SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois’ general revenue fund is $314 million richer as a result of the tax amnesty program that ended in November, according to the state Department of Revenue.


SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois’ general revenue fund is $314 million richer as a result of the tax amnesty program that ended in November, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The total going into the general revenue fund from the amnesty was $408 million but the revenue department estimated that $94 million of that would have been collected during the current fiscal year anyway, said revenue spokeswoman Sue Hofer.

A total of $717 million in taxes was collected, with the balance going to local governments and the state’s income tax refunds.

The amnesty applied to income taxes, sales taxes, and a variety of other state tax programs.

“We are pleased with this program’s end result – Illinois’ tax amnesty exceeded expectations,” revenue director Brian Hamer said in a news release. “The program was straightforward and simple, and it generated hundreds of millions of dollars to help the state meet its obligations to vendors, taxpayers, and providers of essential services.”

The five-week program ended on Nov. 8. Those who paid taxes from previous years were able to pay without being charged interest. Now, penalties and interest have doubled.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability believes most of the money eventually would have been received by the state anyway.

“The vast majority of these revenues are likely an acceleration of tax revenue that would have ultimately been collected later in FY 2011 or in subsequent fiscal years,” wrote Eric Noggle, a COGFA senior revenue analyst in a January report on the tax amnesty.

More than 78,000 taxpayers participated in the amnesty. Most of the participants were individual taxpayers, according to the department, but most of the money collected was from corporations.

While the amnesty program raised more than the $100 million to $250 million initially estimated, it is a one-time source of revenue and there are costs to the state for using it. The most recent previous amnesty in 2003 raised $532 million, with $317 million going to the state.

“You can’t do it every year,” said Charlie Wheeler, director of the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield and a long-time observer of the state’s finances. “From the state’s point of view, you get money quicker … In order to get it quicker, we forgo some of the penalties and interest we might have gotten.

“We need every nickel and dime we can get.”

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.

 

Tax amnesty collections

 

Tax type Participants State share of receipts

Individual income tax 59,777 $20 million

Business income tax 5,264 $252 million

Sales and use tax 9,347 $111 million

Other taxes 3,801 $25 million

Total 78,189 $408 million

 

Source: Illinois Department of Revenue