Saturday, March 23, 2002

Committee OKs tax amnesty

Program could add $24M to budget

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — With little discussion, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Friday approved a tax amnesty program that adds a $24 million piece to the coming budget.

        The amnesty, which has passed the House and appears headed for easy passage in the Senate, would cover taxes owed from December 1987 to December 2001. Payment of back taxes would be free from penalty unless a criminal investigation was underway.

        For those who don't take advantage of the window, penalties for not paying taxes due would be increased. The bill also makes corporate officers personally liable for some taxes if they were responsible for paying them.

        The amnesty program is estimated to raise $17 million in the coming 2003 fiscal year and $7 million in 2004.

        The committee vote was unanimous. If it is not changed in the Senate, it would go to Gov. Paul Patton for his signature.

        There was more disagreement about a proposal to relieve some property owners of having to pay taxes on coal and other minerals beneath their land.

        Sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, said the intent is to free farmers, whose property might overlay a coal seam or other mineral, from having to pay taxes on the value of the mineral.

        The bill would assess the property at its agricultural value, which is generally far less than an ordinary valuation. The special designation would require that ownership of the minerals has not been severed from the surface ownership, the surface owner is not involved in mineral extraction and the land is used for agriculture purposes.

        The Revenue Cabinet estimated the change would mean the loss of $17,000 to the state, but $100,000 for local taxing districts.

        Representatives of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth said they were concerned that other property owners would have to make up the lost money through higher rates. And they feared that coal companies could take advantage of the lower tax provision.


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