates of current amnesties and status of proposed programs, but also what taxes are covered and the amount of back taxes the jurisdictions have collected through the programs.

While many of the come-clean offers are over, a few are still taking taxpayers' money.

Folks in Maine better hurry. The Pine Tree State's Tax Receivables Reduction Initiative ends on Nov. 30.

Some delinquent New Orleans taxpayers have until Dec. 4 to make things right with the Big Easy tax collector.

And Virginia is letting overdue Old Dominion taxpayers Get Square through Dec. 5.

More to come: Live elsewhere without an amnesty program? Or did you simply miss your taxing jurisdiction's offer this year? Don't worry. You'll likely get another chance.

"If your state hasn't already had an amnesty program, it's probably going to have one soon," said Joseph R. Crosby, chief operating officer and senior director of policy at COST.

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