A (brief) break for delinquent taxpayers

Now is the time for tax evaders to 'fess up - at least in Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

Those states have recently proposed or held amnesties for delinquent taxpayers, in an effort to help balance budgets. Once the amnesty period is over, though, the states promise to crack down, helped by beefed-up auditing divisions.

In Ohio, for instance, taxpayers who owe taxes but have not yet been caught, now have two months in which they can pay the taxes they owe, minus half the accumulated interest, with no penalties. Since the amnesty began Nov. 15, more than 14,000 taxpayers have applied, with back payments ranging from less than $10 to more than $1 million.

The seven states predict they will raise at least $224 million. Supporters say it's money that states would be unlikely to recoup otherwise, while detractors grumble that amnesty gives a break to people who don't deserve it.

A tax amnesty was first held in Arizona nearly two decades ago, raising $6 million for the state. Since then, at least 39 states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar programs. Last year, Maryland raised $39.2 million during a two-month amnesty.

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