By Lauren Wanko
Some taxpayers are getting a break, an offer of reduced or eliminated penalties for those with outstanding tax bills who pay up within the next two months. And no costs of collection and no recovery fees. It’s the first initiative of its kind under the Christie administration.
“This is really fascinating because the governor has said he’s against amnesty. He’s against giving anyone who hasn’t paid their taxes a break and all this is obviously a break. Whether you call it an amnesty or not,” said Patrick Murray.
A Treasury Department spokesperson tells NJTV News it’s not an amnesty because, among other things, penalties are waived but interest is not.
“It really has been a shell game with semantics, but at the end of the day, it’s, ‘I need money to balance the budget,'” Murray said.
We asked the Treasury Department why the tax offer’s being rolled out now. “We are always looking for more efficient and quicker ways to settle accounts with taxpayers,” says a spokesperson. “As we have moved away from peak tax-processing season, the Division has more resources to devote to this initiative now.”
But Monmouth University’s Patrick Murray says it’s really about Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential run and ensuring he can balance next year’s budget with as little pain as possible.
“The governor probably has one more budget. He needs to get passed without a lot of controversy before he runs for president, so he needs to get in as much money as possible so he doesn’t have to make hard cuts,” Murray said.
“I think it’s a great initiative because people, due to circumstances they encounter in life, they just get behind on taxes,” said Art Chianese.
Tax attorney and CPA Art Chianese says it’s a win-win for his clients and the state.
“Basically the state has a lot of money sitting out there that it’s not collecting so this is a way for them to get some of this money and it’s significant,” Chianese said.
The Treasury Department doesn’t have any estimates on how much the tax offer might raise. Accounting Professor Douglas Stives calls the action a good business decision, one that’s brought in millions under previous administrations and in other states.
“Do they need the money? Absolutely. Is that why they did it? No. It’s a business decision because remember it costs the state millions of dollars to collect money. They have to pay people to go out. This way the money just gonna roll in through a website. It’s pretty clever,” said Monmouth University Accounting Professor Douglas Stives.
“At the end of the day, every dollar counts,” Murray said. “Everything is on the table to get as much money as possible into the coffers as possible so I don’t think this is the last turnaround. We’re going to see on revenues, as long as we don’t call them revenue raisers.”
The offer’s open to both businesses and individuals who have outstanding tax liabilities for the tax period 2005 through 2013. The initiative runs through Nov. 17.